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3 questions: Loons versus Whitecaps

I spoke with Andrew Bahl of 86Forever, our sister site providing coverage of the Whitecaps, about tonight’s match. Hear what he had to say and more!

July 13, 2019 - Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States - Minnesota United forward Mason Toye (23) celebrates with his team mates after scoring a goal in the 90'+1' of the match FC Dallas match at Allianz Field.
July 13, 2019 - Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States - Minnesota United forward Mason Toye (23) celebrates with his team mates after scoring a goal in the 90’+1’ of the match FC Dallas match at Allianz Field.
(Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)

EPL: The Whitecaps are winless in their last 10, simply put, how do you change that tomorrow? What needs to change against Minnesota United?

86: The hundred million dollar question! Simply put, everything has gone wrong for the Caps this season. The team had expansion-level roster turnover and several of the signings have flopped pretty hard. But this was a team that was in the playoff race halfway through the year and they were able to gain some traction by improving their possession numbers (consistent with how new manager Marc dos Santos wants to play) while still maintaining robust organization defensively. Both of these things have gone by the wayside in the past 6 matches or so--the team is shipping goals at an unfathomable rate and is not able to string together a competent attack. If they can go back to basics, maintain their shape, cut down on silly defensive errors and try and hit back on the counter attack, I think they can start to find some confidence that can help them put up some more respectable performances.

EPL: The club recently signed Ali Adnan on a full transfer, taking up a coveted DP slot. The fullback has been receiving lots of criticism of late, what’s going on there?

86: Everyone was pretty pumped when the club signed Adnan on a permanent deal. Unfortunately, his performances have slipped since it was announced he was staying in Vancouver. There are a couple issues here. One is that Adnan’s defense, which was never his strength, has turned quite poor. In the midweek Canadian Championship matchup, CPL guys were blowing by him with relative ease. He is the kind of player that almost would deploy better as a central midfielder or a winger, given the fact that he has created so many chances offensively but tracking back has been his bugaboo.

Then there are questions about his attitude, which are not unrelated to his frequent lack of interest in tracking back. Adnan is a superb talent; in terms of raw ability he is probably one of the top five players at his position in the league. The problem is he knows this--and will attempt audacious flicks and tricks at inopportune times, seemingly because he thinks he can get away with it (spoiler: he often can’t). It is his self confidence that makes him such an elite talent but it also has been grating for Caps fans lately. He also has not seemingly taken the losing spell very well and it has shown. The tldr on all this is: Adnan is still an elite fullback and I welcome him staying in Vancouver. But the club is going to need to either work with him on his defending, work with him on his attitude or move him to another position (or all 3) for him to continue to be the top level player we all know he can be.

EPL: How do the Whitecaps turn their season around? Is it in the front office? Is it player morale?

86: Another excellent question. At this point, I think most Caps fans have resigned ourselves to finishing last in the conference, if not the whole league. But as I mentioned above, the team was on course to match its best ever point total not too long ago--things just went south really quickly. At this point, the squad looks so beaten every time they step on the pitch, I have to chalk it up to some combination of tactics and player morale. The team needs a win to get their confidence back, although it is unclear at this point who they can beat given that they lost to a CPL side on Wednesday.

There is no doubt, however, that significant changes to the scouting and player recruitment strategies for the club will need to change if it wants to find long term success. The front office has been deservedly excoriated by fans and it will likely be another offseason full of turnover in Vancouver come winter.