Whitecaps lose game to forget in Houston

August 31, 2015 at 10:09 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps | Leave a comment

The Whitecaps went to play in Houston last Saturday night for their 8th game of August 2015. After the emotional high of winning the Canadian Championship, there was no time to rest and it was off to hot and steamy Houston, Texas.

As if knowing there was tittle chance for his exhausted team to win, Robinson experimented with the line-up playing with two strikers and three defensive midfielders. Manneh and Mattocks played as strikers with Rosales in behind them for support. Laba, Teibert and Flores played in front of Dean, Waston, Parker and debutant fullback Jordan Smith. Iron-man Ousted started in goal.

The plan was clear: concede possession, defend, defend, defend and hope that Rosales, who played behind Manneh and Mattocks, could feed one of the two and steal the game on counter attacks.

It was working early on as Mattocks, fed by Manneh and Rosales, managed to beat the last man in Houston’s 18 yard box but ran out of room to get away a proper shot before onrushing Dynamo keeper Deric smothered the ball.

The Whitecaps went down 1-0 after they fell asleep momentarily. Dean gave winger Williams too much room and time on the ball allowing the Houston player to get around him and knock in a low cross. Striker Eric “Cubo” Torres beat Parker to the ball and deflected it past the defender leaving the ball sitting for Riccardo Clark to knock in. It was an ugly goal that barely dribbled into the net but it counted and won the game for Houston.

Tired Whitecaps minds and legs settled this match as both Waston and Laba got into card trouble with reckless and unnecessary fouls in midfield in the first half. In the second half both were sent off for completely silly and unnecessary tackles (Waston in the 56th minute and Laba in the 64th). Though they can’t be faulted for being tired, I would expect better from two leaders in our team who basically made it impossible for us to win the match.

Even when the Whitecaps were down to nine men, a very poor Houston team still looked vulnerable until they killed the game off of through a glancing header by Rodriguez in the 87th minute. For twenty minutes after they went down to 9 men the Whitecaps still looked as though they could at least tie up the match.

After eight games in August with four on the road, the Whitecaps finally collapsed and fell apart. Not that we can complain; in the month of August the team won four, tied two, and lost two. That is a pretty good record and a testament to the strength and determination of the Whitecaps squad. It also shows our team is being coached very well by Carl Robinson.

It was a match to forget, and thank God the Whitecaps now get ten days of well deserved rest.

Vancouver Whitecaps finally win the Voyageurs Cup

August 27, 2015 at 10:23 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2015 | Leave a comment
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After years of frustration and anger the Whitecaps finally won the Canadian Championship, dispatching the other finalist the Montreal Impact with a 2-0 win on the night giving them a 4-2 aggregate victory over two legs. It may not be such a coveted prize, but the Voyageurs Cup is ours after long last.

Only five teams compete in the Canadian Championship (the three Canadian MLS teams, and Ottawa and Edmonton from the NASL), but winning it means you get to compete in the CONCACAF Champions League, which is CONCACAF’s rather poor cousin to the UEFA Champions league and the Copa Libertadores from South America.

This will now put to rest the horrible memories from the 2009 competition when, in a mid-week match, Montreal put its second team out in the second leg verses Toronto and lost the match by a lopsided score allowing Toronto to overcome a big first leg deficit. This meant the Whitecaps lost top spot in the competition and were pipped by Toronto for the Voyageurs Cup.

The hollow look on the faces of Teitur Thordarson and his players as the rain poured down on them as they watched the Cup slip away has haunted Vancouver Whitecaps fans since that date. The Whitecaps USL squad were supposed to collect the Voyageur’s Cup and come home but ended up watching the jubilant celebrations of Toronto FC instead. To add insult to injury Montreal beat the Whitecaps in Montreal the following Saturday.

The Whitecaps put a strong squad on to the pitch with Ousted in goal; Beitashour, Parker, Waston and Harvey in defence; Koffie and Teibert in defensive midfield; and, Manneh, Morales, Techera and Riveiro in the forward diamond. Only Laba and Pa Modou Kah were missing from the Whitecaps best eleven.

Montreal struggled to compete early and looked slow, tired, and out of shape. Montreal’s centre back Cabrera was sent off after persistently fouling Riveiro, leaving Montreal with ten men after only 30 minutes of football. Soon after an errant back pass from Whitecaps old boy Nigel Reo-Coker was snatched by Techera, who eventually bundled the ball past Montreal’s keeper towards the open goal. The goal-starved Riveiro sprinted after the ball and just tapped it in at the last second, claiming the goal. I would say he owes Techera a nice dinner after that!

In the second half Tim Parker emphatically nodded in a Morales corner kick past Montreal’s undefended far post. With that the game was over, and possession football led by substitute Mauro Rosales took over to see the match out.

