Dressed in civvies and a hoodie to hide the damage, a sheepish looking Nigel Reo Coker emerged at training Thursday following his Sunday night stumble. The injury was gruesome, enough to keep the midfielder out of this weekend's clash with Houston. The bruise to Reo-Coker's ego and reputation, however, might be more damaging. The former Villa and West Ham recruit has not had a stellar start to 2014. He dazzled once during the season opener beautifully setting up Pedro Morales's first MLS goal in the late stages, but that was a rare foray into the front third. At Chivas, he coughed up the ball in a bad area at a bad time, and the 10 men Goats took full advantage. In addition, against New England he had his pocket picked on a couple of occasions and was fortunate that neither led to a serious goal threat. Being substituted in the 60th and 70th minutes of those last two games was an indictment on his fitness.
You'd think with a child on the way and a real opportunity in Vancouver to be the catalyst and a leader in a young squad, that "Reo C" would have come to camp in top shape and perhaps give the Whitecaps something to think about long term. At 29-years-old, he's still young, he's the box to box midfielder the Caps need, and he has some excellent supporting characters around him.
But he didn't come to camp in shape, and in a simple one-on-one drill at the beginning of last week, he was badly exposed by a potential replacement in young Canadian Bryce Alderson. For all his bluster, Reo Coker has been put in his place, by an inanimate object no less. It might have been his manager sending the message, but now Carl Robinson has been let off the hook by having that decision made for him.
What happens from here will define Reo Coker's future in Vancouver. He might view this injury/incident as the motivation needed to put his head down, get fit and let his game do the talking. The alternative will look all too familiar to keen observers of the British Bulldog's career; a departure with questions asked and unanswered followed by a new beginning somewhere else. I for one, hope it's the former because it's easy to like Nigel Reo Coker the person. It's even easier to like Nigel's game when it's at its very best.