Keeper Ousted leads ‘Caps to Dallas victory

April 24, 2016 at 9:50 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016 | 1 Comment
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It took a gargantuan performance by the Mad Dane David Ousted to lead the Vancouver Whitecaps out of the slump that felt like it would never end.  It is not often that a goalkeeper can lead a team so convincingly but Captain Ousted surely showed us all without doubt who deserves to wear the arm band.

A glorious 3-0 win over Dallas has hopefully put an end to a terrible run in form for the Whitecaps.

Coach Carl Robinson showed confidence in his under siege striker Octavio Rivero by starting him at striker.  I don’t blame him.  Masato Kudo has been very disappointing in all of the time he has been on the pitch so far this year.

Nico Mezquida was called up to be the midfield pivot in Robbo’s favoured 4-2-3-1 setup in the absence of Pedro Morales who was out front in the autograph booth.  I told my little Canadian Chilean friend Gaston who sits behind me that Morales was injured, to which he replied “AGAIN???” incredulously.  It was a feeling I shared.

The fact is that the Whitecaps have always struggled without Morales, the most talented man in our squad, but this match showed they can play without him.  Manneh and Techera flanked Mezquida behind Rivero.  Jacobsen and Laba played in front of our back four of Aird, Parker, Waston and Harvey.

The first half was abysmal just like the match in Salt Lake.  The Whitecaps were ponderously slow in moving the ball around and lacked any creative ideas.

Dallas had three chances to score early in the match and only Ousted kept us in the match.  He stopped a steep angled drive, made himself big on a breakaway forcing the shooter to miss the net, and tipped a deadly accurate long volley over the crossbar.  If any of those had gone in it would have been hard for the Whitecaps to recover.  After his volley save, the Mad Dane got up and screamed at his team in his usual passionate way.  It had the effect desired as it seemed to inspire the Whitecaps to play better.

Just as we all complained about how Manneh has not looked himself this year, the little Gambian charged down the left side with the ball and crossed it from the deep left flank in to a dangerous spot in front of the Dallas goal.  Dallas keeper Chris Seitz dove out of his goal to push the ball away but the ball caromed off of his own defender back into his own net on 34 minutes.  It was the Whitecaps first goal from open play all season.  It took eight games to finally get one!

While Dallas put the ball in their own net, the goal proved that in order to score goals a team needs to put the other team under pressure, which the Whitecaps have not been doing consistently since the start of last season.

Early in the second half Ousted made another astonishing save from a point blank shot.  Ousted must have studied his compatriot Peter Schmeichel, who used the handball ‘keeper “star jump” for desperate point blank saves.  Ousted executed the star jump to perfection and his outstretched hand barely saved Dallas from drawing level.  Ousted later made yet another fine save from a long range effort.

Two thirds the way through this match the Whitecaps earned themselves a corner kick.  Techera hit a left footed in-swinging cross which was clumsily cleared straight to Jordan Harvey who lurked on the penalty stop. Have took one touch to set the ball up and fired the ball into the lower left hand corner.  It was Harvey’s second of the year and perhaps he will re-gain his old moniker “Goal King Harvey” again.

With 15 minutes left in the match Robbo took Rivero off after another hard working but goalless performance.  Blas Perez came on for him to haunt his old Dallas teammates.  Perez played his usual physical game knocking his old friends to the ground so many times referee Petrescu took exception and gave him a yellow.

Techera and Perez created the Whitecaps third goal with fifteen minutes to go from a defensive throw in down the left hand side of the pitch.  Techera headed the ball on to Perez, who deftly flicked the ball over the last defender for the speedy Manneh to run on to.  Manneh finished with his first touch through the legs of the on rushing Seitz.  The ball slowly made its way into the net and victory was confirmed.

Kekuta Manneh, having scored a goal and created one as well, finally had a good match and showed the quality we all know he has.  He looked dangerous all night. Techera also stepped up and looked more like himself.

The Whitecaps second half performance was much improved. Coach Robbo must have given the players an inspiring speech during half time tea.

