BURNABY, B.C. – It wasn’t the midseason change of personnel that sent the Vancouver Whitecaps into the second-half tailspin which nearly ended the club’s playoff hopes.
Rather, the expectations were raised after a strong start and the team tried to play with a little more craft and a little less graft – and that didn’t go exactly to plan, according to head coach Martin Rennie.
“In the first half of the season, we knew that we were coming off the last season being the worst team in MLS,” the Scotsman told reporters at Burnaby Lake field this week. “Everybody understood that and knew that we were the underdogs going into every game.
WATCH: Rennie speaks to the media
“Everybody recognized that we had to play a certain way to get results, and then we got a lot of good results, a lot of good performances.”
With that early-season success, the desire for a more stylish brand of soccer perhaps overcame the pragmatic approach that pushed the team from a bottom feeder to a side jockeying for position at the top of the Western Conference table.
“Then we got to a point of saying, now we need to become a better team and we need to start dictating games and we need to start opening up and need to start scoring more goals,” Rennie said. “I think everybody even put that added expectation on us and we did it of ourselves – and as we did it, the wheels came off the bus.”
Now, with the club preparing for a playoff rehearsal this weekend against Real Salt Lake before next week’s one-off Knockout Round match away to the LA Galaxy, Rennie is focusing on the positives of the team’s bumpy end to the season.
“It’s kind of ironic, coming from where we were,” Rennie said. “To get into the playoffs – at the start of the season, it would have been a massive, massive achievement and something we’d all have been ecstatic about.
“But because we haven’t finished it as we should have, then we feel a different way, and honestly I don’t think it’s a bad thing going into the playoffs. We’re definitely not going in overconfident. That’s for sure.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.