Mid-week draw for Whitecaps against Columbus Crew

April 13, 2015 at 9:02 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps season 2015 | Leave a comment
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This was a hugely entertaining match with 2 goals apiece. It was filled with many near misses, squandered chances and daft errors. I went to the match straight from work and prepared for the event with some lovely Vij’s bean curry, which I have to say was damned tasty.

Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson chose to rest Pa Modou Kah so that Diego Rodriguez could have a go at centre back. Beitashour, Waston and Adekugbe joined him in defence. Teibert and Laba shielded the back four in defensive midfield, While Mattocks, Morales and Mezquida supported lone striker Rivero. Poor Rodriguez’ adventure did not last long as he tweaked a muscle early on, meaning a sleepy Kah, who was expecting a nice night off, was called into action. Kah looked a bit shaky from the start, turning the ball over to Columbus deep in the Whitecaps half with a poor pass intended for Waston. Watson got a yellow card, putting the Whitecaps in the hole with card trouble early in the match.

While the Whitecaps had the most of the play, it was clear

River scores in black and white!

Rivero scores in black and white!

Columbus had come to play as well, and Crew striker Kei Kamara put them up 1-0 when the ball rebounded for him off of a shot which he put past a despairing David Ousted into the Whitecaps goal.

The Whitecaps quickly came back when an alert Mattocks took a quick throw-in and caught Rivero’s marker napping. Rivero shrugged the defender off easily and shot the equalizer low to the keeper’s right into the net. It was 1-1 which is how it stayed for the rest of the half.

Poor David Ousted made his first error of the season in the second half when he took a quick goal kick which was intercepted. A few touches later it was Kamara again putting the ball in the back of Ousted’s net and the Whitecaps were on the back heel again.

Scooter in full flight!

Scooter in full flight!

Things looked brighter when Robinson pulled Mezquida off and Kekuta Manneh came into the match in the mood to play. With Manneh on the left and fellow speedster Mattocks now on the right, the Whitecaps tore into Columbus and created chance after chance. The two combined for the equalizer as Manneh used his lightening speed to nip in front of a defender and strip the ball off of him. He found Mattocks streaking into the box and Mattocks slipped the ball low in between the keeper’s legs into the net.

Laba nearly scored with his first ever shot...

Laba nearly scored with his first ever shot…

The Whitecaps created chance after chance in a very exciting and entertaining second half. Morales even hit the net with a shot, but fired the ball straight at the keeper who smothered the ball. Mattocks had a number of chances to score but could not get a second. His finishing touch let him down and he still needs to get four chances to score a goal. If those chances had fallen to Rivero, perhaps we would have won the match.

Late in the match Kendall Waston challenged Kamara for a high ball and went over the striker and landed straight on top of his head, causing his neck to buckle in an alarming fashion. He was immediately in intense pain, but thank God his legs were still moving. Camera was not given a card in spite of the fact he deliberately submarined Waston. The big man got away with one there and hilariously kissed the bald head of the Whitecaps physio before taking the field again.

While it was a wonderful way to spend a Wednesday evening, had Ousted not made the mistake he did I couldn’t help but feel we would have had three points instead of one. The big Dane has been so good this year, however, it was easy to forgive him.

Tired Whitecaps beaten 1-0 in San Jose

April 13, 2015 at 8:31 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2015 | Leave a comment
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It is a bit much to ask the players of a football team to play three matches in eight days with a long flight included.

There is a reason why teams in the English top flight play their third team in the League cup and their second team in the early rounds of the FA Cup. It is because too many games mean tired bodies and minds. For optimal performance, footballers should play one match a week, no more.

The Whitecaps had played LA the previous Saturday, Columbus on Wednesday, and then had to travel to the Bay area to play in the San Jose Earthquakes brand new stadium. The first two of these games was on the awful plastic pitch at BC Place, which takes a big toll on our player’s muscles and joints.

This match is hardly worth writing about because the Whitecaps did not create one shot on goal all match. It ended with our best player Pedro Morales getting sent off following a silly late match exchange of kicks to the body with one of San Jose’s strikers. At least we know Morales hates to lose! One has to question whether Morales should have been left on the pitch for 90 minutes for 3 games in a row in 8 days. I am sure Robbo is now kicking himself, especially given we travel to Salt Lake for our next match where Morales talents would undoubtedly be a benefit.

People have criticized Morales for not showing up but the poor guy was exhausted, and for good reason. He worked his ass off the previous Saturday and Wednesday night.

The match was a stalemate until San Jose scored in the 75th minute after a couple of chances where the Whitecaps were unable to clear the ball.