Let there be no doubt who won this match for us, however: It was David Ousted.  The statistics reflect he made only four saves, but they were all big match winners.  No one has been feeling the burden of the Whitecaps poor form recently than the big goalkeeper, and he has personally taken responsibility to turn the situation around.

With Morales absent yet again, isn’t it time to give ousted the captains armband for good?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disaster in DC: Robbo’s worst game yet

April 11, 2016 at 10:00 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016, Whitecaps Season 2016 | 1 Comment
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Poor Carl Robinson.  So many of his preferred players were not available and so many of his squad players let him down in Washington DC.

Watching the Vancouver Whitecaps play away to DC United reminded me of the bad old days of 2011 when the expansion Whitecaps had fired Teitur Thordarson and had put Tommy Soehn in charge of the squad.  Soehn thought he could get better out of the squad than Thordarson and brought in Peter Vagenas to give the team a “lift”.  Squad players like Cameroon’s Alex Morfaw clunked along for the rest of the season and demonstrated that Soehn was wrong, one dreadful match after the next.  If I recall correctly we suffered a number of 4-0 defeats that season.

Key Whitecaps players were not available for the DC game.  Mathias Laba was serving a ridiculous ban imposed after a ridiculous red card against LA, and Pedro Morales, Nico Mezquida, Christian Bolanos and Octavio Rivero were all injured.  Virtually all of our creative talent was unavailable.

Marco Bustos And Russell Teibert were both handed roles joining Andrew Jacobsen and Christian Techera in midfield.  Robby started two strikers, Blas Perez and Masato Kudo, which was odd when we were always in tough for this away match. Starting another midfielder might have been the better option (if one could be found!).

Our starters were all available on defence, with Aird, Parker, Waston, and Harvey defending David Ousted’s goal.

Canadian talent did not do itself any favours in this match as Teibert and Bustos were both poor.  Bustos reacted to his selection by promptly disappearing from the match.  He was barely seen or heard of after the opening whistle until it was announced at half time that he was coming off so that Manneh could take his place.  Teibert was also replaced by Kianz Froese after 60 minutes. Froese is a better player in my books, although Froese did not really change the game or add that much to it.

The Whitecaps midfield looked very unconvincing indeed with three shrimpy guys in our midfield attempting to cope with life in an MLS match. The towering Jacobsen stuck out like a sore thumb and really had little help from Teibert, Bustos and Techera who looked like little crabs scuttling across the beach looking for a rock to hide under.

Another guy who looked very unconvincing, not for the first time, was Kudo.  The Japanese striker who enjoyed so much success in the J-League is a complete bust so far in MLS; he lacks strength, pace and footballing ideas.  Is he this year’s Mustafa Jarju?  I felt sorry for Perez, who put in a full shift and at least looked like a man out there, who must be asking himself if he made the right decision to come to Vancouver.

David Ousted made a number of key saves to keep the score at 0-0 but the DC United onslaught resulted in a goal on 38 minutes. Ousted saved a low shot from his right from close range and spilled the ball for Espindola to slot home.  DC United had a lot of joy from Fraser Aird at the Whitecaps right back position, and the little man had a poor match generally, being caught out of position too often.

Eight minutes into the second half the Whitecaps conceded again when defender Parker was beaten to a far post corner kick by Bernbaum who headed on to the bar.  Espindola tapped home the rebound from close range.  Parker did not look good on the play, misjudging the trajectory of the ball and allowing the DC United player to leap over him and win the header cleanly.

Erik Hurtado came on for Perez after 67 minutes and provided some spark. He hit the post on one chance and swung and missed the ball when presented with the second chance. Had he scored on either it could have sparked a rally, but it was not to be.  The only good news of this match was that Manneh looked sharp, created Hurtado’s chances, and did not hobble off injured.

The Whitecaps completely collapsed late on in the match having sent men forward,  allowing United’s Saborit to score an easy late brace.

It was always going to be a tough match but I would have expected the squad players to do a better job and seize their chance to impress. Poor Robbo must have felt very let down by his team. This is the third match this season where the players have not been mentally present, and all of the fun and positivity from last year seems to have evaporated.

The Robbo honeymoon looks to be over and some harsh words will need to be spoken and some tough decisions made with respect to the squad to shake this team and wake it up.