The crowd stood in anticipation of the final whistle and were jubilant when the referee finally blew time. The Whitecaps had won their first title of the MLS era. The players began celebrating before the final whistle with Kah and Captain Morales (who was substituted by Rosales) celebrating on the sidelines in the final minute.

Pay Modou Kah stole the show by dancing on some bizarre little automatic skateboard as he zoomed around the pitch before the trophy was awarded like a character from the Jetsons. It really was quite hilarious.

All of the players looked delighted to get the trophy and even grizzled veterans Rosales and Earnshaw smiled like they had won a major trophy. The players were clearly enjoying their moment together. It is clear the squad is very close and that they are truly enjoying one another’s company. With this attitude more trophies could follow.

The crowd stayed late to savour the moment, and those of us who have supported the team since the Swangard days got to embrace our first title since we won the USL championship match back in 2008.

Robbo gets his mojo back in victory over Dallas

August 24, 2015 at 10:02 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2015 | Leave a comment
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After a disastrous previous week in which the Vancouver Whitecaps had squandered a 2-0 lead in Montreal and a 3-1 lead in Kansas City it looked as though Coach Carl Robinson had lost his touch.

Last Saturday in Kansas City Robbo used all three substitutes in his forward diamond when tired legs in the defensive part of the team needed refreshing. Though he brought plenty of talent on and looked to have won the match when substitute Pedro Morales scored a beautiful free kick, a defensive collapse soon followed and the Whitecaps lost 4-3.

Robbo put the ship back on course with a thrilling 1-0 win over a strong and talented Dallas FC. Dallas led the Western Conference early on in the 2015 season but lately they have been clawed back and passed by several teams. Had they beaten the Whitecaps in this match they would be back near the top of the conference and the Whitecaps would find themselves surrounded by hostile enemies.

The big worry pre-match was that starting centre back Pa Modou Kah was signing autographs out front of BC Place rather than getting ready to play in the dressing room. He is recovering from a facial fracture and Tim Parker took his spot next to the giant Tico Kendall Waston. Parker was on the pitch for all six goals in the past two games, but made up for that with a brilliant performance on this night.

Fullbacks Beitashour and Harvey completed the back four, which was shielded by Koffee and Laba in defensive midfield. Pedro Morales started at the bottom of the diamond in the number 10 spot flanked by Manneh and Techera. Riveiro let the line as sole striker.

Fabian Castillo and Blas Perez were the big threat from Dallas, and Whitecaps old boy Atiba Harris played on the right flank. Jesse Gonclaves, a skinny kid who looked like he was 16, started in goal for Dallas.

It was refreshing to see Dallas play such an attacking game right from the start. The Toros had the best of the match early on and had us fans worried with their intricate one-touch passing plays which the Whitecaps defenders struggled to cope with. In the first ten minutes it looked like it might just be Dallas’ night. The crucial last ball never came to their strikers to shoot however, and only old boy Harris made Whitecaps keeper Ousted work in the first half with a low drive to the keeper’s right which was well saved.

The Whitecaps managed to start working with the space left in midfield by Dallas attacks. In the 31st minute Kekuta Manneh and Jordan Harvey found themselves with the ball on the left side of the pitch in the Dallas half. Manneh played the ball to Harvey from the touchline on the left side and moved towards the middle where Harvey returned it to him. Manneh charged across the pitch and looked primed to shoot the ball at the top of the 18 yard box. He put the ball still further across to the right side of goal and charged around the last defender, putting a low angled cross behind Techera. Techera deflected the ball with a back heel past a bewildered Dallas defence into their goal.

It was a spectacularly cheeky and skillful finish from the brilliant little Uruguayan who profited from some equally spectacular effort from Manneh. Manneh’s stature seems to rise with every game. It was an astonishing run from the wee Gambian which Dallas simply could not cope with.

At half time the talk in the stands was about what an attractive and skillful match we were watching. There was lots to admire in the play of both teams. Lucky for us the second half was just as absorbing as the first, even if it produced no further goals.

In the 68th minute Robbo yanked Morales and put Mauro Rosales in as the midfield number 10. Rosales settled the young Whitecaps down and helped the team keep possession of the ball. Rather than hunkering down in their own end and kicking the ball out, the Whitecaps defended their lead by denying Dallas possession of the ball. It worked a charm and the Whitecaps saw the game out with relative ease. Gershon Koffie was excellent in this regard and kept his concentration throughout the match.

Robbo replaced man of the match Techera with Nico Mezquida, and brought Christian Dean in when Harvey went down late with cramp in his leg. Both substitutions worked well and helped the Whitecaps win the match.

An injury time Dallas corner kick provided a late scare but the cross was dispatched by a strong one-handed David Ousted punch and soon afterwards the final whistle blew.

With all of the bad refereeing we see in MLS it was a refreshing change to see Referee Elfath do a great job of staying in the background and making only the necessary calls.

