Who beats FC Dallas 3-0 and loses to DC United 4-0? The Vancouver Whitecaps, that’s who. Of all the teams and all the various personalities in MLS, no team is harder to read than the enigmatic Vancouver Whitecaps.
First, let’s trace their unpredictable results. The season opened with a 3-2 loss against Montreal, but a loss that proved that Vancouver can hang with some tough opposition, as they were by no means blown out of the water. Although it did take two set pieces to score those two goals.
Vancouver then went on to lose a tightly contested match with Sporting Kansas City after going down a man, then on to their first win, a 2-1 victory over rival Seattle Sounders.
They then shut down a still-hot Dynamo offense to win 1-0 before going three straight matches without scoring a goal. The streak began with a 0-0 draw against LA Galaxy that showed defensive stoutness followed by the late blowout against DC United. It was all capped off with a 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake.
Then, magically, they trounced FC Dallas 3-0.
A 1-1 draw against Kansas City then gave way to a rather disappointing loss at Yankee Stadium.
What can we learn from these results? Very little. The Whitecaps have, at separate times, shown defensive brilliance, complete game control, possession domination, a counter attacking ability and offensive creativity. But they have never come altogether and they are rarely seen twice.
The defensive brilliance that we saw against the LA Galaxy was lost immediately in the next game, as they fell to DC 4-0. The offensive breakthrough against FC Dallas was immediately lost against Kansas City, when they managed just five shots.
Simply put, there is no consistency in Carl Robinson’s team.
He has tried many different combinations, experimenting evenly with a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1. Pedro Morales’ injury sure didn’t help either. But the overlying theme should not be altered by formational changes and a single injury. Vancouver can do absolutely anything on any given day. They have enough versatility to continue their experimenting, as they are now, replacing Cristian Techera with Christian Bolanos.
But they still lack any sort of definable trait that the team can latch onto and say ‘this is us, this is what we do’. All they have a claim to is being unpredictable and that isn’t the greatest quality to have. Although it certainly isn’t the worst. It has, however, seen Vancouver slide down the table to 8th place, which will turn into 9th barring a Sounders implosion. It could get even worse than that if Houston can sort out their woes.
The season is still young. But not even NYCFC can match Vancouver’s level of enigmacity. Just watch the highlights from when the two played and you’ll see what I mean.