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections on a mixed football weekend

April 3, 2016 at 7:59 pm | Posted in General Football, Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016, Whitecaps Season 2016 | 3 Comments
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The events of the recent weekend in Vancouver football represent a real watershed in Canadian sport history. Friday night’s Canada-Mexico World Cup qualifying fixture at BC place set a record for attendance for any sporting event in Canada. I believe another record must have been set for the greatest number of Mexicans at a Canadian football fixture. More than a third of the huge crowd of 54,000 plus were either Mexican nationals or expatriates. I met a fellow had made his way up from Mexico City to watch his nation’s team play. I said to him “may the best team lose”.

Unfortunately for us Canadians the best team won. Mexico put on a sparkling footballing clinic which demonstrated how far behind Canada still is as a Soccer nation (although with Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan’s display Canadian goalkeeping is doing just fine). Any illusion we held that Canada might make the World Cup finals in Russia was put to rest. Though Canada started the match brightly, and squandered a couple of early chances, their ponderous methods were soon easily figured out by the Mexican team. Canada rarely got possession of the ball thereafter, a trend which continued for the rest of the match. By contrast, Mexico moved the ball very quickly in a fluid fashion, and were able to get behind the Canadian fullbacks (especially De Jong, who really struggled to keep up) with intelligent ball movement. The sheer predictability of Canada’s ball movement meant Canada was limited to pinging the ball around in their own end, meaning they only got one weak shot on Mexico’s goal in the second half. Frankly, in terms of football intelligence and ability Mexico got an A and Canada got a D.

The following evening at BC Place Major League Soccer served up prosaic stuff, as the clash with the international break meant that both the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Houston Dynamo were missing top players to international duty.  The Whitecaps were missing four starters. There was a muted environment in BC place as a much smaller crowd, the majority of whom had been at BC Place the night before, showed signs of tiredness or hangover. Neither Vancouver nor Houston could demonstrate the glittering football that Mexico did the previous night.

The match was decided by a dubious penalty when Vancouver’s Japanese striker Kudo went down in the box after a slight tug on his jersey from a Houston defender while he was trying to get to a far post cross he never was going to reach. It was yet another incredible call from an MLS official, and it decided the match. Poor officiating often does in MLS play. Pedro Morales dispatched his fourth penalty of the season and Whitecaps Coach Carl Robinson was content to cautiously see out this poor match with a 1-0 victory. To make the whole story even more bizarre the MLS disciplinary committee then gave Kudo a ban for diving later on in the week.

The Saturday night match proved the folly of not stopping MLS play for international fixtures. It really feels like MLS is biting the hand that feeds it when fans pay good money to see their MLS teams play a clearly diminished standard of football due to the absence of its best players for international duty. MLS games are worth watching when teams have their full strength squads available, but once two or three top players are missing from squads, a lot of MLS teams become quite dull to watch.

While I have always praised MLS for trying out new ideas in the very conservative sport of football, continuing MLS play while its best players are absent for international duty is a poor idea. MLS fans are sophisticated enough to see the difference in the football we watch.  MLS fans deserve to see the best players playing for their teams, and anything less shows us disrespect.

Whitecaps awake in 2016 with Cascadia win

March 20, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016 | 1 Comment
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After walking in their sleep through two early season matches the Vancouver Whitecaps finally woke up to the 2016 season in time to beat our greatest rival, the Seattle Sounders, 2-1.  It was a tough, physical contest in front of another big Seattle crowd with about 800-1000 Whitecaps fans making the trip down South.

Coach Carl Robinson proved his courage as a manager and played two strikers instead of his usual one.  Robinson favoured a 4-4-2 formation to his usual 4-2-3-1 setup, which was a gamble considering we were on the road playing against a powerful Cascadia rival.

Blas Perez has proven himself to be too good to start a match on the bench in the first two games this season.  He was handed a well-deserved start alongside Octavio Rivero up front.   Pedro Morales and Mathias Laba played central midfield flanked by Bolanos on the right and  Manneh on the left.    Fraser Aird took to the field having won the argument between himself and Jordan Smith concerning the right back position.  Parker and Waston played the middle and Harvey played left back.  The ever present David Ousted wore the keeper’s gloves.

