Second ‘Caps Thoughts: Vancouver Whitecaps keeping busy, connecting the dots during postponement

Despite the lack of Vancouver Whitecaps game this weekend, due to the MLS’s postponement of games due to the outbreak of COVID-19, they kept busy online, entertaining many via alternate avenues. In this edition of Second ‘Caps Thoughts, we tip our hat to them for that, before looking at why the break may benefit them, as this mandatory postponement continues.

It wasn’t a conventional way to string the sphere around the surface, but much like a game of football, it kept everyone on the ropes.

The Vancouver Whitecaps, much like many other teams around MLS, were supposed to play an actual game of football this weekend. Heading into matchday #3, it promised to be an exciting slate of games, with the ‘Caps offerings consisting of an entertaining 16:00 Saturday matchup with the Colorado Rapids. 

After last weekend, where Vancouver snatched a surprise victory off of the LA Galaxy, it was hoped they could build off the momentum they had generated, with no better way to do that than a clash with the Rapids. 

Yet all of a sudden, that wasn’t a reality, with the MLS smartly electing to suspend operations for a month, as part of their preventative measures against COVID-19, the pandemic that is currently causing disruption around the world. 

That meant a rough weekend for sports fans, with just about everything you can imagine finding itself postponed, with the lone outliers consisting of collegiate curling, Mexican football and Super League Rugby (amongst others), a far cry from the extensive smorgasbord of action we’ve found ourselves accustomed to on a weekly basis.

What does one do without sports? That’s a great question, and it’s one that many folk have faced over the past few days, with the current sportless situation pushing people towards new frontiers.

But surprisingly, despite the lack of Whitecaps game, there is no shortage of storylines surrounding the team this weekend, as such is the reality of sports. You can escape the game, but the game never stops churning, with this weekend proving to be no exception to that. 

So even though there was no ‘Caps game, we bring back another edition of ‘Second ‘Caps Thoughts’, as we dive into some of those things that are catching our eye beyond the initial scorelines.

Whitecaps social team hits a homerun

Luckily for everyone, despite the lack of official games, the Whitecaps social media team kept the action going this weekend, challenging the Rapids to a match of ‘connect 4’. 

It seemed a strange request at first, but Colorado graciously accepted the invite, leading to an intense contest that spanned over half-an-hour, culminating with a spirited last-minute ‘Caps victory. 

It was just another jewel in the crown of the ‘Caps social media team, who has been on a roll over the past year, doing a good job to keep fans engaged despite lean times. They had put together a couple of hits this offseason, starting from the whole Lucas Cavallini ‘El Tanque’ phenomenon, culminating with an 8-minute mini-doc about preseason, which was quite well-received online. 

From videos, to live-tweets, and everything in-between, the social media team has been busy these past few months, giving the ‘Caps an online presence that is among the best in MLS. 

And that shone through this weekend. On a sportless weekend where many accounts were quiet (FC Dallas took this so literally that their twitter account no longer exists…), the ‘Caps kept busy on both days, first on Saturday with the ‘Connect 4’ tilt, before getting Tosaint Ricketts to live-tweet the replay of their week 2 matchup with the Galaxy that was playing on TSN on Sunday. 

In lean times, where the short and long-term future of the sports leagues are up in the air, it was a good way to keep entertained, with Vancouver doing their best to ensure that things kept somewhat moving.

Now, the question is: what will they do in future weekends? It’s too early to tell, but if the work of the team behind the wheel of the social media account is to give us an idea, expect lots of fun. 

I mean, they’re already spinning the wheels on taking Connect 4 globally, and from what we’ve seen, that may only be the tip of the iceberg.

So will we see FIFA 20? Other games? A live karaoke performance of two players? Maybe the last one will be impossible, but beyond that, don’t be surprised by anything that they pull off next.

(If you are seeking a report of the ‘Caps connect 4 performance, AFTN has you covered)

A live shot of the ‘Connect 4’ action (Keveren Guillou)

Are the ‘Caps getting an advantage?

But for all the fun off the pitch, there is still a lot of questions to be asked about what’s happening on it, with the postponement causing lots of uncertainty around the league. 

There’s no doubt, however, that amongst the teams in MLS, the ‘Caps are one of the squads that could stand to use this break, after a tough string of early luck left them without several key pieces. 

