Campaigning for Carl
I hadn't heard the expression "crafting a campaign" until Michael Davies of the excellent "Men In Blazers" podcast used it to describe his beloved Chelsea, and the manner in which Jose Mourinho engineered his Blues through the nitty gritty of a long Premiership season.
In the rigours of MLS, successful teams have managed their schedule carefully, and even though it's early, Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson has already shown signs of recognizing the details of that process. Some might have been surprised Thursday when Robinson told TEAM 1040 radio in Vancouver that skipper Jay DeMerit had been left home to rest so early in the season. But for Robinson, the marathon is as grueling in March as it will be in September. He's comfortable enough in his squad that we'll likely see more players left home for longer trips.
Flying straight back to Vancouver right after the 0-0 draw with New England allowed players to get home on Saturday night and enjoy two full days off after what has been a taxing, air mile-accumulating couple of months.
From a point gathering perspective, the new Whitecaps boss has also exhibited some proactive substitutions and game management during critical moments in his first three matches. Pedro Morales was brought on in the 65th minute of season opener, which effectively killed the game off. At Chivas, Robinson brought on Kekuta Manneh with enough time to rescue a point. And in New England, with a point in his back pocket, he gave Gershon Koffie a long-awaited introduction which infused a tiring team with some bite and balance to lock down that first clean sheet of the season.
Crafting a campaign
Those little decisions don't always work. But they did for Caleb Porter, the reigning MLS coach of the year with Portland. The well-travelled Timbers were a team that foraged for every point - especially away from home, where they didn't win a lot of games, but gathered enough draws (or avoided defeat enough) to help reach the Western Conference summit.
Many lamented two points lost for Vancouver at an undermanned and unfairly disregarded Chivas team. Some even expected the Whitecaps to beat a New England squad that hadn't won, nor scored after two weeks. But in Carl Robinson's mind, his team earned a point despite a poor performance in LA, and a clean sheet after a nine-hour travel day against a desperate New England team stuck on no goals after two games.
Maybe we should start calling the Whitecaps coach a "campaign" manager.