Whitecaps lose to Portland in travesty match

May 23, 2016 at 5:10 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps | Leave a comment

It was another dramatic multi-goal match for the Vancouver Whitecaps as they lost 4-2 in Portland against their Cascadia rivals.  After last week’s 7 goal thriller in Toronto it was the Whitecaps turn to embarrass themselves with shoddy defending. The refereeing in this match was even more embrassing than the Whitecaps defending, however.

When the Whitecaps signed Pa Modou Kah for the 2016 season I was very happy.  Kah played very well last season and was a great boost to team spirit.  Kah’s happy-go-lucky attitude helped the youngsters on the team to relax, even if he made some astonishing errors on the pitch from time to time.

With Fraser Aird suspended Whitecaps manager Robinson chose to start our usual centre-back Tim Parker at right fullback in Aird’s position and put Kah in the middle against his old club.  This turned out to be a blunder as Kah ended up conceding two penalty kicks that killed us.  The first penalty early in the match was due to Kah’s lack of match fitness and general sharpness.  He missed the ball when it was passed back to him and deflected it into the Whitecaps 18 yard box. He then brought a man down trying desperately to get the ball back.  Diego Valeri converted the penalty and it was 1-0 Portland with only four minutes gone. Instead of leading the team against his old one, Kah had his worst match yet for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Kah’s central defending partner Kendall Waston also had a poor match, slipping and falling  on the plastic grass at Providence Park where a routine clearance was all that was needed to get rid of a slow low cross.  Waston left the ball for Portland striker Mcinnerney to take and score.  Again, it was a lack of sharpness and awareness on Waston’s part.   Our centre backs put us in a deep hole and we were down 2-0 at half time.

Robbo must have made a stirring speech at half time because the Whitecaps came out with guns blazing in the second half.   The in-form Kekuta Manneh drove a shot at goal which deflected off of a Portland defender and into the net over a sprawling Portland goalkeeper Jake Gleeson. It was 2-1 early in the second half and it was game on.

The Whitecaps were pressuring Portland heavily and were winning the ball in virtually every tackle when referee Ted Unkel turned the tide in Portland’s favour by calling a handball on Kah.  Kah was directly in front of goal when a deflected cross hit him high on his ribcage.  The ball was not headed into the net, and there was no Portland player in scoring position, yet Referee Unkel whistled for a penalty kick.  Unkel could not even see where the ball hit Kah from his position on the field.  It was a classic poor MLS refereeing.

No referee in any serious football league would have called that a penalty, but in MLS this kind of call gets made week after week.  Referee Unkel in particular is known to have a hair trigger for cheap penalty kicks.  Frankly, this guy embarrassed himself and lost control of the match.  As the second half continued, managers from both teams and players on both sides of the pitch were laughing at Unkel, even more so when he called another unmeritorious penalty kick at the other end of the pitch.  Morales dispatched the penalty for the last goal of the match.  Unkell turned this important Cascadia derby match into a showcase for his own incompetence.  Fans of both teams deserved a lot better.

With such poor refereeing plaguing MLS matches how long is it before we start asking for Commissioner Don Garber’s head?  He defends every ridiculous referring decision made  and even the notorious discipline committee, (DISCO, as it is now called)  which, more often than not, gets the call wrong again later on in the week. Garber, his referees , and the DISCO all have a knowledge of the game which is behind that of the fans, and we are getting tired of it.

While the refereeing was very poor indeed, there is no doubt the Whitecaps contributed to their own downfall with horrific defending.  Two of the four goals came from defending errors.  The other two came from refereeing errors.  Darlington Nagbe scored a wonderful free kick from a non-foul called on Jordan Harvey, who won the ball cleanly with a well timed tackle outside of the Whitecaps box.

Waston got sent off after the match to make matters worse.  Referee Unkel blew the whistle to end the match and neither Waston nor Portland’s Asprilla heard it.  Asprilla played on and Waston scythed him down after poking the ball away into touch.  Asprilla then went and attacked Waston.   Waston received a red card and Asprilla got nothing.  Perhaps Asprilla earned referee Unkel’s sympathy when he later flopped on the ground and pretended to cry while clutching his ankle.

Sad to say, but our centre backs Waston and Kah, who were a formidable pair last year, played like amateurs in this match.

The Whitecaps are bleeding goals at an alarming rate with seven goals conceded in the last two matches.  They are also failing to keep their discipline on the pitch.  Red and yellow cards, along with the suspensions which follow, are getting the Whitecaps into real trouble this season.

Coach Robinson must take his share of the blame for this match, and surely his decision to start Kah at centre back is one that he will rue.  Kah, who is the happy face of the Vancouver Whitecaps,  needs start preparing properly for matches and thinking seriously about playing real football.

 

 

 

Kudo horror, Perez glory: ‘Caps beat Chicago

May 12, 2016 at 10:05 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016, Whitecaps Season 2016 | 2 Comments
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Anyone who thinks soccer is for wimps should have been at BC Place on Wednesday night for the Vancouver Whitecaps verses the Chicago Fire.

