Mauro Rosales signs for Whitecaps 2015

December 16, 2014 at 9:33 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps season 2015 | Leave a comment
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Today the Vancouver Whitecaps signed midfielder Mauro Rosales to a new contract which means he will be a Whitecaps for 2015. This is great news for the club and its fans.

Rosales was first signed by the Whitecaps mid way through the 2014 season By way of a trade for out-of-favour midfielder Nigel Reo Coker. We immediately knew it was a good trade because Reo Coker was unfit and under performing. We caps fans knew all too well the damage Rosellas could do. When he played with the Seattle Sounders he was known as the “Caps killer”. He had caused some damage to us by providing an assist in a 3-1 loss to Chivas USA earlier in the 2014 season.

A wonderful sight in a Whitecaps uni: Mauro Rosales

A wonderful sight in a Whitecaps uni: Mauro Rosales

Rosales brings with him a great deal of big game experience. He played in Argentinas tough Premier division, participating in 183 matches for Newell’s Old Boys and River Plate; spent two seasons at Ajax in Amsterdam, and played 80 or so games for the Seattle Sounders. He has played in the Boca Juniors/River Plate Derby, and scored in it as well. He also played for Argentina in Olympic and under-21 competition.

Rosales is a great role model for some of the Whitecaps moody younger players who sulk when they don’t play or get substituted. When Rosales was substituted at BC Place in a match towards the end of last year he made sure he applauded the crowd and shook hands with all of the coaches and playing staff before he sat on the bench. He shows the younger players how to behave as true professionals. Carl Robinson, who is a young coach, needs older professionals to help mould the character of his team. There is no real downside to this guy. Like most great players, he loves to train and works hard in training.

Rosales has great football instincts and knows where the ball is going to go long before it gets there. His skills are fine, especially his ability to cross the ball with his right foot. His courage is beyond doubt. Rosales was a key part of the good form the Whitecaps had in the latter part of the 2014 season which allowed them to make the Major League Soccer playoffs.

Make no mistake, this is a great moment for the Vancouver Whitecaps; Rosales is a key component of a winning team for 2015.

Vancouver Whitecaps traumatic off-season: version 2014

December 8, 2014 at 11:01 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps | 1 Comment
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If learning the rules of Major League Soccer is enough to give you a headache, just wait to see what happens to your team during the off-season.

Last year’s off-season saw our best player use the MLS “option year” loophole to get out of Vancouver and off to Mexico. The Whitecaps had exercised their “option” on Camilo Sanvezzo without coming to terms with the little Brazilian. Camilo’s agent saw the whole thing as one-sided and took off with his wee client. As well as confounding everyone’s understanding of MLS contracts, the whole experience was one of disappointment and trauma.

Today we learned that Seba Fernandez was left unprotected in the upcoming expansion draft. While Fernandez was no Camilo, he was a loved part of this year’s team. He is not protected because the team could not change his loan into a purchase; he was deemed too expensive and it is likely other MLS teams will feel the same way. Will we ever see Sebastian Fernandez again? Highly unlikely.

Two other much-loved players have been left unprotected (meaning expansion teams Orlando City and New York City FC could scoop them up): Andy O’Brien and Mauro Rosales. The club hopes they will prove too expensive and will be passed up and later re-signed by the Whitecaps at a lower rate. I believe we are likely to hold on to O’Brien, who has found a true home here in Vancouver, but my sad prediction is that we have seen the last of Rosales, a fellow who has been here too short a time to bond with our our city and who likely won’t stand for a large pay cut.

The one that really throws a wrench into things is the case of Johnny Leveron: the club has protected him but declined the option year in his contract. God help us all trying to understand that. How a guy can be surplus to requirements but protected during the expansion draft boggles the mind and illustrates the bizarre workings of MLS rules. I think this can only mean that that the Whitecaps want to protect him so they can trade him, (as might well be the case with Darren Mattocks). Why Leveron wouldn’t do a runner like Camilo is beyond me.

Being an MLS fan is rather like belonging to a cult: none of it seems to make sense, but if we just have faith and follow the cult leaders who appear to understand it all we hope we will be fine in the end. MLS expansion draft? Please pass the Kool Aid!

Lets hope our Coach Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps staff understand the rules even if we fans find them impossible to comprehend.

