Whitecaps grind out bore draw in Chicago

July 30, 2014 at 9:55 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2014 | 3 Comments

One thing that I have noticed in Major League Soccer is that televised games on the road are a lot more boring than when you attend live matches. While the English Premiership looks great on television, MLS is often dull. I suppose it is part poorer production values and part poorer football.

Today’s game was a case in point. Although I am sure the weather in Chicago is stultifyingly hot and humid, todays Whitecaps-Fire contest caused me to grind my teeth with a kind of bored frustration. There was no flow to the play and precious little skill on display to keep me interested. In fact, there was nothing really to write about in this match, which ended in a 0-0 draw.

I suppose I should be fair and say that even games in top European leagues can turn into essentially physical contests where each team cancels out the other team’s creativity. Even top teams run out of ideas and scoreless draws result.

Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson started the same team that tallied 30 goal attempts last Sunday at BC Place against Dallas. This time around the Whitecaps were toothless up front, however, creating only two shots on goal. Darren Mattocks and Eric Hurtado ran around like chickens with their heads cut off. Consequently the great passing talents of Pedro Morales were squandered by the inability of either striker to make any intelligent or well timed runs. The Whitecaps struggled to move the ball quickly on what was a slow, dry pitch.

Mattocks and Hurtado both seem to want the perfect ball in front of them so they can get a breakaway on goal. They have to start using their brains to break down well organized defences. Football is a game of guile and intelligence, and neither player seems to have much of either. Teibert, Manneh and Salgado were brought in as subsitutes but none of them really added a new dimension or really looked like scoring or creating a goal.

I can only reiterate my sorrow at the loss of Camilo, who had footballing guile and intelligence in spades. Can you imagine the damage Morales and Camilo would do together? I have no doubt the Whitecaps would be fighting at the top of the Western Conference if we had kept the Wee Brazilian. Camilo’s loss will haunt the Vancouver Whitecaps for a long time, I fear.

The tie gave the Whitecaps a road point, which is almost always a good thing, but the number of points the Whitecaps have thrown away has put them in a nasty dogfight with Real Salt Lake, Colorado, Dallas and Portland for a playoff spot. The LA Galaxy are the hottest team in MLS, and I don’t see the Whitecaps beating either them or Seattle on points by season’s end.

The results cry out for some new talent. We need a few experienced men who know how to think intelligently in football terms rather than just being able to run quickly. Lets hope the team makes some moves soon to help in what will be a titanic struggle for a playoff spot.

Dallas draw exposes Whitecap’s shortcomings

July 28, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps season 2014 | 5 Comments

It was ironic that on the first match after rock steady veteran defender Jay DeMerit retired we had a match full of rookie errors.

Both Pedro Morales and Darren Mattocks scored goals in the 2-2 draw, which under ordinary circumstances would look good on both of them. Both embarrassed themselves with missed chances that should have been goals, and the consequence was we lost two more points at home.

Mattocks in particular had enough chances to score a hat trick, but disappointed time and time again with clumsy misses. While Morales had a game full of wonderful tricks and amazing passes, his inability to hit the net on multiple shots and his failure to finish late in the match with only the keeper to beat cost us crucial points.

The lack of finish in the final third just served to remind of the lost finishing power of Camilo, the Brazilian striker who would have scored on the chances which Mattocks and Morales squandered.

The one chance he finished

The one chance he finished

The match started well for the Whitecaps, who passed the ball well early on, and it was Gershon Koffie who put a perfectly weighted pass for Mattocks to run on to in the 11th minute. Dallas had no answer to Mattock’s speed and simply followed him as he stroked the ball home virtually unopposed. It looked like it was going to be a rout.

Dallas struck back ten minutes before the half when the Whitecaps were exposed on their right side. Whitecaps fullback Beitashour was beaten for speed by Hernandez who crossed from the touchline to Lloyd who came late into the box. Lloyd’s header hit the crossbar and bounced to Perez who finished. The Whitecaps flailed and flopped about to no avail. It was 1-1.

