Home MLS Vancouver Whitecaps After loss in San Jose, Whitecaps continue to be a difficult team to read

After loss in San Jose, Whitecaps continue to be a difficult team to read

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All season long, the Vancouver Whitecaps performances can be described as “glass half-full, half-empty.”

Yes, the Whitecaps didn’t surrender a goal and were undefeated through their first four games. But their offence has been stagnant — and the team has played what has to be considered the easiest schedule in MLS out of any of the 19 clubs. And points dropped to Eastern clubs like D.C. United and Philadelphia could come back to haunt the Caps at the end of the season.

Just like the rest of the season, Saturday’s match could be talked about in that “glass half-full, half-empty vein.” The Whitecaps kept the San Jose Earthquakes scoreline at zero for 68 minutes, and set a new MLS record for longest shutout streak from the beginning of a season at 428 minutes. Then the Caps imploded, giving up three second-half goals to the Quakes thanks to a series of mistakes in the back that’d have you thinking you were watching the 2011 edition of the team.

The Earthquakes beat the Whitecaps 3-1, and Vancouver is now 2-1-2 (or 2-2-1 if you prefer the European way of doing the tables), But, like the previous wins and ties, this doesn’t offer much of a clue to what kind of team coach Martin Rennie has assembled in Vancouver.

We couldn’t take much from the first four games, because of the opposition: An expansion team, two Eastern teams off to poor starts and a Chivas USA team that isn’t rated by many (though the Goats have beaten both Portland and Real Salt Lake on the road this season).

And why is the San Jose game such a head scratcher? Because, for an hour, the Whitecaps looked calm and collected. And it was all undone by about 20 minutes of madness. Were the Whitecaps finally exposed by the first decent team they’ve faced on the schedule? Or were they the victim of a collective letdown that we in sports call “one of those things?”

A moment of collective brilliance between French strikers Sebastien Le Toux and Eric Hassli had the Whitecaps a goal to the good. A throw-in from Jordan Harvey was dummied by Le Toux, who then ran into space in the San Jose penalty area. Hassli took the ball, rolled it to Le Toux, who guided a shot into the corner.

It should have been 2-0, a few minutes later, but San Jose keeper Jon Busch did well to dive and deflect a low Hassli drive away from goal.

But, the Whitecaps were breached in the 68th minute by what looked at the time to be a cruel suckerpunch. But, in hindsight, Chris Wondolowski’s goal was the opening of the floodgates. A simple ball came into the box, and Whitecaps defender Jay Demerit made the mistake of allowing Wondolowski to get goal side of him. Once the ball eluded DeMerit, all that was left for Wondolowski to do was to chip diving keeper Joe Cannon, which was child’s play for one of the best strikers in MLS.

Four minutes later, it was 2-1 for the Quakes, as Ramiro Corrales, who was pumping ball after ball into the penalty area, hit paydirt as his cross was directed into a goal by a diving Alan Gordon. No goals allowed in 428 minutes, then came two in four.

The game was put out of reach after Camilo, who came in as a sub, clipped the back of Corrales’ heels. The ensuing free kick, from Tressor Moreno, floated over the head of Whitecaps Jordan Harvey, who chose to try and rise for the cross rather than stick close to Wondolowski. By choosing ball over man, Harvey left Wondolowski wide open to volley home the insurance goal.

It was a strange game, by a team that’s having a bit of a strange season. But, Whitecaps fans will surely take “enigmatic” in 2012 over “just plain bad” in 2011.

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