From sickness, to injuries, along with visa issues and other late arrivals, Vancouver is yet to train with its full allotment of players, much to the frustration of fans. Due to those reasons, the ‘Caps were without Erik Godoy (calf), Jake Nerwinski (hamstring), Yordy Reyna (cold) and Ranko Veselinovic (visa) against the Galaxy, forcing Janio Bikel (late transfer) and Leonard Owusu (late arrival after visa issues) to both slot in earlier than expected. 

Luckily for Vancouver, they do have a pretty deep bench, which allowed the team to snatch that victory due to the help provided by many of their depth pieces, but there’s no doubt that they’d prefer to have their full complement of players, allowing for more competition for those 11 starting spots. 

So even though the break will benefit all of the teams in MLS, something that head coach Marc Dos Santos duly noted last week, there’s no doubt that amongst those affected, the Whitecaps could stand to benefit quite nicely.

It’s too early to project, but as it stands, teams are currently on a training moratorium, one that will constantly re-extend itself until the time is right. At the moment, the season is only postponed for 30 days, but if things don’t get better, an extension is in the cards, with the moratorium likely continuing on in that case. 

But what that means is that, for the time being, no teams in MLS are training, putting them all on a level playing field. For the ‘Caps, who have dealt with their fair share of absences early on, means that they now have time to let the players either get to full health (Godoy, Nerwinski and Reyna) or get up to speed compared to the rest of the league (or let the league slow down to theirs?), which is the case for Bikel, Owusu and Veselinovic.

Either way, whenever that training moratorium gets lifted, giving teams a chance to embark on a mini-preseason again, this now means that Vancouver will be quite close to full health and full strength, something they were fighting hard to be before the postponement. 

While it would be nice to not have to worry about those things, that is the current reality of the situation, with the league smartly electing to put the health of players, staff and fans ahead of the status quo. 

The priority is now making sure that COVID-19 doesn’t spread too fast, potentially overloading the medical system, and then when everything passes, be it in 30, 60 or even 90 days, everyone is fully ready to get this show back in the road. 

Which whenever that does happen, among all teams hit by this postponement, appears to give the Whitecaps an advantage.

Max Crepeau during the ‘Caps last home game: the home opener vs SKC (Keveren Guillou)

Axel Schuster keeps busy

Off the pitch, however, Whitecaps Sporting Director, Axel Schuster, is keeping busy during the break, as he told JJ Adams of The Province in an interview on Friday. Instead of sitting back and taking some time off, he is instead diving into some other projects around the club, including the installation of that famed scouting department. 

With most of their work done for this transfer window and the next, as they’ve pretty much done all of the scouting they need, he can focus on getting the scouting department underway, allowing the ‘Caps to cast a wider net in future windows.

If they can accelerate that process, allowing them to get started as soon as everything is back underway, it’ll be something that can certainly benefit them long-term, which is why many have clamoured for its installation for a while now.

It’s probably not the way that they would have envisioned March going, but with the safety of everyone at risk, this postponement was for the best, and at the very least, it’ll give the team time to work on some of these other projects they have planned.

So even though the restriction on mass gatherings has put training and matches on lockdown, that won’t put Schuster under, as he goes to work, armed with his computer and a phone. 

And who knows, if all goes well, both in the containment of COVID-19 and Schuster’s work off the pitch, this can be another silver lining to point to for the ‘Caps. In these confusing and dark times, that would be all one could hope for on both fronts, with the health of everybody obviously remaining the main objective going forward. 

Looking Forward

All-in-all, it’s been a week like no other in sports, with many leagues smartly electing to take a break. From competitions in the midst of intriguing title races, such as the European football leagues, to leagues in the midst of spring bloom, such as MLS, it’s been strange to see everything on pause for a moment, making for an unusually quiet spring weekend. 

For now, all we can do is wait, while doing our best as a society to make sure things don’t get worse, which if we all do, may mean an earlier return to sport. 

But either way, expect the ‘Caps social media team to keep everyone entertained, and when the action does return, the team itself will be ready to rock-and-roll, this time with their full ensemble of metaphorical ‘musicians’. Along with the work of Schuster, who continues to go at it full-stop, the team continues to work, keeping a long-term eye on things.

As we wait, however, BTS will be doing our best to keep the content flowing. From bonus podcasts, unreleased interviews and some other fun articles, we’ll keep things going, helping pass the time until that famed ‘return to play’ day is upon us. 

Until then, stay safe, and stay tuned for more.

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