It was a poor match overall and not a good advert for MLS. It was a match best forgotten. While MLS mid-week games are relatively rare, perhaps MLS should take a look at the schedule and try to eliminate them. The fans vote with their feet, as the crowd at Wednesday’s Columbus match demonstrated. The crowd was 4,000 less than the match against the Galaxy on the previous Saturday.

San Jose’s new Avaya stadium reminded me of the dream of Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium from back in the day. The beautiful grass pitch in San Jose made me green with jealousy, and a bit put off that we will be watching the Whitecaps play on awful plastic grass for the foreseeable future.

While this was a bad loss in which the Whitecaps looked poor, I believe they had a good excuse. I am not worried at all by the result. It was only 1-0 after all.

Whitecaps walk over poor LA Galaxy

April 6, 2015 at 10:25 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2015 | 2 Comments
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What a difference one year makes. What a difference one player makes.

Landon Donovan retired last year after leading the Los Angeles Galaxy to the MLS Championship. This year, in Donovan’s absence, the Galaxy are a shadow of their former selves. Donovan and the Galaxy used to come up North and make the Whitecaps struggle and mostly lose, but last night’s match was a walk in the park for the home side.

Manneh's goal celebration

Manneh’s goal celebration

Robbie Keane looked like an orphan out there without Donovan.

Coach Carl Robinson clearly told his team to try to love the ball more after last week’s match against Portland, when the Whitecaps only had just over one-third of possession. While the statistics showed the Galaxy had almost as much of the ball as the Whitecaps, in reality the Galaxy were rarely in this match.

The Galaxy’s star now is Robbie Keane, but Keane had very little to do with this match, with no service from his midfield and with Russell Teibert harassing him like a tiger all night.

Robbo started Ousted in goal, Adekugbe, Waston, Kah and Beitashour on the back line. Robinson preferred Teibert to play alongside Laba in defensive midfield on this night instead of Gershon Koffie, who has a bad knee. Mesquida, Morales and Manneh played in attacking midfield, supporting lone striker Rivero up front.

Kekuta Manneh’s return from a one match ban lifted the team, and his running and dribbling on the left flank gave LA trouble right from the start.

A poacher's goal and its 2-0

A poacher’s goal and its 2-0

The good news on this night was that Pedro Morales is starting to get into the groove and be more like his old self. Morales appeared more fit and lively than he has been in other matches this season and performed some stunning trickery, putting the ball through the legs of his opponents at least three times. In one sequence he juggled the ball on his foot while three Galaxy players tried to get the ball off him in vain. It looks like our Captain is starting to enjoy himself again, which is great news.

In a scoreless first half the Whitecaps created plenty of chances but few actually troubled Penedo in LA’s goal. Manneh had several chances but kept shooting the ball high over the goal.

Just past ten minutes into the second half it was Morales who took the ball on the left flank and put a perfect ball through to a surging Kekuta Manneh. The ball had glorious back-spin on it which allowed Manneh to get on the end of it with ease. Manneh went one on one with a rather slow and listless LA defender, easily getting past him to strike the ball low to LA Keeper Penedo’s right. It was 1-0 and it looked as though it was easily going to be Vancouver’s night.

Maestro Morales is back

Maestro Morales is back

Rivero made it 2-0 ten minutes later after a darting Mezquida took the ball from him to the left of Penedo’s gaol. Mezquida’s run caught LA defenders napping and his low cross was only knocked out in front of goal by a diving Penedo to the alert Rivero who had an easy shot into the back of the net.

Looking back on the match I questioned whether the Whitecaps were so good or were the Galaxy just so awful? I give credit to the Whitecaps, there is no doubt they put in a first class effort to a man. But I still wonder if Robbie Keane would have been so easily shut down if he had Donovan to play with.

LA put nowhere near the effort Portland did in last weeks Cascadia clash in BC Place. Bruce Arena later accused his team of not competing enough but the Galaxy lack identity. It looks like they are just waiting for their big designated player Steven Gerrard to show up and save their season.

How the mighty have fallen!

Robbie Earnshaw wins it in Cascadia clash

March 29, 2015 at 3:14 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2015 | 2 Comments
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Vancouver Whitecaps heroes recently come from Uruguay, Argentina or Costa Rica, but last night’s hero came from Wales. Robbie Earnshaw, who was only signed by the Vancouver Whitecaps on Thursday after hanging around the squad since training camp, scored the winner in the 90th minute after coming into the match in the 87th.