Comical inability at the front was matched by an unbelievable mistake by Carlyle Mitchell and David Ousted before the half. A high header from midfield was going to drop at the top of the box, and the intense and excited keeper Ousted came out in panic mode screaming for the ball. He appeared to startle Mitchell, who put his hand up in the air to shield himself from… uh, the ball. If the panicked Ousted had stayed in his net, Mitchell would have headed it back to him or away. It was a communication failure by Ousted, and an astonishing rookie mistake by Mitchell. I hardly need to point out that neither Jay DeMerit nor Andy Obrien would have done that. Mitchell’s mistake was simply astonishing; it was 2-1 on the penalty which Perez put to Ousted’s left.

What the...Mitchell's gaffe

What the…Mitchell’s gaffe

The Whitecaps replied after the half with penalty of their own as a surging Mattocks forced a handball in the box by Hernandez. This chance Morales did finish, and it was all level at 2 with the lion’s share of the half left; the stage was set for a Whitecaps win. The closest the Whitecaps came was from a Morales free kick that found Mitchell’s head in the box. Mitchell’s header hit the angle of the crossbar and the post. It was a spectacular miss, but a miss nontheless. Kekuta Manneh and Omar Salgado came on late to try to take the difference, but could not do so. The win which should have been never materialized.

Both Morales and Mattocks had the keeper at point blank range in the second half and could not finish. Dallas keeper Fernandez had a good match, but no keeper should have been allowed to stop some of the chances the Whitecaps had.

The Whitecaps are paying heavily for the youth and lack of experience in the squad. The young squad were found lacking on both sides of the ball. There was plenty of boyish enthusiasm on the pitch at BC Place, but what we need are some men who can actually finish the job.

Jay DeMerit, the eternal underdog, retires from football

July 23, 2014 at 9:58 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps season 2014 | 2 Comments
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It is a sad day. With his recent ankle injury, speculation was that Jay DeMerit would hang up his boots. That speculation proved to be accurate as Jay today announced his retirement from football. Time has caught up with our beloved captain.

There since the start: DeMerit lines up on MLS match day 1

There since the start: DeMerit lines up on MLS match day 1

Jay was the first big name to sign with the newly minted Vancouver Whitecaps version 3.0 in Major League Soccer back in 2011. When we look at the entire history of the Whitecaps since 1974, I am convinced Jay will be remembered as one of the great players in our team’s history. While it was always going to be a struggle for the Whitecaps being an expansion franchise, the character of Jay DeMerit allowed the team to play through the difficult periods with courage and dignity. In many ways he carried the team on his shoulders and the Whitecaps players, fans and coaches thrived under his leadership.

DeMerit’s pride in his craft meant he never gave anything less than his all. It would be easy for him to try to rest on his reputation, but you got the feeling Jay always played like he was a keen rookie trying to impress the coach and make the team.

Jay’s style of defending was to be proactive in tackling to try to break up plays early rather than taking a wait and see approach. Sometimes this enthusiasm got him into trouble when he mis-timed a tackle, but such occasions were rare. With his considerable physique, Jay was feared by strikers who rarely got the best of him physically. Jay was truly a force of nature out there on the pitch.

Leadership and Character

Leadership and Character

Jay’s aggressive physical approach got him in to trouble with injuries as his body paid the price for his playing style. He missed large periods of time during his time here in Vancouver due to injury. He was injured soon after the first match of 2011; he was healthy in 2012, He missed the majority of 2013 with an Achilles injury, and his career was ended by another ankle injury in 2014. It is no fluke that the season Jay played the most games in 2012 was the season the Whitecaps made the MLS playoffs.

We always knew inside that 2014 would be his last year as a player, but it still hurts to think he won’t pull the jersey on again as a player.

The theme of Jay’s career was that of the underdog trying to break in to places he never should have been. This was the case in England, where he simply showed up without a team and worked his way up to a professional contract with Watford of the Championship, a true underdog’s team. Jay scored the winning goal in the Championship playoff match against Leeds United to take Watford up to the holy land: the English Premiership. Jay was the team’s captain, a position he earned through hard work, courage and character.