Whitecaps 2014; How I learned to stop worrying and love Robbo

December 6, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2014 | Leave a comment
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The 2014 season represented a remarkable turnaround for the Vancouver Whitecaps. After a frustrating 2013 and what looked like an absolutely disastrous off-season, things were getting worse, not better.

Since joining MLS the Whitecaps had made a few coaching gaffes. In the first season they fired Teitur Thordarson and put Tommy Soehn, an inferior coach, in charge of the squad. The team went downhill rapidly and things were so bad they felt the need to prematurely announce that Martin Rennie had been signed for 2012. Rennie lasted two unspectacular years, spending the first year clearing out the players we loved so much from the year before. While the team made the playoffs in 2012, it was largely because other teams in the Western Conference were very poor. We made the 2012 playoffs with only 43 points.

Robbo's previous role in Vancouver: Midfield for TFC!

Robbo’s previous role in Vancouver: Midfield for TFC!

Martin Rennie was fired from his head coaching job soon after the final whistle blew for the 2013 season in spite of the fact the team had earned 5 more points than in 2012 and had come within two points of making the playoffs. No one really mourned the loss of Rennie, however, who came across as a rather cold technocrat who didn’t seem to be getting the best out of what was, in his defence, a young and rather mediocre squad.

During the off-season several distinguished coaches including American Bob Bradley and Canadian Frank Yallop turned their nose up at the Whitecaps when approached; it all made us look like a provincial team only someone desperate or down on their luck would want to go work for. Stuart “psycho” Pearce expressed an interest, but was rejected because he had no “MLS experience”. The thought of Pearce trying to master MLS rules such as super drafts and designated players among many others was itself a bit of a comedy.

Then, to add injury to insult, Camilo Sanvezzo absconded to Queretero in Mexico in the middle of the night. We had lost the top goalscorer in MLS and the best player on our team. The Whitecaps had failed to negotiate a pay raise for the little Brazilian, who had dollar signs in his eyes after a stunning goalscoring rampage through MLS in 2013.

Having lost its best player and having been spurned by all recognizable coaches, the club and its embattled President, Bob Lenarduzzi, faced a huge crisis. With people baying for Lenarduzzi’s blood, it looked like the teflon don was finished.

After being rebuffed by virtually all coaches who were approached, Lenarduzzi looked around the Whitecaps boot room and found Carl Robinson, who acted as Rennie’s assistant, standing there. Lenarduzzi tagged him with the job of head coach. It looked like a desperate move which would only last as long as it took to find a more high profile candidate.

Robinson was a former central midfielder who had hovered around the Championship for most of his career in England before playing in MLS for Toronto and New York. He had honed his coaching skills quietly behind Martin Rennie, building up a rapport and respect among the players in the squad. Everybody in the team liked him, even if he was unknown to the vast majority of fans.

Robbo impressed with his first press conference, immediately coming off as a more open, humble and likeable guy than Martin Rennie. He spoke about his late father and how he wished his father was here to see him take the reigns of his first club as head coach. He just seemed so earnest and likeable that we soon fell for him. We were willing to give him a chance.

The team then set about finding some much needed footballing talent. Two no-name players were signed from Uruguay, Nico Mezquida and Seba Fernandez. The club managed to make a deal to have young Argentinian star Mati Laba come over from Toronto FC. The big news came when Pedro Morales signed. Though he was no household name in world football, Morales had played in the illustrious La Liga in Spain for Malaga CF. He had even scored for his Malaga masters against Barcelona FC in Camp Nou, no less, with a stunning volley. He had eleven caps with the Chilean national team. Robbo now had some talent at his disposal, even if it was mostly no-name talent.

When the first match came at BC Place against the New York Red Bulls in March, all of the new signings showed their stuff, thrilling the crowd with a brand of football we had not seen in Vancouver since the days of Alan Ball, Willie Johnston and Rudi Krol. When Pedro Morales came on as a substitute in the second half, his performance was electrifying. The Whitecaps won 4-1.

Carl Robinson had won his first match in charge in spectacular fashion; he had put his best foot forward. One brilliant match erased all of the turmoil of the off-season, and Robinson looked well in charge of matters.

