PHILADELPHIA – Something about playing against the English brings out the best in Jay DeMerit.
But as good as Major League Soccer’s commanding center back was at PPL Park Wednesday night, I believe a eyebrows were raised when the important Whitecaps man played all 90 minutes.
In fact, I am absolutely, positively, 100 percent dead set certain that more than eyebrows were raised around Vancouver. I’d say some blood pressure was seriously on the rise, too.
Vancouver meets Real Salt Lake on Friday. That game is in Utah. And yes, I said “Friday.” As in, not even on Saturday, which might have provided DeMerit a chance to grab just a little sliver of rest.
As it is, he would have to cross the country on Thursday and then jump into a game on Friday. This is Real Salt Lake, a team currently sitting second in the West. In fact, it’s second vs. third in the West – the very kind of match that shapes a playoff race.
So, back to Wednesday’s cascade of unfortunate events. When Aurelien Collin needed to leave early in the 3-2 win over Chelsea, MLS coach Ben Olsen was in a pickle regarding his center back situation. Once Carlos Valdes entered, Olsen was out of center backs.
So what does this all mean?
“It means I’m going to get a bunch of calls from Vancouver, all pissed off,” Olsen conceded afterward.
Olsen went on: “The plan was get him out at halftime. He has a game on Friday and unfortunately, we couldn’t do that. Our depth as center back wasn’t great. … He knew it. He looked at me at halftime and said, ‘What are you going to do?’ But I thought he did a great job. And it didn’t really affect the game too much. [Carlos] Valdés came in and did a great job.”
(As he talked in the press conference, I wondered if the calls weren’t already coming from Western Canada. I am sure Olsen doesn’t keep a phone with him on the bench. Still, I got a funny mental picture of Olsen’s cell phone ringing repeatedly during the match, with Vancouver coach Martin Rennie’s name coming up – while Olsen just kind of looks over at the phone, sees who it is and thinking, “Oh, man. I don’t want to talk to that guy.”)
There are no easy answers here. Olsen probably should have brought one more center back – but that’s easy to say now.
The reality is, with 18-man or 19-man rosters, coaches simply cannot provide adequate cover all over the field. They could, I suppose, by bringing 23-24 guys. But then the whole thing breaks down in a ridiculous substitution scramble.
Or, you could bring in all these other guys for cover – but neither the players nor their clubs want to see guys travel across the country, missing training with their teams, just to “provide cover.”
It’s a tough situation – and we have not heard the last of it.