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Vancouver Whitecaps vs. RSL: three questions with Eighty Six Forever

RSL heads to the great white north and Eighty Six Forever provide some insight into their team

Lucas Muller | RSL Soapbox

Real Salt Lake are in British Columbia to take on the already-eliminated Vancouver Whitecaps. The Caps have had a rough season, having earned just 34 points and are on the bottom of the western conference. Real Salt Lake are fighting a home playoff spot and three points is very needed. Our friends at Eighty Six Forever provided some insight into their team.

It seemed like 2019 was always going to be a rebuilding year for the Whitecaps, but finishing last in the west must feel rough. What are the positives from 2019 and what are the biggest disappointments?

The biggest positive of the 2019 season is it has been so shockingly bad that it may force the Whitecaps to reevaluate how they do things. Expectations for this team ranged from fringe playoff team to bottom feeders but I think everybody is taken aback by just how bad things have been, including the club. Now the team is offering a deal to season ticket holders where they can get a full refund if they don’t like the team’s direction by January 30th. So for better or worse they are going to do something. I am a bit skeptical whatever it is will be sufficient for reasons I will get into in question 3 but it is at least a hint of a light at the end of the tunnel. The biggest disappointment was bowing out in the first round of the Voyageurs’ cup to Cavalry F.C, a club who’s payroll is about an 8th of Vancouver’s.

Vancouver surprised everyone by beating the Galaxy 4-3 in LA – what did the Whitecaps do right to get that result?

I feel that game was just as much L.A shooting themselves in the foot as Vancouver doing well. But in fairness the ‘Caps did set up in a way that exploited the Galaxy’s deficiencies rather well. The front three of Chirinos, Ricketts and Bair and the pace to hit the Galaxy on the counter and the ability to get into channels to take advantage of poor defensive coverage. Defensively fielding Doneil Henry and Jasser Khmiri in the middle while pushing Erik Godoy out to right back meant that the Whitecaps were able deal with the aerial threat of Ibrahimovic (he still had a goal and an assist but he’s Zlatan, what are you going to do?)

How do you rate Marc Dos Santos’ first season as the coach? Do you think he’ll have more time as manager given how the season has gone?

I give Dos Santos like a C-. The season has been supremely awful and he undoubtedly had some missteps. But he has the lowest payroll in the league and has finished second last in the supporter’s shield race. So he’s performing about how you’d expect based on the money he has. He will get at least next season no matter what because there is no way the Whitecaps aren’t going to continue to pay him, Carl Robinson and whoever they’d hire to replace him all at the same time. The fan base is pretty evenly split on if he should stay but in my view there are much bigger structural problems at play. I have a very long article called “Is Marc Dos Santos Still the Man” that people can read if they want to know the nitty gritty of it all. But the essence of that article is this; In the MLS era the Whitecaps have been very light on their technical staff. Going into the season the club had no scouts, no technical director, no data analysts, or really any support for their coaching staff. For their last three coaching hires the Whitecaps have basically turned over all of the soccer operations to a coach with no experience as a head coach in MLS and said “good luck.” As other clubs have increased their budgets and gotten smarter front offices this arrangement has become increasingly untenable. Dos Santos has pushed for change on this front and there are now three scouts (allegedly, the club is not revealing their identities) and a director of football is set to be announced soon (though there are some questions about how much change that person will really be able to bring, ughhh, this club is so exhausting). But one has to ask, if they didn’t think a technical staff was necessary for nine seasons then what crazy things are they going to do to try and win back the severely disaffected fan base? I am equal parts excited and terrified to see what they do.

You can read our responses at Eighty Six Forever.