Why I didn’t go to see Crystal Palace

July 19, 2016 at 8:29 pm | Posted in General Football, Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016, Whitecaps Season 2016 | 11 Comments
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I am a football nut.  I can’t walk by a football match at any level without stopping to see what is going on.  I have been a season’s ticket holder for the 86ers and the Vancouver Whitecaps since 1998 or so.   So why didn’t I go see Crystal Palace play the Whitecaps? Especially after griping for years about no friendlies!

  1. No benefit to season’s ticket holders.  While I admit I made no enquiries directly of the ticket prices, the rumours floating around my section were that prices for our seats were more expensive than we pay for a Whitecaps MLS match.  Pay more for a friendly? No thanks.
  2. I went to see West Ham play in Seattle recently.  Though West Ham is my favourite English club, the team put on a poor show.  There were no names on the jerseys.  The players did not even bother to wave at the West Ham supporters section before they slunk off after an indifferent performance resulting in a 3-0 defeat to the Seattle Sounders.  The players and the coaching staff clearly didn’t care. It was a very bad reflection of the English Premier League brand and was a disincentive to attend to see another Premier league team in a friendly.
  3. The other rumour running around was that Palace manager Alan Pardew had made comments to the effect that fans here would simply flip over a Premier League side no matter which one it was, and that frankly, we wouldn’t know the difference between one team or another in any event.  More arrogance from the English Premier League!  We do know the difference and know that Palace are generally a quite unspectacular second division club, albeit one that has very recently become somewhat more ambitious.
  4. This was not really a Vancouver Whitecaps gig, but someone else’s.  The fact is this match was not really a Whitecaps initiative, it was just an event they had agreed to participate in.  The lack of control the Whitecaps had meant there was a lot of confusion in the marketing of the match.  When Manchester City came to town back in 2011, the match was a part of the season’s ticket package for the Vancouver Whitecaps.  That set a precedent and I found myself confused and bewildered by the crazy swing the other way where the match seemingly cost more than a Whitecaps match. The marketing of the match was very alienating.
  5. Fan fatigue.  The match timing was poor.  The Whitecaps have had three very recent home games  in close proximity.  I am tired!  If you have to skip one match of these four, then surely you skip the friendly before the other full-blooded matches.
  6. It’s only Crystal Palace.  Sure they are in the Premier League, but Palace is not a well known side outside of England.  I can remember reading about them in Shoot! magazine as a boy,  and they do have a cool name, but they are not really a team that sets the pulse racing.  Their only real claim to recent fame was that they were defeated in the most recent FA Cup final.  Boring!
  7. Top players missing.  In the run-up to the match it became clear that this would really be a reserves match.  Palace had many of their top players missing due to participation in the recent Euro 2016.  If we want to see any Palace players, those are the ones we want to see!  Pay more money to see second stringers play second stringers? No, thanks.

I am a huge football fan but all of these factors turned me off of this match.  I never really got any kind of convincing argument or persuasion from the Whitecaps or anyone else to rebut my feelings about it and to convince me that this match was worth attending.

Ultimately this was a case of poor timing, poor planning and poor marketing.  If the Whitecaps had more control over the enterprise and had given season’s ticket holders a tangible benefit, it could have been more successful.

 

 

Caps lucky to scrape out draw with Orlando

July 17, 2016 at 10:00 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016, Whitecaps Season 2016 | 3 Comments
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This match was fun in terms of entertainment value.  This in spite of the fact that yet another marquis player, the illustrious Brazilian Kaka, failed to show up at BC Place.  There seems to be a rule in Major League Soccer that star players are disqualified from playing in Vancouver.

There were some notables who did show up for Orlando, however, including Canadian Cyle Larin and Brazilian Julio Baptista, two very good strikers.  Both would do damage to the Whitecaps on this night.

The Whitecaps started with Ousted in goal,  Harvey at left back, Waston and Parker in the middle and Smith at right back.  Laba and Jacobson played in defensive midfield, while Morales and Bolanos flanked Mezquida in offensive midfield.  Kudo started as lone striker up front.

The Whitecaps defending on this night was very poor and it was only through dumb luck and some great goalkeeping that the Whitecaps managed a draw.  The Whitecaps continued the poor form that had them starting the match with the worst defensive record in the Western Conference of MLS.