The ordinarily sleepy Wednesday night Major League Soccer match was punctuated by two extraordinary moments: one a horrific injury, and one a spectacular goal.

The hapless Chicago Fire came to town having played less matches than the Whitecaps and with a poor record to boot.  It was hoped it would be an easy night for Carl Robinson’s side, which had played some very nice football and created a lot of goal scoring chances the Saturday previous against the Portland Timbers.

Robbo started Masato Kudo up front, with a supporting offensive midfield cast of Bolanos, Mezquida and Techera.  Pedro Morales played in deep midfield alongside Mathias Laba.  Jordan Harvey set an MLS record for the most Whitecaps appearances at left back, and was supported on the back line by Waston, Parker and Aird.  Ousted was in goal, as usual.

Early in the match Laba put a ball over the top of Chicago’s defence for Kudo to chase down. Chicago keeper Matt Lampson came to meet the ball and Kudo, who had been looking back over his shoulder, had no time to stop to avoid a big collision.

Lampson’s right shoulder caught Kudo square in the jaw and the little Japanese striker was thrown backwards like he had been hit by a speeding train.  Later footage showed Kudo was knocked out cold with blood gushing from both corners of his mouth.  All players stopped playing immediately and gave assistance to him while multiple physios and doctors ran on to the pitch.   Kudo was eventually taken away on a little motor cart while conscious, but looked as though he had no idea where he was or what was happening.  It was truly horrific and we can only hope the little guy has not suffered permanent concussion damage.  Word came through the next day that he had lost some teeth and broken his jaw in two places.  He needed surgery to repair the damage done. Chicago keeper Lampson was not to blame and a collision was unavoidable.  To his credit Lampson sent his well wishes to Kudo later via Twitter.

Blas Perez came on to replace the stricken Kudo up front.  It was expected that Perez would appear later, but Kudo’s misfortune set the stage for a memorable  night for Perez.

The Whitecaps started brightly after the long delay and only the efforts of  Lampson kept the Whitecaps off the scoreboard.  Mezquida was robbed from close range by Lampson, who looked confident and unshaken by the nasty early incident.  Ousted robbed Chicago striker Igboananike on a breakaway soon after and the night looked like it was turning into a goalkeeper’s duel.

The Whitecaps broke the deadlock after 35 minutes as Morales, who is looking more and more comfortable and useful spraying the ball around the pitch in deep midfield, set Bolanos free on the fight flank with a perfectly weighted back spinning ball. Bolanos fired in a low cross which a Chicago defender got a piece of only to deflect the ball on to a changing Perez, who bundled in his first goal for the Whitecaps.  It was 1-0 and it looked like it might be a very fruitful night.  The rest of the half provided no joy for the home side however and it remained 1-0.

The effects of fatigue began to show as the Whitecaps came out sluggish in the second half.  This was the same team that had played on the previous Saturday.  Jordan Harvey, who had cause to celebrate his record appearances for the Whitecaps, looked a bit tired all night, and it was he who was undone by some tricky and quick footwork from striker Igboananike. The Chicago striker fired low from just inside the penalty area at a strangely out of position and unprepared Ousted, beating the big Dane with a rather tame looking low shot to keeper’s left side.  It was 1-1 on 62 minutes.

Kekuta Manneh came on for Mezquida on 66 minutes and nearly put the Whitecaps ahead with a headed ball which went over the bar.  He and Techera, who similarly headed a cross over the bar from directly in front of goal in the first half, need to get some heading practice going soon.

At this stage of the match Chicago was hunkering down in their own end trying to get away with a tie. The Whitecaps poured down the field enjoying lots of possession in Chicago’s half.  Chicago nearly stole the game with ten minutes to go as the very lively Igboananike hit the near post from a steep angle on a brilliantly executed counter attack.

Despite some very promising and creative approach play and lots of corner kicks, we fans began to resign ourselves to a dreaded home draw.  Then something special happened with two minutes of time left.

Some lovely approach play involving multiple Whitecaps players including Manneh, Bolanos, Perez, and Morales moved the ball deep into Chicago’s defensive third. Morales passed the ball to Hurtado, who then passed a low cross in for Manneh to strike from 12 yards out.  A defender blocked the shot, only to have the ball spin high into the air towards Perez.  From the moment this happened you could see a bicycle kick was on, and there was a glint in Perez’ eye for all to see.  Perez flung himself into the air with his back to goal and kicked the ball from just in front of a defender’s head.  Perez used all of his tall frame to reach the ball at a high point.  The ball came down off of his foot with pace and easily beat Lampson who did not bother to even move.

Perez delayed his celebration, not knowing if the ball was in the net or if referee Baldomero Toledo would call a foul for a dangerous high kick.  To Toledo’s credit, he pointed for a goal rather than a foul, recognizing the great football moment he had just witnessed. Cue a fantastic goal celebration by a delighted Perez.  His teammates both from on the field and off it squashed him as he lay helpless on the ground in front of the wildly celebrating Southsiders.

