I was once told that in journalism, your chances of getting a big story were based not just on talent, but availability: your freedom to pick up a phone or run across town to do something now.
In sports, if you wait for something to happen to start moving, it will be finished before you arrive. Maybe you’re on the road or tired or tense, but you have to react and stay ahead of the game if you’re going to pull off anything impressive. I was working during the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2-0 road loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday, but watching the highlights it was clear that both the offense and defense faced situations where starting late killed their chances of pulling off the big play.
Observe the first goal at 2:11 of this highlight package, after Nigel Reo-Coker’s free kick from distance sails over everyone’s heads into the stands. While the team exhales for a moment, frustrated after the chance went nowhere, exactly two Whitecaps start running. Look at the gif above to see the exact moment when Reo-Coker, already near the halfway line, realizes the danger that the Whitecaps face from Rimando’s free-kick and starts sprinting.
By the time Joao Plata takes possession just outside the box, four Whitecaps are marking three RSL attackers. Andy O’Brien lets his man, Luis Gil, go on as he watches to see where the ball goes. It goes to Luis Gil, now standing five feet behind him, who heads it home.
At 2:10, when Reo-Coker sends a speculative long ball to Corey Hertzog, the rest of the team is moving at about quarter speed. Watch Daigo Kobayashi. At 5:57, he is standing just over the penalty spot. As Kekuta Manneh crosses in on a volley, Kobayashi is straining away from it, towards the goal, and is pushed over by the defender. He rolls over backwards before standing up. Reo-Coker fights off two men to send in a second ball that just misses Corey Hertzog, who has run across the box but cannot make it to a ball which rolls to nowhere. Kobayashi has walked exactly two feet from where he stood up after rolling over.
The aftermath of the loss has been continued handwringing over why the team loses games on the road. The manager and Reo-Coker, the acting captain, have criticized the desire of the team. Reo-Coker said to the TEAM 1040 that the ‘Caps weren’t “being tough and hard to beat. Defending properly, running back, doubling back, helping your teammates and making unselfish runs.” Basically, if you work hard and you move fast, you have a chance to be a factor. If you don’t, you’re just watching the game go by.
Stats after the jump.