Pedro Morales proved to be the central figure of this match.  He was involved in  all three goals, two as penalty taker and one as the guy who defended poorly.  Perez was the other key man for the Whitecaps.  He was crucially involved in both goals the Whitecaps scored.

Perez created the first goal early in the match with a perfectly weighted pass to Bolanos, who was making a well-timed surging run around Seattle’s defender Jones in to Seattle’s box.   Bolanos was slightly clipped on his way by Jones and went down in the box.   Replays did not show any detectable contact, but Bolanos went down in a manner that suggested there was contact, however slight it was.  Referee Mark Geiger immediately called for a penalty which Morales dispatched with his usual calm.  It was a perfect start for our road warriors and it was 1-0 after only ten minutes.

The Whitecaps had a very solid and mentally sharp first half.  Ousted looked very sharp in goal, coming to claim crosses calmly, and his confidence spread through the team.  One Whitecap  who looked really good was Fraser Aird.  Though he tends to get caught out of position occasionally, he was competitive physically and his speed was a big asset to Vancouver.

Seattle are obviously having teething problems since the departure of Obafemi Martins, who has gone off to China to capitalize on the massive money being thrown at players over there.  Nelson Valdez, new boy Jordan Morris, and the surly Clint Dempsey struggled to find any rhythm up front all night against our well organized defence.

The Sounders scored on a free kick to equalize six minutes into the second half.  Dempsey found a gap in the Whitecaps’ defence and was running through it when Morales brought him down just outside the box.  The Whitecaps set up a wall but put it too far to the left, leaving the near post exposed.   Morales took his spot on the far right of the wall, and Seattle’s Ivanshitz curled it round him as Morales turned his back on the ball.  Poor Pedro looked a bit sheepish having conceded the foul and then having looked weak in the wall.  It was 1-1.

Both teams looked poor in the second half, which was spent mostly in the Whitecaps’ half.  The Whitecaps in particular struggled to make use of the ball and poor passes meant they turned the ball over to Seattle again and again.  Thankfully the  Whitecaps were sharp in defending and did not concede for the rest of the match.

The match was decided on another controversial penalty call.  Again Morales was involved.  He curled a deadly accurate pass on to Perez to run onto.  The ball curled on to Perez’ left side and Perez moved to his right to block Seattle defender Marshall who made a reckless lunge across Perez’ body to get to the ball. Marshall got to the ball but only through clattering Perez and bringing him down.  Geiger again blew his whistle, and Seattle players and fans went bonkers.  Really they had nothing to complain about since Marshall was slow to react to Perez’s run and then made a desperate gamble to stop him with a foolish lunge.  All of the experience and strength of Perez made that play successful for the Whitecaps.

Morales made up for his earlier defensive errors and put us on top again; it was 2-1 Whitecaps with fifteen minutes to go.

Seattle laid siege to our goal and their efforts culminated in a clear goal scoring opportunity as Dempsey arrived late in the box for an open shot from a cross from the left of goal. Dempsey tried to side foot the ball into the far corner but missed with inches to spare.  He rightly hung his head in shame because it should have been 2-2, and all of that money he gets paid as a designated player looked mis-spent.

Just before injury time Bolanos and Perez conspired to give Techera a clear shot at goal from close range but the wee man did a Dempsey and fired just wide on the volley. Had that gone in it would have been a real beauty.

Ousted et al did all they needed to do to preserve the advantage and it ended in a stirring win to set our season on the right path.  It was very satisfying because it meant our rivals the Sounders are now in a tailspin having lost their first three matches.

The off season acquisition of Blas Perez looks to have been a master stroke.  Christian Bolanos, after a quiet start, is also looking very valuable.  Full marks went to Carl Robinson.  While it was too early to call our slow start to the season a crisis, the players really let Robbo down in the first two games and he has now righted the ship.  There was no doubt the players all gave 100% for the jersey on this night, and all played as they should have.

A very satisfying win indeed, and Whitecaps version 2016 has finally arrived.

 

 

 

 

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