The win put the Whitecaps up at the top of the MLS for a moment. Given the LA Galaxy were playing the next day it was a lead not likely to last for 24 hours.

Carl Robinson may have got it wrong in the disaster in Kansas City, but he got this one right from the start. He chose the best team and then helped matters along with smart substitutions. He also helped conserve key players for this Wednesday’s Voyageurs Cup final.

Never mind the fear of losing the players we have to other clubs, will we be able to hold on to our coach Carl Robinson?

Whitecaps romp over RSL “B” team

August 9, 2015 at 10:57 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2015 | 2 Comments
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Major League Soccer fans could not be faulted for scratching their heads and wondering why their teams are fielding such bad teams for matches. The answer is fixture congestion; too any games in too many competitions.

In mid-week the Whitecaps played their first ever CONCACAF Champions League game with a B side against Seattle’s B side. No doubt this was by arrangement between the teams, who both agreed to rest their best eleven for this weekend’s MLS games.

Real Salt Lake tried something different, playing their best players in their CONCACAF Champions League in Guatemala last Wednesday. RSL also play in the US Open Cup Semi final mid-week which they are determined to win.

RSL “B”were embarrassed by the Whitecaps A team, who gladly played against a team missing such MLS stars as Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales.

Carl Robinson started Ousted in goal, with his best back four of Harvey, Waston, Kah and Beitashour. Koffee and Laba played midfield destroyers behind a diamond consisting of Mezquida, Manneh, Techera and Riveiro.

Whereas MLS officiating has tended to go against the Whitecaps in the past, everything seems to be going our way nowadays, and we were gifted a mysterious penalty in the 6th minute. Rivero took a stumble and ended up on the turf nowhere hear the ball when the Whitecaps hit a high cross into the box and, tweet, referee Chris Penso was pointing to the spot.

It was one of those calls that makes you realize the MLS still has a long way to go in terms of quality officiating. No wonder RSL’s coach was sent off after flying into a rage soon after. If I was an RSL fan I would be pretty disgusted, but I am not, so I eagerly awaited the penalty kick with the rest of Vancouver. We hardly needed the favour on this night, but thank you Mr. Penso.

Rivero dispatched the penalty kick easily it was 1-0.

The game hunkered down into a kind of physical struggle with not a lot of flowing football from either team but Kekuta Manneh in particular looked very lively, got a lot of the ball, and looked primed to do some damage. The little Gambian is not a good passer of the ball but on this night he attacked RSL’s defence on the right rather than his usual left and he hit a low cross to the far post for Goal King Kah to tap in for his third in two matches.

It was great to see Pa Modou Kah score another goal; he just seems to be scoring goals for the fun of it right now. We all had a great laugh about it in the stands and it was turning into one of those carnival atmosphere matches. RSL had been broken and the chances of them recovering looked very poor indeed.

In the second half Jordan Harvey shone and looked full of vim and vigour. It was only matter of time before the Whitecaps scored again, and Mezquida found Harvey streaking down the left flank and hit him with a perfectly weighted pass. RSL defenders had failed to pick up Harvey’s run and the left back curled a teasing ball in front of RSL’s net. Rivero stretched for it and missed it, but Techera was alone at the far post to side foot the ball into the net to make it 3-0 after only 50 minutes.

Any thought the Whitecaps would just lock up the shop and defend were brought to an end when Mezquida gave way to Pedro Morales. Morales looked the best we have seen him since his calf injury, and he delighted the crowd with some beautiful passes and creative plays.

Techera’s second goal came from a clearance resulting from a Morales free kick. An RSL defender struggled to cope with Morales’ hard swerving cross and coughed up the ball to the top of the box to a waiting Techera. Etcher took advantage of the ample time he had and smashed the ball low to RSL keeper Jeff Antinella’s left side into the net. It was 4-0 Whitecaps and we all wondered if the Whitecaps had ever won a game by such a margin before.

Teibert and Mattocks came on as substitutes but made no real impact on this game. The Whitecaps saw out the rest of the match easily and lapped up the appreciation of a happy crowd.

Even though I am happy we won 4-0 I feel disappointed we missed the opportunity to see some top MLS footballers because RSL played a B team.

With teams vying for the US Open Cup, the Canadian Championship, the CONCACAF Champions League and the MLS Supporter’s Shield, fixture congestion has caught up with MLS in a big way.

With such small squads and such low payrolls, MLS teams are ill equipped to deal with so many matches. It is the fans who suffer and watch inferior football.

Even though I am a football fanatic and enjoy watching almost anything on a soccer pitch, I can’t help but feel a bit cheated by it all having watched two matches in a row with teams playing inferior squads.

More MLS growing pains, and one hopes MLS Commissioner Don Garber is thinking hard about a solution to this problem.

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