Vancouver is six-feet under — and 10 points out of a playoff berth — with 11 games left in the MLS season. And it’s the front office that deserves most of the blame for this mess.Battered, bruised and perhaps a little punch-drunk, the Vancouver Whitecaps found themselves on the canvas Wednesday, looking up at a world spinning out of control.The underdogs from Calgary, Cavalry FC, delivered a debilitating body blow with a 2-1 victory at B.C. Place Stadium that knocked the Caps out of the Canadian Championship. It was just the latest gut shot for an organization already hemorrhaging internally from the abuse it has absorbed this season.“Last night was really tough,” Caps coach Marc Dos Santos said Thursday at YVR, a few sleepless hours after his Major League Soccer team became the first to lose to a Canadian Premier League side, a league that only played its first games in April.“Re-watching the game we felt that last night’s result wasn’t the problem. It’s the accumulation of what’s going on,” said Dos Santos. “A night like last night, it was like an uppercut.“We feel that right now, we’re in a boxing ring, and the bell’s never going off, and you’re never able to rest.”A little more than 12 hours after seeing one of the season’s primary goals drowned in a rain of boos and pair of Cavs’ away goals, the Caps shuffled into the airport in singles and pairs for the flight to Minnesota to take on the Loons Saturday.Smiles were scarce or forced. The mood was serious and sombre, the downcast air to be expected from a team that has lost a club-record-tying five games in a row and seen its confidence ventilated by a two-month winless streak.
Yordy Reyna (29) battles for the ball against Cavalry FC midfielder Jose Escalante (11) and midfielder Nikolas Ledgerwood (6) during the first half at BC Place Stadium July 24.
Anne-Marie Sorvin /
USA TODAY Sports
The lows of 2018, which saw the team miss the playoffs, fire the coach, then disintegrate into a finger-pointing post-season press conference disaster, now seem like a pale and fond memory.The organization has been rocked by abuse scandals and fan walkouts, while the team on the field — blown up in an explosion of player-transfer pyrotechnics — hasn’t gelled nor lived up to the pre-season expectations.“To be honest with you, to be raw and direct, the month of July has just been a nightmare. It’s just been a nightmare in everything,” said Dos Santos.A team that on paper should have dominated — Cavalry FC averages around $60,000 per player to the Caps roughly US$380,000 — looked outclassed by a team that counted several of its former academy castoffs among its ranks.Left back Ali Adnan makes more than the entire Calgary roster, and Cavs coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. couldn’t resist needling his opposition with a “His left foot is worth two million alone, innit?” in the post-game presser.
Ali Adnan’s expression on the field pretty much matches the fans of the MLS team these days.
Anne-Marie Sorvin /
USA TODAY Files
The Whitecaps, with just one playoff win and four post-season appearances in their previous eight MLS seasons, have never been this bad, save for their expansion season.They’re at the bottom of the West for the first time since 2011, and getting out of the basement is a monumental challenge considering the manner of the team’s recent form. The Caps have been shut out three times and outscored 17-2 in five straight MLS losses, and only managed one home goal against a CPL team in a two-leg series.Something “drastic” has to change, and it could be players. Looking at the team’s stats, the numbers tell a stark tale of underperforming players — including the three Designated Players. This year’s rebuild might have to be rebuilt itself.“Something drastic could be based on one or two results that we could change things around, or sometimes you need new blood in the locker-room to allow you to get a spark, to grow,” said Dos Santos.“We’re trying. We’re trying in this transfer window to make something happen in the next seven, eight days. Am I optimistic? I think something is going to happen.“When our side commits to ‘we want to do’ and we’re waiting for the other side, it’s tough to tell you if I’m 100 per cent optimistic or not.”
Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos.
Gerry Kahrmann /
Dos Santos has been frank about the results, his recruiting this year, and ability to motivate this current group of players. He’s made mistakes and admitted them, but still has an unshakable confidence that he can institute change.But the club’s bigger problem is one of its own making. One reason there hasn’t been much movement in the transfer windows is Vancouver isn’t an appealing destination for players.The long list of players bounced from the club by a front office more concerned with frugality than faith has left a stain on the organization’s reputation. The challenge of attracting top-level staff is evidenced by the as-yet-unfilled head of recruitment position, one the club had prioritized filling since Dos Santos was hired.The average fan is now aware of the team’s front-office issues, which had been pinned solely on the previous coaching staff. A clown-nosed caricature of team president Bobby Lenarduzzi was distributed among the urinals at B.C. Place Wednesday, and even casual onlookers are questioning how COO Rachel Lewis and vice-president of soccer ops Greg Anderson have survived this long as the Whitecaps have been surpassed by their local and national rivals.Postmedia News has made repeated requests to speak with ownership this season, but none have been granted thus far.The next step is just the next game. The current players are focusing on the remaining 11 MLS games, even with their playoff chances hovering around 0.5 per cent.“There’s not many players in this locker-room through this last month that can really look at themselves and feel proud, feel like they’ve done themselves justice,” said midfielder Andy Rose. “Individually, you have to look deep.“ … Sometimes players need to be reminded about the good things they’ve done in a season, and a big chunk of our roster have done a lot of great things. And it’s about finding ways within ourselves to get back to that, and collectively we step out there and find ways to make our fans proud.”email@example.com/TheRealJJAdamsNEXT GAMESaturday Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Minnesota United FC5 p.m., Allianz Field, TV: TSN2; Radio: TSN 1410 AMCLICK HERE to report a typo.Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org