Jay played in the World Cup for his country, the United States, in South Africa. His film Rise and Shine: the Jay DeMerit story makes provides great insight in telling the story of his rise from total football obscurity to that of an established starter in a premier League club.

Whitecaps legend

Whitecaps legend

I am very proud that we got to see the latter part of the Jay DeMerit story unfold before our eyes at Empire Field and at BC Place. Though Jay never won a lot of big trophies in his career, there is no doubt that he is a winner, a football legend with a tale that is inspirational to us all whether we are footballers or just fans.

Lets hope Jay sticks around our city. It is a better place with him in it.

Whitecaps settle for tie in scuffle in Salt Lake

July 21, 2014 at 10:03 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2014 | Leave a comment

I have always admired Real Salt Lake. For many seasons they have put out an attractive, attacking brand of football that succeeded. They have a loyal following that pack their beautiful Rio Tinto Stadium, which has a lush grass pitch. In many ways I have felt that RSL is the organization the Whitecaps should emulate in order to find success.

I have always liked RSL players, too. I especially admired Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman. I admired the skill of Javier Morales. Now I can hardly wait to boo them in September when they show up at BC Place.

Thought the Whitecaps played a defensive match and barely exceeded one-third of the possession in the match, they very nearly came a way with a win on RSL’s home pitch.

Carl Robinson demonstrated his bench strength, resting Morales, Hurtado and Laba for most of the match. I thought this would be a disaster, but Mehdi Ballouchy, Omar Salgado and Nico Mezquida did a fine job, thanks very much. Robinson seems to have coached his squad in such a manner that everyone knows how to play the Whitecaps game. Salgado in particular showed some terrific play down the left side, getting some dangerous balls into the box. Though Morales, Hurtado and Laba did their bit later on in the match, they brought nothing really new to the Whitecaps game.

Darren Mattocks played one of his best games ever in a Whitecaps jersey. As the sole striker he played his roll perfectly, using his speed to get open, and holding up the ball so his teammates could catch up to him.

Mattocks drew a penalty mid-way throughout the second half from a hillbilly called Nat Borchers, whose wild beard probably made his tackle look worse than it was. Borchers actually got to the ball before he clattered Mattocks, but his reckless lunge in the box was always going to be a risky play. From one angle it looked like a clear penalty and from behind the goal it looked like a perfect tackle. RSL went ape when the referee called it, but Borchers only had himself to blame for diving in where he didn’t have to.

Mattocks claimed the ball and dispatched the penalty with a kind of supreme confidence. Mattocks richly deserved a goal; he did all the club could ever ask of him in this match.

After the goal and before the restart there was a scuffle, which is no surprise given the physical nature of the match which saw Beckerman and Morales committing dirty fouls and generally trying to intimidate the smaller Whitecaps. To their credit, the Whitecaps held their ground like a bunch of little terriers. Hopefully this incident will become a bonding moment for the Whitecaps as a team.

RSL finally found a bit of the play we have come to expect from them when some very neat passing eventually had Beckerman slotting the ball perfectly to little Plata whose speed caught an out of position Beitashour by surprise to David Ousted’s right. Plata blasted the ball past a collapsing Ousted into the net. It was 1-1 with ten minutes of regular time left.

Plata ran back to the centre line and it looked like RSL were going to throw everything at the Whitecaps to win the match. It never happened however, as the Whitecaps withstood the late pressure to escape Rio Tinto with a draw. Gershon Koffie in particular fought like a lion, and I think that many of the boys the Whitecaps have acquired over the years are turning into men.

The tie gave the Whitecaps a road point, which is always a good result in the MLS, in which road teams rarely get anything out of a game. It also meant, however, that the Whitecaps have won only one of their last seven games.

The match left the Whitecaps out of the playoff spots on goal difference behind fifth place Colorado. The next match is against Dallas FC at BC Place. Dallas sit in second in the Western Conference but only two points ahead of the Whitecaps. Game on!

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