Caps back in MLS basement, where they’ve called home for far too long

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But on the bright side, the Whitecaps have been here before and they rode a second-half rocket ship to the playoffs last season.

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The Vancouver Whitecaps are back to speak with the darkness, their old friend, and the worries of hearing the sounds of silence at BC Place are mounting.

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The mood is as dark as the basement they sit in: last overall in MLS after a historically poor 1-6-1 start to the season. The goodwill and vibes that accompanied their remarkable playoff run last season have dissipated. The mistakes were many, the results few.

Eleven years into their MLS era, there has been a Canadian Championship trophy and three Cascadia Cups. There are prizes in their trophy cabinet – the crystal jewels earned by qualifying for the league’s Presidents Club season ticket sales threshold are proudly on display – but real stuff, there isn’t.

Head coach Vanni Sartini has shaken things up in training this week, even training with (gasp!) a four-man back line, saying it would be ‘madness’ to do the same things over and over. again and expect different results.

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It’s one of the reasons their dwindling ticket base, which was in the top five as recently as 2016, has fallen to 16th in MLS this year, 2,000 less than last pre-season. -COVID-19.


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Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto FC

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Season after season, the team has failed to live up to expectations. What was once anger over failed results turned to apathy.

Over their 11 seasons in MLS, their average ranking is 6.7th in the Western Conference, better only than infamous Chivas USA teams San Jose (7.6) and Houston (9.4). But the Earthquakes and Dynamo can both boast two MLS titles each since 2000, with San Jose also winning the Supporters Shield in 2005 and 2012.

“We want to be a team that wins something in a predictable time frame; in the near future. I would say that in this season and the next two seasons, we would like to have silverware in our hands,” said President and CEO Axel Schuster.

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Can it be done? Sure. It depends on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist.

The same goes for the team’s results this season. There have been injuries to key players, red cards, an unfavorable schedule against some of the league’s elite teams and just plain bad luck. There’s also been shockingly poor defending, unimaginative possession, an attacking outing that’s more suggestion than execution, and a formation that some players have suddenly become allergic to.

Max Crepeau’s dismissal from the club had a bigger impact than expected between the sticks. The defensive bite that came with Janio Bikel – who finished fourth overall on fouls in 2021 but had just four yellow cards – was lost while on loan at Vicenza. The man who replaced him last season, Leo Owusu, another midfielder who wins and moves the ball, has played just 158 ​​minutes this season due to injury.

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And, says Sartini, while the media talks about Ryan Gauld, Crepeau and the others, we don’t talk about Bruno (Gaspar). The winger didn’t have his option to buy last year and is back with Vitória Guimarães, one of his former clubs, in the Portuguese first division.

The Whitecaps have a little time, but not a lot, to make the adjustments they need to be competitive in MLS. Toronto FC visit us on May 8 before Valor FC travel to BC Place from Winnipeg for their Canadian Championship showdown three days later.

“We are changing formation, but also changing attitude,” Sartini said. “The main thing is that this overly aggressive approach which was very winning last year doesn’t work this year, for a bunch of reasons. We’re not pressing very well up top, our full-backs aren’t performing as well as we expect. and that leaves us with gaps in the peloton that are easy to exploit.

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“So we have to take a different approach. The different approach means being more clinical and strategic in the pressure instead of more relentless, and in case the pressure doesn’t work, we have more men behind (the ball) than up.

“We must not make a revolution, because we don’t have time to make a revolution. We have 10 days for the next match. But to make some adjustments that allow us to still feel safe, and maybe in the future to be back to being the relentless and aggressive team we were before.

There were no big name additions to the club in the off-season, although newcomer Tristan Blackmon was their best defender, and it’s hard to argue against acquiring a good return. quality-price by Seb Berhalter. But the open Designated Player spot was not filled in the offseason, and no forward depth was brought in either.

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The deal for No.6 Andrés Cubas is expected to be announced in the coming days, the first of three moves the Whitecaps are looking to make before the May 4 transfer window closes. The Caps’ needs are as obvious as the mountain of general allowance money they must spend, and league teams have inflated their prices accordingly.

Schuster said there would be no knee-jerk, reactionary signings which, while they might help in the short term, don’t fit the team’s philosophy of only signing players who fit the spirit and team cohesion, and trophy goal.

The appointment with Valor is the next and best step in this goal. The Whitecaps have bombarded back-to-back Canadian Premier League sides and cost Marc Dos Santos his job last year. Sartini – very serious, although smiling when he said it – said Schuster could show him the door if they lose to a CPL team again.

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“Now is the time when we have to bounce back,” he said of the next four games, all at BC Place.

“Last year we also bounced back with the help of the fans and we will need the help of the fans, especially in the first two games – the matchup against Toronto and the Canadian Cup. Because if we want to unleash a new wave of results, we definitely need the help of the fans.

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