It took only 13 minutes for Orlando to find out that Jordan Smith was the weak spot in the Whitecaps armour.  Orlando’s Boden easily cut back past Smith and passed the ball back to the waiting Baptista who hit a solid low shot towards the Whitecaps net from 18 yards.  The ball took a slight touch off of Laba’s boot and the ball flew through the legs of  an unbalanced Ousted.  The big keeper looked foolish and clumsy on the play but he would make up for this awkward looking goal with superb saves in the rest of the match.

Jacobson had a very good match and it was his hard work that created an equalizer on 34 minutes for the Whitecaps.    Jacobson fought his was through two Orlando players to possess the ball at the top of Orlando’s penalty area.  He slipped the ball to Bolanos who took two touches to nut-meg his defender, who brought him down.  It might have been a penalty but for the fact that the ball fell to Kudo directly in front of goal; the Japanese striker lashed the ball towards Orlando’s net only for big Joe Bendik to stop it with his foot.  The ball spun in the air directly to Mezquida who made no mistake and headed the ball into Orlando’s goal.

It was a bit of a pinball goal, but full credit was due to the Whitecaps for putting heavy pressure on Orlando’s defence.  It was 1-1.

Pedro Morales had a bit of a quiet match, but had a big impact on the scoreline nonetheless using his dead ball expertise.  Just before halftime the Whitecaps won a free kick 35 yards out to the left of Orlando’s goal.  Bolanos and Morales both lined up as candidates to cross the ball in but Morales took the kick and hit a hard curling cross to the far post.  Incredibly, our striker Kudo was completely unmarked and slammed the ball home with a solid header which flew past Orlando’s keeper.  It was a beautiful goal but one wondered how our lone striker could escape the notice of the entire Orlando defence and score with no opposition at all.  The poor defending was not only practised by the home club.

Cyle Larin proved to be a threat for Orlando all night.  The Canadian striker was one of the few strikers we have seen who could go toe to toe physically with our Costa Rican giant Waston.  Larin nearly drew the match just before half time but Ousted made a great save off of the high shot to keep the score at 2-1.

The half ended 2-1 and it looked like this could be a win with the Whitecaps heading to the dressing room on an emotional high having just scored.

It was Larin, however,  who drew the game level just after half time with a deft close range header from a perfect in-swinging cross from Molino.  The goal exhibited our lack of defensive organization as big Larin ended up competing for the ball with wee Jordan Harvey.  Guess who won?  Neither Waston nor Parker, who are supposed to be our centre backs, were any where near Larin.  It is a mystery to me why and I am sure also to Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson.

The Whitecaps dodged a bullet when Jordan Smith brought Baptista down in the penalty area with a clumsy challenge.  Smith looked like an amateur on the play, failing to clear the ball from danger and having it bounce back to Baptista’s feet in the penalty area.  You could see it coming as the experienced Brazilian wrong-footed Smith who fouled Baptista right in front of the referee for a penalty kick.

Baptista picked up the ball to take the penalty then promptly did a “Zaza” by hitting the ball embarrassingly high and wide of the goal.  The cheers and laughter from the home crowd which followed stung Baptista who put his head in his hands in despair.

In the 76th minute the crowd got what we were hoping for: a look at new Whitecaps signing Alfonso Davies.  Those who paid attention to the Canadian Championship will know him well, but this was Davies’ first start in an MLS game under an MLS contract.  Davies impressed with his speed and work rate.  Though only 15 years old he proved he could withstand physical challenges as well and even win them.  He had a decent crack at goal after a surging run that had Orlando’s defenders in a panic. Davies looks the real thing, unlike the other young players who have come up from the Whitecaps largely barren youth system.  Could he be the next Peter Beardley?

Masato Kudo nearly put the Whitecaps ahead with a header provided for him by Mezquida on a Whitecaps counter attack.  Bendik proved himself equal to the task of saving the near post effort. Had Kudo chosen the far post this could have been the winning goal.

Orlando had its own go at winning the match just before the end of time off of a corner kick.  Orlando defender Mateos got a free header at the far post, which again exposed the Whitecaps lack of defensive organization.  The header was saved by Ousted, who knocked the ball over the bar with his arm for a miraculous reflex save.  Not for the first time, the Whitecaps had David Ousted to thank for what the Whitecaps got out of the game.

A sombre Carl Robinson later expressed his gratitude for the point the Whitecaps got.  The fact is it was a point which was quite undeserved.  But for an incompetent Baptista penalty kick and a miracle save by Ousted, this could have easily been a 4-2 loss.

It would be no surprise to see new signing David Edgar line up with Waston at centre back with Parker shifting over to right back to replace the struggling Jordan Smith in future matches.   Smith showed all of his defensive shortcomings in this match and proved that a defence is only as strong as its weakest player.