It was a a tense, chippy match from the start, which was always going to be an odd one because of the absences of players on both sides. The Whitecaps were missing Kekuta Manneh and Diego Rodriguez through suspension, Mauro Rosales through injury, and Darren Mattocks was off on international duty with Jamaica.

One-handed grab: Ousted was miraculous

One-handed grab: Ousted was miraculous

A big surprise was that Sam Adekugbe was fit to play at left back after having his ribs damaged last week in Orlando. Pa Modou Kah, Kendall Waston and Steven Beitashour lined up with him in defence. Matias Laba and Gershon Koffie plugged up central midfield, while Mesquida took Manneh’s spot on the left, Eric Hurtado took Mauro Rosales spot on the right, and Captain Pedro Morales occupied central midfield behind sole striker Ocatavio Rivero.

The Whitecaps again ceded the majority of possession to their opponent and put their money on lightning counter attacks to win the match. As many sitting around me commented, it was rather like watching the Whitecaps play an away match. Perhaps the experience of being burned by TFC on match day 1 taught Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson a lesson.

The Whitecaps took advantage early of some fouls Portland committed in their own final third of the field. Morales shot one free kick against the wall and Mezquida lined up another and shot over the wall to beat Portland’s keeper Kwarasay low to his right. It was 15 minutes in and the Whitecaps were ahead 1-0. Once they had scored, the Whitecaps were happy to sit back and soak up pressure from Portland for the rest of the half, looking to score on the counter-attack.

Earnshaw gets the ball in the 90th

Earnshaw gets the ball in the 90th

Just like the match against Toronto on the first day of the season, the Whitecaps came out flat and uninspired in the second half. One has to wonder about the quality of leadership in the dressing room at half time. Coach Robinson and Captain Morales must do better with their half-time talks; the players play as though they had been hearing lullabies.

Though it was fun to watch the Whitecaps win, the second half only served to prove it was not a deserved victory. The Whitecaps won only because of luck and superb goalkeeping by David Ousted.

In the second half the Whitecaps gave up possession cheaply time and time again, desperately clearing the ball directly back to Portland’s players. They only rarely won second and lose balls from Portland. The Whitecaps were deeply pinned into their own final third of the pitch and could not find their way out.

In the 57th minute Robinson took out Mezquida, who had largely disappeared after scoring his goal, and put the stocky Kianz Froese into the match. The move only partially worked; Froese mostly failed to pick up players and Portland had a field day with youngsters Froese and Adekugbe on the right side. Froese also looked immobile when he got possession of the ball. He is a work in progress.

Deft chip in by Earnshaw

Deft chip in by Earnshaw

Gershon Koffie got the hook in the 72nd minute. He did not have the best match and got an early yellow card. Robinson put young Honduran Deybi Flores in, which shocked us in the stands. Flores helped the Whitecaps move the ball out of their own end, but looked vulnerable defending. His speed on the ball was fantastic, but his close control let him down on one late rush. Overall the impression of Flores was very good. We will undoubtedly see him in action again in the near future.

The crucial substitution came late in the match as Hurtado gave way to new signing Earnshaw. We all knew we would probably see him in this match, and all had this uncanny feeling that he was going to score. Oddly enough Robinson himself said after the match he had similar premonitions.

Ousted had just made a match-saving stop when Flores got possession of the ball in the middle of the park and spotted Morales running towards the center as well. Flores played a perfect pass to Morales, who took one touch and spotted Earnshaw. Earnshaw was cheating behind Portland’s centre backs Borchers and Ridgewell, who tried to put him offside. Luckily the Timber’s right fullback was late coming out and Earnshaw was alone with the ball and onside. Earnshaw took one touch with his left foot and deftly chipped a low shot over the onrushing Kwarasay into the corner of the net with his right.

Mezquida's marker

Mezquida’s marker

The joy and pandemonium at BC Place was something to experience. Earnshaw did his patented flip and looked as though he would burst into tears. The Whitecaps had stolen the match, and we all enjoyed the rush of pleasure thieves must feel when they have been successful. It was the first time we have beaten Portland at BC Place.

While Earnshaw got the glory, David Ousted’s performance was the best we had seen since Brad Knighton’s stonewalling of Seattle a few years back. Ousted made several match saving stops and caught seemingly endless crosses that Portland was pumping into our box, especially from the right. The final whistle came after he had snagged yet another cross.

As we made our way from the stadium all wondered how long can we keep getting away with this. Are the Whitecaps lucky or resilient? Is giving up possession of the ball and hoping to score on counter attacks our new mode of operation both home and away?

Whatever the answers to these questions will be, on this night we got a thriller of a match and went home well satisfied after beating a Cascadia rival yet again.

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