It’s been a worrying stretch for the Vancouver Whitecaps. In the space of seven days, the second-year Major League Soccer squad has gone from contender to hanging on to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Just ask Scottish international forward Kenny Miller, who hasn’t even had a shot on net for his new club. For Miller it’s been a “horrendous week” filled with sub-par showings which led to two losses, both by 2-0 scores. The first was at home last Wednesday night to sixth-place FC Dallas in what was described as one of the worst performances by the Whitecaps all season, and then on Saturday afternoon in Seattle at the hands of Sounders FC in the “Cascadia derby.”
A win in either game could have put the ‘Caps into no worse than a tie for third place. Instead, the back-to-back defeats have some fans worked up over their bad fortune. Head coach Martin Rennie has come under fire for parting ways with popular players Davide Chiumiento and Eric Hassli in favour of Miller and Barry Robson.
The capper had to be the announcement by MLS of Robson’s suspension. It wasn’t the reason for the ban itself that was derided: it was the timing by the league’s disciplinary panel, revealed publicly only four hours before the Seattle match, which left Rennie almost no time to hold a practice with whoever would replace Robson in the squad.
“We’re not at all complaining about the fact (Robson) got a suspension,” said club president Bob Lenarduzzi. “We’re concerned with the process, and I think MLS are also concerned with the process and they’ve acknowledged that this is the first time that anything like this has happened, where it’s been that late prior to a game.”
All is not lost — yet. Vancouver still leads Dallas by five points with a game in hand. Their next game is on Saturday when they travel to Portland to face the Timbers, who have hit a season-long rocky patch and find themselves at the bottom of the West; after that, Vancouver visits the L.A. Galaxy Sept. 1.
Then they get a two-week rest before travelling to Dallas Sept. 15 before returning to B.C. Place. There they’ll host four straight games: Colorado Rapids Sept. 23, the Sounders Sept. 29, Chivas USA Oct. 3 and Portland Oct. 21 before wrapping up their regular season in Salt Lake Oct. 27.
Needless to say, the ‘Caps must get some positive results to put some space between themselves and FC Dallas; grabbing the full three points from the Portland encounter on Aug. 25 would be a good start to forgetting what happened in the past seven days.