VANCOUVER, B.C – The Vancouver Whitecaps are in a world of hurt as they look to climb the MLS Western Conference standings in the hopes of earning a spot in the 2013 MLS playoffs. With 6 matches remaining, the Caps sit tied for 7th place in the Western Conference with 38 points, and 5 points away from that coveted 5th and final playoff berth.
Vancouver has gone on a 2-5-3 stretch at a crucial part of the season. The dog days of summer have not been kind to the Whitecaps, as they only have themselves to blame for squandering points and going into an unexpected hibernation. Vancouver has not won a road game since June 29, at DC United, and the team’s last victory at home came over a month ago on August 10, vs San Jose.
During the Whitecaps slide some media pundits, and hardcore Whitecaps supporters have questioned whether or not the team has tuned out Whitecaps Coach Martin Rennie. The team has looked lost, unorganized, and simply not ready to compete during recent matches. Vocal leader Nigel Reo-Coker and some of the veteran Whitecaps players called a players only meeting on Friday September, 13 to clear the air. When asked, one anonymous Whitecaps player had this to say about the team possibly tuning out Martin Rennie.
“No not at all, obviously that’s a bit of speculation from outside. If things aren’t going well for the team obviously it looks bad on him (Martin Rennie), and we’re going to fight for him. We support him fully, and he supports us and vice versa.”
The road to a possible post-season match is riddled with obstacles. Vancouver will play 3 matches at home, and 3 matches on the road before the MLS season concludes. The team’s schedule offers little to no help as they face a daunting match at Stade Saputo in Montreal on Saturday against the Impact and MLS leading goal scorer Marco Di Vaio. Vancouver will also travel to Seattle and Colorado while Real Salt Lake, Portland, and Colorado visit BC Place Stadium this fall.
The majority of the problems for the Whitecaps are on offense. Camilo Sanvezzo has stopped scoring in bunches, and Kenny Miller has dried up as well. Camilo has 14 goals this season, while the Scotsman, Miller is second on the team with 7 goals. Vancouver simply does not have the depth to have this duo coming up short in the goal department for the team to win.
The next closest sniper is roving Left-Back Jordan Harvey with 4 goals. The rest of the Whitecaps have combined to score 14 goals this season. It seems that if Camilo, and Miller aren’t scoring the team doesn’t have much hope of securing all three points. Martin Rennie talked about the dry spell that has blanketed his top strikers.
“Yeah it’s quite a bit of a dry spell. They’ve obviously done very well at points this season, and have scored a lot of goals but now is the time we would like to hope that they or others can get scoring again.”
Reo-Coker has been one of the hardest working Whitecaps players on the pitch this season, and his work ethic and leadership have helped Vancouver immensely. Reo-C has offered to play at any position on the pitch, and as a result he has found himself starting at Right-Back.
The South London box to box midfielders tough mentality on and off the pitch have been a much-needed welcomed addition to the team. The 29 year-old is tied for second in MLS with 8 yellow cards, and although he will never be a threat to score, he contributes in more ways than the average fan can see on television. Reo-Coker had some insightful thoughts on the Caps struggles.
“During the season you’re going to come through so many ups, and downs. You’ll have players that are on a great scoring run, and there will be times when they don’t score goals. There will be times when you deserve to win game and don’t, and there will be times when you play really badly, and win games and you shouldn’t. It’s part of football, and these things happen. Right now we’re in a situation were we need to get points on the board. We’ve got to treat every game like a cup final.”
Highly touted keeper David Ousted has done his best since coming over from Denmark, but he has yet to show the spectacular form the Caps brass had so glowingly talked about when they signed him. In 7 starts Ousted has helped the team earn 1 win.
As we saw with Kenny Miller in 2012 in can take longer than expected to see a player adjust and perform at his highest level when he has been brought over in mid-season. Media have inquired to see if Martin Rennie might try to shake-up his team by going back to keeper Brad Knighton, however the gaffer has always responded with a “pretty unlikely” response when asked.
On defense we’ve seen a revolving door of centre-Backs stepping into the lineup during various and lengthy injuries to Captain Jay DeMerit, Andy O’Brien, Brad Rusin. Johnny Leveron, and Carlyle Mitchell have stepped in and played great when called upon, but Leveron’s comprehension of the English language has made it difficult at times to communicate with fellow teammates on the pitch.
Whitecaps midfielder Matt Watson is one of the few players on the team that has seen his game improve during this tough stretch for the team. The Redditch, England native has become of the key role players Martin Rennie has called upon for a solid 90 minute performance. With the team needing as many points as possible in their 6 remaining games Watson offered up a clever answer when asked how many points the Whitecaps might need in order to make the playoffs.
“As many as possible. I think we definitely need to win all of our home games, and we need to beat Colorado…, and Colorado, and get points in Montreal.”
Vancouver hasn’t made the final months of the 2013 MLS season easy for themselves, and time will tell if they’ve taken a step forward or a step back this season. Martin Rennie’s contract is up after the latest campaign, and he has not yet signed a contract extension. If the Whitecaps don’t make the playoffs the team could be looking at plenty of changes for the 2014 season including at the head coaching position.