Chivas chill runs through Whitecaps

August 18, 2014 at 10:06 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2014 | 1 Comment
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Why is the worst team in the Western Conference of Major league Soccer the Vancouver Whitecaps bogey team? If Chivas racked up points against other teams in MLS like they do against the Whitecaps, they would be at the top of the league.

Saturday night’s match in the Stub Hub centre was played before a virtually empty stadium. Only Chivas USA’s most hardcore fans are now showing up, due to the upteenth season of bad football and the imminent disappearance of the club, no doubt. MLS has put the team up for sale so that a new owner can step up. The new owner must have a plan to build a new stadium in Los Angeles to put the club, which will be re-branded. I am hoping, probably in vain, for a re-emergence of the LA Aztecs.

Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson chose to rest the perennially slightly injured Pedro Morales and put Nico Mezquida in for him. Russell Teibert deputized for Gershon Koffie, (who has an ankle problem), and also put the captain’s armband on. The same back line as last match, consisting of Harvey, O’Brien, Leveron and Beitashour put in another solid performance in front of David Ousted for the team’s third clean sheet in a row.

Sadly, the Whitecaps were a disappointment up front. Darren Mattocks had Omar Salgado on his left side and Seba Fernandez on his right, with Mezquida playing behind Mattocks. It was a tree that bore no fruit however, and the match ended in a 0-0 tie. Robinson tried three changes to mix up the team’s offence, bringing Hurtado in for and an injured mattocks at the half, Manneh on for Salgado after 60 minutes, and Morales on for Mezquida on 70 minutes.

Morales looked the most likely to make something happen, and had a couple of shots at goal that went well wide. Though he hit the net with a free kick straight at the Chivas keeper Kennedy, Morales’ shooting has been particularly bad of late. It is too early to say he couldn’t hit the water from the end of the pier, but my God I hope he chooses to pass rather than shoot more often in the future.

Omar Salgado came off in a huff again when he was substituted in the second half. He refused to shake hands with coach Robinson and the rest of the coaching staff. After all the patience the club has shown him over four years, Salgado’s attitude is unforgivable. The young striker has given the Whitecaps exactly one goal in the four years he has been contracted to the club in MLS play. Salgado should have a look at what Darlinton Nagbe, the fellow who was picked behind him in the MLS super draft, has accomplished at the Portland Timbers. Nagbe has 17 goals and 12 assists there. Salgado has had terrible injury troubles, but his form on Saturday night and in the other matches he has played in has been poor. It is not as if he was setting the world on fire out there against Chivas. Far from it, he had two chances and failed to score on both occasions. Salgado needs a big reality check, and I hope Robinson sends him back down to Charleston.

Another young would-be star who failed to perform is Kekuta Manneh. After setting the world on fire during the second half of last season Manneh has failed to show any form or consistency whatsoever in 2014. Manneh also appears to be sulking but in a more quiet way than Salgado. How did we end up with such a bunch of sulky players who think they are better than their performances demonstrate?

What the Whitecaps need is more men, and less sulky boys. The Whitecaps are trying to develop a group of young players in the hope that they will develop together into a competitive team. Coach Robinson seems to be faltering in terms of strategy, and his youngsters are running around like chickens with their heads cut off. They do not seem to be following any kind of plan or strategy. Young players need to play within a strong and well defined structure in order to succeed. Manneh in particular seems to be in his own world, failing to connect in any way with his teammates. Salgado, Manneh, Mattocks and Hurtado seem to be more interested in their own glory than in the team’s success.

I have no idea why Robinson made Russell Teibert captain. Andy O’Brien would have been the better choice. Teibert ran around like a crab having very little positive impact on the match. If Teibert is the captain we are in trouble. I would trade him for Will Johnson in a second, (with lots of cash to boot). The Canadian has failed to find any kind of consistency at all in his four years here, but Robinson singled him out for praise as having an outstanding match. I failed to see what Robinson was talking about. Teibert worked hard in midfield, but where is the creativity or vision? The wee man has not recovered from being bumped off of the right wing by Seb Fernandez this year. His goal and assist production is well off of his 2013 levels.