While Tim Parker has played well, his partnership with Waston is not as successful as last year’s Waston-Kah partnership.   With Kah now unfit due to age and injuries I hope that David Edgar is up for the job because a solution to our defensive woes must come or this year will be a complete wash.

 

 

 

Techera rocket lights up miserable match

July 14, 2016 at 9:52 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016, Whitecaps Season 2016 | 1 Comment
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The fare that Major League Soccer serves up in its midweek matches is pretty lukewarm stuff.  The participating clubs have usually played on the weekend previous and often have to play the weekend after.  The tendency is to play reserves and give stars a rest, at least for most of the match.

Such was the case at BC Place on Wednesday night, where the match was so boring it felt like an inter-squad game or a reserves match.  The second half was so dull that conversation with neighbouring fans was more riveting than the game itself.

Real Salt Lake played only a few known players and filled its game day roster with reserves.  Whitecaps coach Robbo fielded a weakened line up with Kekuta Manneh unplayable due to an ankle injury and Pedro Morales on the bench nursing his tender calves.  Morales would feature later on in the match.

It was mostly first team on defence, however, as Ousted guarded the net with Harvey, Parker, Waston and Smith in front of him.  Laba and Jacobsen played defensive midfield with Bolanos, Mezquida and Techera ahead of them.  On a happy note, Masato Kudo made his comeback from a dreadful jaw injury against the Chicago Fire a month or so ago as our lone striker.

Bolanos was our best player in the first half, and it was he who unlocked the RSL defence with a deft pass to Laba, who had made a rare well-timed foray into the offensive third of the pitch.  Laba brought the ball towards the goal line and crossed a vicious low cross in front of RSL’s net.  Two RSL defenders fought Kudo and Techera for the ball. One of the RSL defenders got to the ball first, but kicked the ball off of his own man into the net.  It was 1-0 with an own goal.  It just served to prove how goals come from putting opposing defenders under intense pressure.

Bolanos was also involved in the second goal when an RSL defender cleared the ball out of his own end with a poor effort that Bolanos brought down into the path of a Charging Techera who lashed the ball on the half volley from 30 yards towards RSL’s goal.  RSL keeper Antinella moved towards the ball but could not stop it from crashing into the top corner of the net.  Techera’s goal was a sumptuous feast in what was a match starved of flair.  It was one of the finest goals we have seen at BC Place since another little fellow called Camilo played there.

It was 2-0 at the half and a poor RSL team looked hardly capable of coming back.  They had some good opportunities in the first half but skied their efforts over the bar.  Ousted had to make a point blank save which looked more impressive than it was.  The header was weak and Ousted hammed it up a bit, which some goalkeepers tend to do!

A prominent pair of fellows called Morales (Pedro and Javier) made appearances for their respective teams but too late to really get going.

We got a look at new signing Marcel de Jong, a Canadian international who came to us from Ottawa FC of the NASL.  Robbo played him on the left side of midfield. De Jong’s touch and fitness were way off, which was a bit of a disappointment.  He clearly needs to work on his fitness and mental alertness. He gave the ball away in our own defensive third in an embarrassing way, and even De Jong himself could be seen wincing at how bad it was.  The Whitecaps fitness coaches have some real work to do with him.

The Whitecaps did their best to chuck the win away again by retreating into a defensive shell, but luckily RSL rang a late effort off of the crossbar and Ousted was able to enjoy a clean sheet for the first time in a while.

Perhaps MLS should revisit these mid-week games, which are almost always inferior to those played on the weekends.  With the restrictive salary cap MLS limits its teams to, squad players are not really worth watching when starters are rested.

Whitecaps blow it in extra time again

July 10, 2016 at 5:45 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016, Whitecaps Season 2016 | 1 Comment
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Shit!  Did that just happen again?

Wasn’t it just ten days ago that the Whitecaps  were up 2-1 in injury time? Weren’t we fans already savouring the victory that was to come?  Didn’t the Whitecaps then blow it in injury time by conceding a stupid goal with no time left on the clock?

It really was deja vu all over again in the worst possible way.  The Whitecaps are leaving championships and wins on the table because of late, late, defensive errors.  It feels like the Whitecaps are punching us fans in the stomach.  No doubt Carl Robinson feels the same way we fans do.

