What followed was back-to-back 2-1 victories over Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles FC in which the Whitecaps won 72 and 70 duels respectively — their two highest marks of the season.
They had to make adjustments to deal with San Jose’s unique man-marking system, which now features the added wrinkle of a true libero in defence, to pull off another 2-1 victory on Saturday night.
And the 1-0 loss at the bottom-of-the-West LA Galaxy the previous weekend was poor.
But what Vancouver needs at the moment is not perfection every week. The team just isn’t as talented as the best in MLS.
What Dos Santos and sporting director Axel Schuster need to see are signs that an identity and a style of play are beginning to take root.
Finally, at the end of Dos Santos’ second season in charge, it feels as if we might be getting there.
That makes Schuster’s job this winter much clearer.
You don’t make mistakes like Hwang In-beom — a good player but the wrong fit — when you know exactly how a new signing is going to be used and the qualities he requires to perform his role.
That hasn’t always been obvious when the Whitecaps have gone shopping in recent years.
Schuster still has an enormous task on his hands — basically every area of the team needs upgrading and there are difficult decisions to be made on high earners like Ali Adnan and Fredy Montero.
How the Whitecaps handle the salary cap and all the other quirks of MLS continues to be something of a concern. I’ve written before about the trade for Evan Bush, and there was also the strange case of them trading for an international slot they never actually used.
But it also must be said that 2020 additions such as Cristian Dajome, Ranko Veselinovic, and Janio Bikel look a lot better than the likes of Jon Erice, Lucas Venuto, and Joaquin Ardaiz. That bodes well.
Thanks to the altered structure of this bizarre MLS season, Vancouver goes into tonight’s match against Cascadia rivals Seattle in a playoff spot.
The Whitecaps would surely relish the chance to play underdog and make someone’s life difficult in the postseason. You never know what might happen when you punch your ticket.
But the real value of this late burst of optimism is more likely to be seen in what comes next.
Hurdles thrown in Davies & David’s path