Are the Whitecaps crap or are their young players just experiencing growing pains? They had better grow up this week or they will be soundly trounced by a strong and mature Los Angeles Galaxy side this coming Saturday in LA.

Whitecaps beat MLS champs Sporting KC

August 11, 2014 at 9:16 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps season 2014 | 1 Comment
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Major League Soccer is a funny sort of league. Usually when the reigning champions come to town they do so with pride and swagger. Last year’s MLS champions, Sporting Kansas City, came to Vancouver with neither. They looked and played like they would rather be doing something else rather than playing football.

Graham Zusi, who just finished playing in the World Cup in Brazil for the USA barely showed up and did not really make a memorable play the entire match.

Morales free kick nearly got through

Morales free kick nearly got through

Lucky for us Vancouver Whitecaps fans the home team did show up. The Whitecaps out-worked and out-skilled SKC, smothering most of the creativity they had. Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson changed the back line by taking Carlyle Mitchell out and putting Andy O’Brien in. It was a good change, as O’Brien fought like a proud warrior all match and showed that experience is a key aspect of good defending. Andy put in a harsh tackle early on just to show who was boss at the back. He wrestled with SKC’s centre back Collin on corner kicks. O’Brien showed he is not dead yet, in fact, there is a lot of life left in the Irishman. It was a triumphant return with a clean sheet for O’Brien.

Up front Robinson stuck with speed as Darren Mattocks and Erik Hurtado ran all over the park like roadrunners. Fernandez and Morales provided the guile and skill. Koffie helped the team keep possession and Laba broke up attacks with uncannily timed tackles.

There was no question who was the best player on the pitch all night: Pedro Morales. His performance showed the farce that was the MLS All-star match. He was deemed not to be good enough to play in that match. Graham Zusi did play in the All-Star match and was nowhere near as good as Morales was.

Morales and Mattocks on the move

Morales and Mattocks on the move

Both goals came from superb passes from Morales. On the first goal Morales took the ball in his own end looking like a right back, and lashed the ball towards Fernandez at the edge of SKC’s penalty area. It was intercepted by defender Juliao who headed the ball back to his keeper Gruenebaum. Juliao did not realize his goalkeeper had come far out of his net to retrieve the ball, and ended up nodding the ball over the onrushing keeper into his own net.

How rare it is that the Whitecaps get such breaks! The old football maxim which says “a good ball is never wasted” came to mind. Morales is the kind of player who can put pressure on defences and force errors. It was one-nil after 17 minutes.

Our Chilean star was at it again late in the first half when SKC coughed up the ball, giving possession to the Whitecaps. Morales skipped over a blatant attempt to bring him down and joined Mattocks in a two on one rush. Mattocks made an intelligent run behind and across Morales, and the Chilean slipped the ball past the last defender Collin to Mattocks. Mattocks took one touch and scored on a low shot.

Morales also put Fernandez in alone with the keeper only to have Collin clear a dribbler from going into his own goal with a desperate lunge. The Whitecaps went to the dressing room at half time with a score which is only rarely overturned in the second half of a football match: 2-0.

Mattocks forces a save

Mattocks forces a save

The second half was a scrappy shapeless affair, and only for brief spells did SKC threaten the Whitecaps goal. When they did big David Ousted looked as solid as a rock.

The Whitecaps had their chances, notably a header off of a corner kick by Johnny Leveron that a defender cleared off of the line.

Late on in the match referee David Gantar awarded the Whitecaps the softest penalty in the history of football when big Whitecaps substitute Omar Salgado backed in to Collin, pushing him over in the penalty area. Gantar though Collin had tugged Salgado down. In any other league in the world it would not be called but this is MLS. Several Whitecaps players vied to take the kick but striker Mattocks eventually took the ball. He missed, bringing a good save from SKC substitute keeper Kempin, who saved the Champions from an embarrassing scoreline.

