VANCOUVER, B.C. – It was a somewhat somber Vancouver Whitecaps training session Tuesday morning, as the 'Caps players took the pitch moments after learning that Carl Robinson and his management team had been dismissed from the club immediately.
Sitting four points outside of the playoff picture in the Western Conference with five games to go, Robinson’s departure at this stage of the season came as a shock to several members of the team.
But as they tried to balance the task at hand, while thinking about their own futures in Vancouver, captain Kendall Waston summed up the view of many.
“It’s very difficult,” a subdued Waston told reporters. “Obviously I came [here] for the coaches, not for the club. The coaches brought me, so I feel badly for them. Since day one they’ve been brilliant here with us, but this year the points or games weren’t enough so that they can finish the year.
“It’s a difficult moment. I’m not happy at all. But as a player, you have bosses, and even if you don’t like the things that happen, you have to respect what those bosses say. ... I was thinking, with five games to go, was this the right moment? Personally, I don't think it was the right moment, but I'm not in charge of the club."
Words can't express how grateful I am to you. Thanks to you, I could come to this team and grow up as a player. Beyond being a great coach you're a great human being!!— Kendall Waston (@kwaston88) September 26, 2018
May God guide your new destiny!!
Thank you Robbo, Martin, Gordon, Stewart. pic.twitter.com/txEqn7rApU
The Whitecaps players now need to regroup ahead of what could be a season-defining game against the LA Galaxy on Saturday (10 pm ET | TV & streaming info). While Robinson may have regularly taken the blame for the team's performances, Waston feels the players need to now own them — a view echoed by veteran striker Kei Kamara.
"For me, Carl was somebody that brought me into the club," Kamara said. "He believed in me, he believed in how I could play, he believed that I can fit the system, and I respect him so much as a coach and for everything he's done here. So when I heard the news, I took it personally too because I feel that we did that to him as players. ... I feel responsible for part of it."
Whitecaps President Bob Lenarduzzi, who called the move a tough decision, paid tribute to the legacy that Robinson will leave behind at the club, citing the number of firsts the 'Caps achieved under the Welshman and his ethos to play younger players.
One of those players, Russell Teibert, is one of the few that's been at the club since Robinson arrived as an assistant under Martin Rennie in 2012. Although he admitted that such dismissals were the nature of the business, Teibert said he hopes that the Robinson era will be viewed favorably in years to come.
"It is part of the job," the midfielder said. "Robbo's been here a long time, and maybe this year hasn't gone his way, or our way, or the team's way, but I think over the course of the time that he's been here, he did great things for the club, and I hope that everybody can look back at his time here and say he took the club to a better place than when he first got here."
Teibert added that as gloomy as the mood may be amongst the squad right now, there is no time just yet for a "grieving period.” The sole focus at hand now for the Whitecaps is making the playoffs.
"We've got business here to do," Teibert said. "We've got games left in the season, playoffs to play for, and we can't stray from that. ... This is the business of sport. You've got to rebound, you've got to bounce back, and I know Robbo will do that. For us, we've got a job to do."