Whitecaps haven’t looked the same since trading Tim Parker


Vancouver Whitecaps players look on as Toronto FC prepare to lift the Voyageurs Cup after winning the Canadian Championship Final, in Toronto on Wednesday, August 15, 2018. (Chris Young/CP)

Every Thursday/Friday, Sportsnet.ca will chat with Sportsnet 650 radio commentator Dan Riccio about the big stories and issues surrounding the Vancouver Whitecaps.

SN: What stood out for you in the Whitecaps’ 5-2 loss to Toronto FC in Wednesday’s second leg of the Canadian Championship final?

RICCIO: It was a reminder of how good TFC can look when they play to their capabilities. They haven’t done much of that this season, but if Toronto keeps this form down the final 11 games of the regular season, it may be able to sneak into the MLS playoffs.

How does that relate to Vancouver? Wednesday’s loss was a reminder of how far the Whitecaps are from being a serious MLS Cup contender. The only way the Whitecaps can win the league title is if everything goes right for them. There isn’t much room for error with this squad, and this Voyageurs Cup final provided a small taste of their problems. If things don’t break the right way, they’ll usually come up short and that has been the story of the squad for too long now.

What kind of psychological blow, if any, will this have on the Whitecaps in MLS? Are you worried they might not recover from this humbling defeat to qualify for the playoffs?

The Whitecaps will bounce back. They had a 2-0 loss in Seattle a few weeks ago and followed that up with some big performances. They are undefeated over their last four games in MLS, with a couple of big victories over Minnesota and Portland that were huge in terms of the playoff race. The Whitecaps have shown an ability in the past to get over tough losses, and Saturday against the New York Red Bulls will be no different.

The Whitecaps have now conceded 55 goals in 28 games in all competitions in 2018, with just three clean sheets in that span. Defence is clearly the number one priority the team has to address in the off-season, is it not?

I think we’ll be seeing the Whitecaps try to improve the defence even sooner. They still have the opening to sign a player on a free transfer and that could happen over the course of the weekend. However, I wouldn’t expect anything earth shattering.

The Whitecaps’ biggest problem in defence is chemistry. There was a ton of turnover in the off-season, and most importantly the team has never recovered from the loss of Tim Parker. The Whitecaps haven’t been able to defend well as a squad and there isn’t a player available that is going to drastically change that. The improvement in defence has to come from within before this all gets re-hauled in the off-season

John Molinaro on the Whitecaps disappointing loss to Toronto FC
August 16 2018

Vancouver parted ways with Marco Bustos this week. Why do you think the Canadian prospect never caught on with the Whitecaps first team?

It is the same story for many Canadians in the MLS youth systems: A lack of commitment from the club to give a real opportunity at the top level. Bustos scored eight goals in USL last year with the now defunct Whitecaps FC 2. From everything I heard and saw, Bustos earned more of a chance than what he was given. But it is hard to take risks on young talent when results are needed, and that is the conundrum a lot of coaches find themselves in. Bustos is young enough that there is potential to show he can be an MLS player, unfortunately he wasn’t going to get that chance in Vancouver.

What will you be looking for in Saturday’s home game against the New York Red Bulls?

The return of Tim Parker is going to be interesting. I think the fans were sad to see him go, and there a few versions of why the breakup happened that make it hard to decipher who is to blame. What we can say for certain is that the Whitecaps have not recovered since trading Parker to New York. Felipe has been a nice addition as part of that trade, but this squad has struggled to find a partner in defence for Kendall Waston. Parker’s leadership has also been severely missed. His loss has been immense and I do wonder if Whitecaps fans will show him love for his time spent in Vancouver.

Be sure to listen to Dan Riccio on a daily basis on Sportsnet 650. You can also follow Dan Riccio on Twitter

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