The win brought to an end a long period without one for the Whitecaps, and took them back up to fifth place in the playoff spots for the Western Conference. With rivals showing no signs of slipping the Whitecaps will have to win a playoff spot on their own merit rather than relying on poor form from their rivals.

Whitecaps sign gargantuan defender Waston

August 8, 2014 at 10:18 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps season 2014 | Leave a comment

There is a tendency in Major League Soccer for teams to have massive centre backs. Omar Goncalves of the LA Galaxy, (six foot-five, 205 pounds), Chris Shuler of Real Salt Lake (six foot four, 185 pounds); Victor Bernardez of the San Jose Earthquakes (six foot two, 190 pounds) and George John of FC Dallas (six foot three, 200 pounds) are just a few examples.

Now we have a giant centre-back of our own: Kendall Waston of Costa Rica, who is six-foot five and 195 pounds. This guy is big! He is on the fringes of the Costa Rican national side, having played three games for his country and having been a late cut from the World Cup squad.

Johnny Leveron and Carlyle Mitchell were looking a bit small and skinny at the back so Waston should provide a commanding presence at the centre back position. We sorely need such a presence after Jay DeMerit announced his retirement weeks ago.

Waston comes to Vancouver via Deportivo Saprissa, one of Costa Rica’s top teams. He has knocked about a bit on loan to other clubs including National of Uruguay, but he seems to have performed well wherever he has played.

Waston’s height and weight give him a big advantage in the air, which he has used to score a lot of goals, far more than you would expect from a central defender. If he gets a goal in one of his first appearances for the Whitecaps, he will be an instant hit. Our centre backs have never scored much with Jay DeMerit scoring one in his years here and Mitchell scoring one. Our left full backs Alain Rochat and Jordan Harvey have been prolific by comparison.

The hope is that Waston will provide help at both ends of the pitch. He will be Pedro Morales’ target on corner kicks and free kicks.

Waston looks like a very smart signing for the club. Welcome to Vancouver Kendall Waston!

Off-field antics overshadow MLS All star game

August 6, 2014 at 9:27 pm | Posted in General Football, Whitecaps season 2014, World Cup Memories | 3 Comments
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The Major League Soccer All-star game version 2014 was truly a farce.

How could a team of MLS All-stars possibly compete with the mighty Bayern Munich from Germany? By making them play on crappy plastic grass in Portland, that is how. The plastic pitch slowed down Bayern’s squad so much that the MLS mongrels could actually compete with them and beat them 2-1. It was a far better result from last years game held on natural grass when Italy’s Roma clearly outclassed the MLS all-stars 3-1.

If ever a game showed how bad plastic pitches are, this was it. After watching most of Bayern’s players in the World Cup play magnificent football on natural grass surfaces, the contrast with watching them play on plastic grass could not have been more stark. Portland’s plastic surface slowed the Bayern squad down so they could not play. Had the game been played on a proper grass pitch we would have seen a radically different scoreline.

In any event the play on the pitch was nowhere near as good as the antics off of it. Bayern Coach Pep Guardiola took exception to reckless tackles by MLS hackers Osvaldo Alonso and Wil Johnson on Bayern players Shaquiri and Schweinsteiger. Guardiola went after the fourth official and the MLS All-Stars coach Caleb Porter on the sideline looking for a fight after the tackles.

The match commentators played dumb and queried whether there had been a pre-match agreement between Bayern and MLS to avoid such tackles. No kidding, fools, it was undoubtedly in the contract! Bayern would already be concerned about injuries from playing on plastic, and then the MLS players started hacking their players down as if it were a real game. No wonder Guardiola was pissed off.

Watching Guardiola wave off Porter’s attempt at a handshake was more entertaining than anything the players came up with in this match. Guardiola then began instructing his players not to exchange jerseys with the MLS players. Bayern’s assistant coaches also refused to shake Porter’s hand. Poor Porter looked a bit hurt and shocked by it all.

It was a culture clash between precious European soccer royalty and the rough and tumble North American MLS culture. I can hardly wait to read the comments of Bayern officials in the news tomorrow.

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