July 14, 2024
  • July 14, 2024
Vancouver FC Moses Dyer Dan Nimick

Analysis: Vancouver FC Flounder At Home Versus HFX Wanderers

By on June 25, 2024 0 515 Views

It was not the homecoming Vancouver FC were looking for.

After a successful off-field endeavour down in Kelowna last weekend, Vancouver FC were looking to build on that momentum with a good on-field performance on Sunday afternoon against bottom-of-the-table Halifax Wanderers. Instead, it was the side from Nova Scotia that came away with all three points after putting the Langley team to the sword with a 4-0 victory.

Braces from Ryan Telfer and Dan Nimick either side of a Andre Rampersad red card made sure it was a match to remember – even if for the wrong reasons for Vancouver.

Experimentation Went Awry for Afshin Ghotbi

It’s said that to be successful in a league like the CPL, you need to try to keep things fresh throughout the season. Each team has to face the others four times across the year, so it only makes sense that sometimes the coaches throw a bit of a curveball every now and then to catch the opposition manager off their game.

There can be, however, some limits to that.That is what it felt like on Sunday as Vancouver FC Head Coach Afshin Ghotbi tried to change things up in a way that hindered rather than helped his side. With Allan Enyou, a penciled-in starter at CB, being deployed as a six, Vasco Fry and Renan Garcia as the more advance midfielders, TJ Tahid on the right and Moses Dyer as the sole striker lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation, more than one person was surprised by Ghotbi’s selection. But instead of it paying off as a masterclass move, it was sullied by a shameful opening 20 minute performance from the Eagles.

Ryan Telfer was the dangerman for the Wanderers, punishing Vancouver on their mistakes twice in quick succession. The team simply felt flat from the opening whistle, lacking intensity and determination in the attack as well as structure and organization in the defence. You could tell the experiment failed when Ghotbi took a poor TJ Tahid off after getting rinsed down his right side. The coach did not mince words after the game on his team’s performance in that opening half, letting his players and the world know exactly how he felt.

“The performance, was for me, unacceptable and very disappointing,” explained a disheartened Ghotbi after the match. “I could have substituted eight players at the beginning. Maybe three players were playing and the rest were just bystanders.”

“That’s, for me, very unacceptable.”

As harsh as those words may be, Ghotbi isn’t exaggerating. By the end of the match it felt like shades of 2023, back when the side had little quality, resources, or experience under its belt. This year, they don’t have those excuses. They have plenty of quality and experience to go around. Which, simply put, means they just need to do better.

It also seemed like that move was not a popular choice amongst the players as well, as when questioned about the tactical changes, Rocco Romeo declined to comment, stating that he’d “rather not speak about it”.

Safe to say, that lineup likely won’t be coming back for a retribution match.

Mentality A Major Concern

When Andre Rampersand got his marching orders in the 68th minute, it felt like a lifeline for Vancouver FC. They had 20+ minutes to get back into the match, facing a side that has historically given up leads and late goals this season. It almost felt written in the stars for them to turn this tie around and maintain their unbeaten home status. They did not.

“Everything we did went wrong and everything they did went right,” admitted Ghotbi to media. “Sometimes, in football you have those days.”

It certainty felt like one of those days, because instead of taking the game by the scruff of the neck, the team got rash. They started to get frustrated at the referee’s calls, and allowed that frustration to get the better of them. Passes got sloppy, dribbles became desperate and they began conceding silly chances against a side that should have had no right to score more goals after defending with 10. But not only did HFX get score another goal, they scored two. It seems incomprehensible for a team with a man-advantage to concede two more goals after initially conceding two against eleven men, but here we were.

“For me, we can make mistakes, we can have bad games but you need to bring a certain mentality from beginning to the end,” said Ghotbi. “We didn’t bring that and I feel for me it’s unacceptable.”

Mentality has been a running theme for Vancouver FC as they look to get some consistency after their strong start, but this felt as close to rock bottom as it comes. Hopefully that means they can sink no lower and now build themselves back up. For their fans and their playoff hopes, they definitely need to do it and fast.

Soul Searching Time for Ghotbi And Company

It might come as a surprise that when Ghotbi spoke out against the performance, the Iranian coach was quiet and composed. Many might have lashed out or vented frustrations through expletives or aggressive mannerisms. Instead, Ghotbi’s words were calm and calculated, and through them cut deep.

“I’d never thought I would have to do this kind of interview,” confessed Ghotbi at the start of his availability. “I’d never thought I would have this kind of game at home or away with our team”.

Football is always known for its dramatics, but Ghotbi’s presser was so tense you could cut it with a knife. You could feel the weight of his words as he spoke them. This was a man that truly was let down by his team, in a way that he probably has not felt in all of his time at the club.

“I have to now really look at the heart and souls of my players and decide which players really want to do this.”

The bright side for Vancouver is that they have another match ahead of them to try to right the wrongs from this performance. A massive Salish Sea Derby is on the horizon as they visit Pacific at Starlight Stadium in Victoria. It now becomes a perfect venue to the Eagles to bounce back.

“It’s the beauty of sports, at the end of the day,” explained Romeo after the match. “There is always an opportunity for another match, and lucky for us it’s actually less than a week. We have no other choice but to shake it off and move on.”

Now there is more than pride on the line for Vancouver next week. There will be a response that is expected by fans, amplified by the circumstances. They need to prove, once again, that they are a side that is not be trifled with. That they have moved past their ghosts of last year and are ready to challenge for the top of the table. Here’s hoping that this time around, they rise to the occasion.

Header Image Photo Credit: James Glezos

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