Galaxy get off scot-free
By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
The Vancouver Whitecaps finished their season last week with a 2–1 loss in the first round of the playoffs to the LA Galaxy. Thank god, because I’d honestly be sick if such a squad managed to get anywhere. They didn’t deserve to advance, and they didn’t really deserve to be in the playoffs. Everybody can brag about how the real victory was just making the playoffs, but after watching this team limp through the final third of the season, I don’t think there’s much reason to celebrate.
The Whitecaps were never really in the LA game. They were outclassed. In every way. Even the early goal from Darren Mattocks was against the flow of play. And, if anyone noticed, the goal did nothing to change the way the game was taking shape. LA had all the possession before the goal, and after it was scored, they just kept on. No surge from Vancouver. No burst of energy. No momentum change. If you started watching after the fourth minute, you would have thought that LA was already up in the game, or, at the very least, it was still a tie. The defense was off like bad cheese for Vancouver. No pressure whatsoever. Galaxy players came and went with the ball as they pleased.
The penalty that Landon Donovan drew was a legit call. People can whine all they want about how he dove, but Martín Bonjour impeded Donovan’s progress without being in possession of the ball. Did Donovan embellish the call? Of course. Every player does. But he was held up, and it was a penalty. Regardless of that call, the result of the game was never in any doubt.
But let’s face it: the Whitecaps’ season was over months ago. The saying goes that, “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” And the squad finished horribly. The first 24 regular season games yielded 37 points. The final 10 games? A grand total of six points. We’ll come back to this shortly.
Martin Rennie made two marquee signings this year: Barry Robson and Kenny Miller. Robson was supposed to be the engine in the midfield that would help bring this team together, and Miller was signed with the intention of providing a consistent striking threat up front. It’s safe to say that, after taking in Thursday’s game, neither panned out as hoped. Robson’s effort was constantly lacking for most of the season and didn’t change in the playoff match. Miller was similarly ineffective during the season and stayed consistent with that in his substitute appearance.
And this comes back to the stats listed earlier. Guess when both Robson and Miller found themselves established in the lineup? The final 10 games. Coincidental? I think not. There have been rumours swirling about the club that egos were destroying the team, and this matches up nicely. The Scotsmen were fresh off of seasons in glorious (and infinitely better) English football. Robson didn’t seem to be horribly disruptive by himself, but once Miller arrived, the two appear to have paraded around with the attitude that they were better than everyone else. It showed on the pitch. The chemistry that had existed previously disappeared—and along with the chemistry went the results.
Rennie played favourites, consistently finding a way to insert his countrymen into the lineup despite their poor form, and the club suffered for it. The “benching” everyone keeps talking about in the final regular season game wasn’t benching. He was resting his “star” players. If the Whitecaps want to put together any sort of season next year, changes will need to be made. And if you want an example of what could happen to the Caps, look no further than the prime example of how not to do it: Toronto. Julian de Guzman (the Canadian Quitter) and Dwayne De Rosario sure didn’t help TFC’s struggles. Rennie has to wake up and stop coddling his underperforming Scots. If he doesn’t, don’t be surprised if Vancouver is a cellar dweller in 2013.