Five points in Vancouver FC’s first four games in the Canadian Premier League had an air of optimism surrounding the expansion side to begin the season, but with just two points coming in their next six games, that has quickly faded, leaving fans, players, and staff frustrated.
With a chance to move clear of Atlético Ottawa in the table, Vancouver made the trip to the nation’s capital for their Saturday clash with the league’s other non-original franchise. Their day was set off on the wrong foot, after their bus dropped them off a kilometre away from the stadium, forcing them to make the walk, which Head Coach Afshin Ghotbi points to as another example of where the CPL lacks compared to top-flight leagues around the world.
Regardless of the situation with the bus, and the long flight in, Vancouver simply didn’t meet the expectations of their bench boss in the opening minutes, allowing Ottawa a quick marker courtesy of Sam Salter.
“The first 30 minutes was a complete no-show, to be honest. We looked completely out of the game,” Ghotbi said. “We grew into the game, and the last 60 minutes, I’m pleased with. Obviously, we never like to lose, but I’m proud of the young players.”
“I’m not sure what happened with the group. I thought everyone was switched on in the room, and during warmup, but Anthony White told me he felt like he was in a dream at the start of the game. We have to give it time, and eventually, those players will feel confident from the beginning.”
The slow start isn’t a new thing for Vancouver, who now stand firmly at the bottom of the table, sporting a minus-11 goal differential.
“We have some issues with our starts, you’ve seen it all year,” said defender James Cameron. “We have a tendency to concede early, and it’s unfortunate that a goal against is our wake-up call, rather than the whistle.”
There were things to like from Vancouver, particularly in the second half after a triple-sub at halftime. Despite all of the defensive shortcomings, Ottawa never could manage a second goal, and Vancouver had their chances to level the affair, and leave with a point.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, even with all of the great opportunities, they could only manage a single shot on target, and never looked too serious of a threat to Nathan Ingham in the Atlético goal.
“We still miss the quality we need at the front of the team,” Ghotbi said. “We had enough free kicks, corners, and opportunities to make the right final pass, and hopefully shots on target. It’s about quality. If you have it, the shots will come, and the goals will follow.”
Injuries have, of course, played their hand in Vancouver’s inability to capitalize on their chances, but what’s concerning is how little improvement has come with over a third of the season already in the books.
“I don’t know if there’s been a tone of improvement,” Cameron said, after thinking for a handful of seconds to find something positive. “We’ve lost some key players due to injury and suspension, but we’re lacking overall quality with some of the players we’re missing.”
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The solution? Cameron made no bones about it, they need help.
“Maybe bring some players in during the transfer window,” he said bluntly. “We’re missing Kaidin Chung and Elliot Simmons, key players at the start of the season, and that’s hard to get away with, especially as an expansion team.”
That ideology seems to be right on the money, as Ghotbi confirmed he plans on bringing in help with a couple of moves when the July window opens.
“I feel we are going to get better, there’s a summer [transfer] window coming, and we’re going to make some additions,” Ghotbi said. “We want to get some more maturity and quality on this team, and hopefully, that can put us in a position to fight for a playoff spot.”
Vancouver is going through the same growing pains Ottawa experienced when they joined the league, but it won’t last forever.
“When you start a project like we have, you try to take things one day at a time, one game at a time,” Ghotbi said. “From the ownership, the front office, and myself, everyone is a winner. We want to win, be in the playoffs, and be champion, but at the same time, we have to be pragmatic. As much as we want to win, we have to understand it takes time to build something.”
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