We fans went absolutely bonkers, delighted that we had seen one of the best goals in Vancouver professional soccer history.

The Whitecaps saw the match out and more celebration ensued.  The only thing that sobered us up was the concern for Masato Kudo, whose fate was not know at the time.

Pedro Morales played a key part in both goals with his excellent passing.  It looks as though the Chilean has found that his new role as a deeply positioned Pirlo-like distributor suits him just fine.  It looks like Robinson is hoping that this less physically demanding role will preserve Morales’ rather fragile body so we can use him more often.  So far, so good.

 

New Whitecaps players come good in Cascasia win

May 7, 2016 at 11:18 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016, Whitecaps Season 2016 | 2 Comments
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When looking for explanations why the Vancouver Whitecaps were playing so poorly in the first third of the 2016 Major League Soccer season there was a simple explanation.  The new guys coming in, in particular Aird, Bolanos and Kudo, were not playing as well for the Whitecaps as those players we had sent away: Beitashour, Koffie and Mattocks.

Aird played as though his internal GPS was broken and got lost on the pitch, resulting in goals against.  Bolanos had good skill but played defence like one of those dogs that doesn’t know how to play “fetch”.   Kudo looked like he needed to go to the gym and get some muscles. The only guy of the new crew who was looking to be useful was Blas Perez, even if he hadn’t scored a goal yet.

We needed our new acquisitions to raise their game against Cascadia rivals the Portland Timbers to give our season a bump.  Bolanos, Aird, Kudo and Perez did just that. They all played superb matches and gave us fans renewed hope for a season that was going sideways.

The other good news on this match day was that our finest player, Pedro Morales, finally looked fit and in the mood to play football.

Coach Carl Robinson did a masterful job and picked a team that clicked from the start against the Timbers with Ousted in goal; Aird, Waston, Parker and Harvey at the back;   Laba and Morales in deep midfield; Bolanos, Mezquida and Techera in attacking midfield; and striker Kudo alone up front.

With this line-up the ball moved smoothly from back to front. First half chances to score were plentiful for the Whitecaps, if not fruitful.  The Whitecaps created chance after chance, forcing saves from Portland’s keeper Gleeson.  Gleeson had played a blinder against TFC last Saturday and looked like he was going to do the same against Vancouver.  There also seemed to be some kine of magnetic field around Portland’s goal as numerous Vancouver shots bent narrowly wide.

As often happens in this funny old game, Portland scored late in the half against the run of play.  It was a superb goal orchestrated by the intelligent passing and running of Darlington Nagbe, (why didn’t we draft him?), in combination with giant striker Fanendo Adi. Adi flicked the ball back to Nagbe, who put the ball across Ousted’s goal for the bearded defender Nat Borchers to tap in at the far post.  It looked like another frustrating match as the Whitecaps could not reply before the halftime whistle went.   We were one goal down and in card trouble already with key men Waston and Morales both picking up yellow cards early in the match.

It took 15 minutes of hard work in the second half before the Whitecaps drew level.  After all of their masterful approach play failed, the Whitecaps got a lucky bounce off of a Portland defender which put Kudo in alone at a steep angle on the left side of the Timbers goal.  Kudo shaped up to shoot and managed to squeak the ball between Gleeson and the near post for his first goal for the Whitecaps.  The sellout crowd were delirious, as was Kudo.  It was about time he scored one.

Six minutes later Bolanos and Perez combined brilliantly for the go-ahead goal.  Bolanos managed to find himself in lots of space (he has a special knack for finding time and space with the ball), on the right side of the pitch.  He put a deft dipping cross into the path of a charging Perez.   Perez leapt to head the ball and barely missed it.  It was  enough to put Gleeson off, however,  and to his shock and our amusement, Gleeson lost track of the flight of the ball and it bounced through his legs into the net.  Cue more ecstatic celebrations inside BC Place.

New boy Aird went on a spectacular run from our own half all the way to the Timber’s penalty area.  Even if the run failed to result in a goal, it showed that Aird has grown in confidence, ability, and ambition.  Robbo must have put a spell on him in the dressing room.

The Whitecaps did a fine job of playing possession football for the rest of the match but nearly blew it late on when Portland charged down the field in a quick counter attack from a failed Whitecaps corner kick.  Jordan Harvey fell in a challange and left three Timbers players bearing down on our net with only one defender pursuing them.  After one pass Diego Valeri, arguably Portland’s most gifted player, was alone on our goal with only Ousted to beat.  Valeri took a clumsy touch of the ball and Pedro Morales, finally playing like a captain, managed to track back and reel Valeri in.  Morales managed to touch the ball to Ousted who cleared with his feet. Disaster was averted.

To see Morales play an entire game and play so well was a joy and perhaps the best news of this match.  There is no doubt the Whitecaps play much better when he is in the side.

When the final whistle blew it was like a breath of fresh air.  The Whitecaps had played very well, had scored two goals in open play, and had staged a come-from-behind victory against a Cascadia rival.  Bolanos was correctly named the man of the match.

All-in-all a great afternoon to remember at BC Place.

 

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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