What was inexcusable was the fact that the Whitecaps had the numerical advantage when Colorado equalized: Colorado’s Eric Miller had been sent off for a nasty tackle on Pedro Morales in the 71st minute.  You would think the Whitecaps would use their numerical advantage to keep possession of the ball in injury time, or at least to aggressively try to take the ball off of Colorado’s players.  But no, the Whitecaps turtled, fell asleep ball-watching and let the Rapids have the ball without proper challenges.  Colorado were allowed to run rings around the Whitecaps until they scored.   Where is the leadership and where are the brains?

Robinson started the match with Perez up front and Manneh playing behind him with Morales and Bolanos on the flanks.  Jacobsen and Laba played defensive midfield in front of what seemed like a strong back four of Smith, Waston, Parker and Harvey.  David Ousted played brilliantly in goal again.

The match started well with Waston getting on the end of another wonderful Bolanos cross which swung in towards Colrado keeper Tim Howard’s back post.  The ball was so accurate that Waston was able to meet it with no real challenge.  Waston’s point blank header bounced off of a helpless Howard into the net.  The home crowd were buoyant and the Whitecaps were up 1-0 after only ten minutes of play.

The mood turned sombre however, when Kekuta Manneh limped off the field with a bad ankle after being fouled in midfield just before half time.  He was spotted in a walking cast later on, and our brilliant, if inconsistent, Manneh looked to be seriously injured, adding to the Whitecaps scoring problems. Robinson brought Hurtado in with speed clearly a priority.

The Colorado Rapids have been one of the big surprises this year in MLS.  They were in the basement of the Western Conference last year and now sit near the top in second place.  They were able to move the ball quickly and intelligently between their players, which often caught the Whitecaps flat footed.  Some quick intelligent runs led to the Rapid’s equalizer from former Wolverhampton and Ireland striker Kevin Doyle.  Doyle was supplied a perfect through ball from Shkelzen Gashi which Doyle then slid past Ousted to equalize the match after 58 minutes.

Waston was getting things done at both ends of the pitch, saving a goal with a goal-line header.

Circumstances turned strongly in the Whitecaps favour when Colorado’s Miller flipped Pedro Morales over with a nasty tackle from behind.  Miller was sent off by referee Allen Chapman.

The big American goalkeeper Howard made a superb save off of Bolanos, who had thrown himself into a volley when he was found by a Hurtado flick-on at the far post.  Howard used his foot to stop a sure goal.  It was a world class save.  At that point it looked like the Whitecaps would not score, but they did eventually score late in the match.

The Whitecaps pressed for the winner to no avail until Morales, still limping from Miller’s tackle, was taken off for Techera.   Fellow substitute Nico Mezquida found Techera with a high ball that Colorado could not cope with.  Techera was through alone and Colorado defender Watts pulled him on the shoulder.  Techera went down like a ton of bricks and the referee fell for it.  It was a very soft penalty, but there is no doubt Watts pulled on Techera’s shoulder. The Wee man took the responsibility of taking the penalty and put it into the net, with Howard guessing the right way and getting a touch, to his credit.

With only three minutes left of regular time the Whitecaps looked to have won the match.  All they needed to do was to keep the ball with their eleven men against Colorado’s ten to win 2-1.  There were five minutes of injury time and the Whitecaps ceded possession of the ball to Colorado and invited them to attack.  It was a crucial tactical error that cost the Whitecaps the win.

The Whitecaps did a lot of ball watching during injury time and eventually that former Wolves man Doyle got the ball in between the Whitecaps midfield and defensive line and ran at the Whitecaps back four.  Waston ran out to meet him, but Doyle got around him, leaving the big Costa Rican to chase him.  Doyle used his advantage to chip the ball to the far post over a despairing Jordan Harvey, who had failed to pick up defender Axel Sjoberg at the far post.  Sjoberg deftly headed past Ousted from a steep angle and the ball wafted gently into the side netting at the opposite side of the goal.

Rapids celebrated their stunning achievement.  The game was over with a 2-2 tie instead of a win for the Whitecaps.  For the second home game on the trot, the Whitecaps had thrown a good result away during injury time.  Last year’s defensive strength has mysteriously disappeared from the Whitecaps 2016 repertoire.

Soon after the game came the news that Marcel De Jong and David Edgar, two Canadian defenders, would be joining the club.  Let’s hope this proves helpful because the Whitecaps need to go back to the drawing board where defending is concerned.

With Octavio Rivero off to Chilean club Colo Colo, there are real problems at the other end of the pitch as well, especially if Manneh’s injury proves to be as serious as it looked.

With goals flying in to our net and no real heir to striker Rivero in sight, it looks like it might to be a tough summer for the boys in blue and white and their fans.

 

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