Looking back on the season, which was a modest success with the Whitecaps finishing fifth in the Western Conference and earning a one game knockout match with Dallas FC, it is hard to point to any particular coaching error where Robinson had clearly gotten it wrong. The one criticism was the dip in form the Whitecaps had in the middle of the year, especially after the World Cup break. The players seemed to lose both motivation and fitness during the break, and Robinson would have to accept his share of the blame in that.

Robinson showed he was no shrinking violet in the case of Omar Salgado, who appeared the one player who did not buy into his program. Once during the pre-season and once during the season Robinson subbed Salgado off and the young player refused to shake his coach’s hand when it was offered. Salgado became a marginal figure and barely featured for the Whitecaps all season. Robinson showed he could be tough as well. We won’t be seeing Salgado in a Whitecaps jersey next year.

Robinson seems to have discovered that the key to MLS success is to find talent in Latin and Central America, where a huge pool of talented players are seeking moves to stable leagues and clubs outside their home countries. While MLS may not pay the big salaries of the big 5 in Europe, the pay is decent and players actually do get paid what clubs have promised.

When you look at where we were in the off-season last year, Robinson played his part in pulling the club out of what looked like disastrous circumstances. While in the years since Teitur Thordarson was fired I have had my doubts about Whitecaps coaching, I now feel confident with Carl Robinson in charge. Now Robbo has had one full season under his belt, he can only get better.

Salgado riddle comes to an end

November 17, 2014 at 8:23 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps season 2014 | 1 Comment
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The story of Omar Salgado’s time with the Vancouver Whitecaps is shrouded in mystery and has me scratching my head. What promised to be a great beginning to a great career fizzled out in a way that was unsatisfactory to everyone involved.

Salgado was the first draft pick the Vancouver Whitecaps made upon entering Major League Soccer. He was young at the time, just 17 years of age, and ineligible to actually play professional football. His physical attributes were very promising: he was very tall and lean, looking for all the world like a young Ruud Van Nistelroy.

In his first interviews Salgado seemed shy and awkward, unable to suppress his teenaged giggles. During their first MLS season the Whitecaps mounted a legal challenge to declare him eligible to play, which they eventually won. Salgado scored his first MLS goal against Columbus in Columbus that year. It was a fine header which showed so much promise of future goals. It turned out to be his last goal for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Salgado’s efforts in Vancouver were demolished by some terrible foot injuries, the first of which occurred when he went away to play with the US Men’s under 23 side. His last good game for the Whitecaps came in a home match against the Seattle Sounders in 2012. He tore up the Sounders defence although he failed to score. He was injured in that match and that is all we would see of him until the end of the season when he came back unfit and unimpressive in a few late season matches.

Another injury to his foot in 2013 killed that season off and he missed almost the entire season. Salgado attended training camp for the 2014 season and looked to be fit and ready to go. During one pre-season match, however, he started but was subbed off and stormed off the pitch, refusing to shake new coach Carl Robinson’s hand as he left the pitch. It was a direct affront to a new coach who needed to establish he was in charge.

Salgado was immediately on the outs with Robinson. It was a side of Salgado we fans did not know existed. He repeated the feat early in the 2014 season during MLS play, coming off the pitch and refusing to shake the hands of any of the coaching staff. Frankly, it was incredible to see him take the same mistake twice. By this time the fans had begun to love their new coach and it felt like an insult to us too. After being in the Whitecaps squad for three years and having scored only one goal it just boggled the mind and left a very bad taste in the mouth. It just looked like he was biting the hand that fed him.

This year’s squad seemed to be a very happy one, with one glaring exception. There were also tales of Salgado having training pitch bust-ups with teammates.

The Whitecaps made one last attempt to get money for Salgado by shipping him off to Tigres in Mexico for a trial, but nothng came of it. Last week the Whitecaps announced he had been released, and Salgado left a conciliatory message to Whitecaps fans on Twitter. As happened before he did the right thing after making the mistakes he made, but the point of it all is not to make the same mistake twice.

The whole Salgado experience was one of bad luck and bad judgement; the injuries were bad luck, but the outbursts against coaching staff and teammates were just bad judgement. So little came out of so much potential.

It is not clear where Salgado will end up, but I imagine he will be taken by another MLS team in one of the many player dispersal drafts the MLS conducts. Salgado, now a man rather than the boy who first came here, will have to act like a man if he wants to succeed in football. In spite of it all, I hope he does eventually unravel the riddle and succeed in the game.

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