Whitecaps tie Colorado in injury time

September 25, 2016 at 10:13 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016, Whitecaps Season 2016 | 1 Comment
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There was a pall of gloom that hung over BC Place as the fans filed in to see the Vancouver Whitecaps play the Colorado Rapids.   There was no urgency as the usually lazy Whitecaps fans showed up even later than usual, and by the time of kickoff the ground was only half-filled. The fans, just like the team, were behaving like also-rans.

There was a sense of resignation that this game would be mediocre just like much the Whitecaps 2016 campaign.   This turned out to be wrong as the match eventually lurched into life in the second half when there were some extraordinary moments of quality football.

Knowing the Whitecaps were desperate and needing a win to maintain even the faintest hope of playoff participation, Coach Carl Robinson abandoned his usual one striker formation and started with two men up front: Giles Barnes and Eric Hurtado. In central midfield Laba and Morales were paired up flanked by Bolanos on the right and 15 year old Davies on the left. Smith, Edgar, Waston and Harvey protected Ousted in goal.

The Whitecaps were poor in the first half. For a team that was supposed to be playing desperate soccer seeking a playoff spot, they played like they had already given up.

The Whitecaps conceded an early goal which demonstrated that Waston’s defensive brains were not functioning. Waston was drawn forward out of position chasing a Colorado striker when Colorado’s Sam Cronin lofted a ball straight down the middle over Waston’s head to a streaking Marlon Hairston who took possession of the ball with only Harvey in pursuit. Ousted charged out of his goal and 18 yard box and tried a bizarre Kamikaze dive to head the ball away from Hairston’s feet but his timing was well off and Hairston passed the ball to an unmarked Dominique Badji who finished easily while David Edgar looked on behind the play. No less than four Whitecaps defenders were too late arriving on the scene.

It was a comical goal which underscored the naïve mistake-ridden defending that has blighted the Whitecaps entire season. We might expect to see this kind of thing in the reserve squad but it was unforgivably poor for a professional match.

Morales had a relatively good half and did play some sublime balls through for players to run on to, but those same players soon gave up possession of the ball, with right back Smith being especially guilty.

Robinson must have used some choice words in the dressing room during the second half, and well he should have done, because it was the worst half we have seen the Whitecaps play at home all season long.   The fans were chatting together like it was a baseball game because nothing was really happening on the pitch.

The Whitecaps came out in the second half with a different kind of spirit. They won a corner kick (which has been relatively rare this season) and Bolanos expertly curled an in-swinger for the giant Waston to deflect inside the far post past big Tim Howard in Colorado’s goal. It was 1-1 with the greater part of the second half to play.

Soon after the Whitecaps were caught with another ball over the central defensive pair which was not anticipated by either Waston or Edgar. The other Colorado striker Badji was through alone on goal with Waston in pursuit. As Waston tried to catch him he bundled Badji over in the penalty area and was promptly sent off by referee Toledo. Albanian international Gashi confidently stroked the ball into the Whitecaps’ net on the resulting penalty kick. It was 2-1 with 33 minutes left to play.

The Whitecaps worked hard with the 10 men they had against Colorado’s 11. Barnes and Hurtado worked especially hard up front to get the ball back and it was these two who created a second goal through their industry. Hurtado got possession of the ball from Barnes with no less than 5 Colorado defenders surrounding him on the left flank. He beat one defender and tried to cross the ball past the others but it bounced off of a defender to the feet of a surging Barnes who strode past the defenders to deliver a low cross to our waiting captain Morales. Morales coolly and accurately passed the ball into the net to level the game on 70 minutes. Morales, like the rest of the crowd, seemed shocked that he had actually scored a goal in the run of play after so long.

Soon after the Whitecaps conceded a free kick outside of the box and Gashi scored a wonderful curling free kick the likes of which we haven’t seen since a fellow called Camilo played here. It was 3-2 on 75 minutes and it looked like too much to ask for the Whitecaps to come back a third time, especially with only 10 men on the pitch.

The Whitecaps refused to give up however, and with a scandalously low three minutes of injury time left there was precious little left to work with when the Whitecaps scored to tie it all up at 3-3. Hurtado, who had run tirelessly all night, got his just desserts.

Jordan Harvey latched on to a poor clearance header from Colorado’s defence and got a decent cross in between his two markers; the ball went to the near post where it was deflected off of a Colorado defender’s head straight to Hurtado at the far post. Hurtado hit the cross bar with his header but the ball then bounced off a Colorado defender over the goal line as Howard struggled to juggle the ball out of his net. The linesman signalled for a goal and it completed a wonderful come back for the Whitecaps. It was the last play of the match.

It was a great finish to a peculiar, emotionally disjointed game.   A game which had started with the bland mediocrity which has typified this MLS season in Vancouver had ended as a thriller, of sorts. Had the Whitecaps played well in the first half they might have taken all three points to at least put some pressure on other Whitecaps teams fighting to get the last playoff spot.   With only one point to show from this game, playoff hopes dimmed even further.

 

Hurtado horror: Red Bulls 1 Whitecaps 0

September 5, 2016 at 9:52 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016, Whitecaps Season 2016 | 1 Comment
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Oh, the humanity.  Poor Eric Hurtado died a horrible striker’s death in front of 20,000 or so horrified Vancouver Whitecaps fans on Saturday night.

The international matches for CONCACAF teams meant the Whitecaps were missing no less than six possible starters for the match against the New York Red Bulls.  Waston, Bolanos, Perez, De Jong, Barnes and Edgar were all missing.  The Red Bulls were missing their talented playmaking midfielder Sacha Kljestan.  They did have goal scorer Bradley Wright -Phillips, however, who sealed the Whitecaps fate on this night.

It was a patchwork team for the Whitecaps with Harvey at left back, Parker and Jacobson at centre back, and Smith at right back.  Teibert and Laba patrolled in front of the defense, and Morales, Techera and Aird supported lone striker Hurtado up front.

There was one real story to this game: the stark contrast between the scoring ability of Bradley Wright-Phillips and the lack of scoring ability of Eric Hurtado.

Wright-Phillips had one good chance and took it; Hurtado had five good chances and missed the net on all of them. It was not as if it could be said that we were robbed by an excellent goalkeeping performance by keeper Robles in the Red Bull’s goal; Hurtado missed the net on every shot he had.  The statistics showed the Whitecaps had 12 shots but no shots on goal.

We fans were subjected to another poor MLS referee in Sorin Stoica, who seemed more interested in his own in-depth explanations and conversations with players than he was in keeping the match flowing for the people who had paid to watch.  He created a first for the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS play when he sent Carl Robinson off for disputing a throw in call.  Never were the words “ref you suck” chanted by the fans so well deserved.

The Whitecaps did a good job of keeping scoring opportunities low for the Red bulls.  They also created numerous great chances for its one striker, but the tiger was toothless and could not go in to kill the prey.

The winning goal came early in the second half. Red Bull’s defender Collin hit a high clearing header into the Whitecaps half and for some reason, Parker let the ball hit the pitch and bounce rather than clear the ball before it hit the ground.  After the bounce Parker  weakly headed the ball to Red Bulls midfielder Phillipe as his mark, Wright Phillips, slipped past him.  Phillipe found Wright-Phillips, who moved across the top of the Whitecaps penalty area with the ball to be confronted by an off-balance Jordan Harvey.  Harvey could only weakly kick the ball into the striker’s midriff, and the ball bounced down for Wright-Phillips to hit past a sprawling David Ousted.

Tim Parker’s sophomore blues continued on this night and we can only hope he is learning from these basic mistakes.  His poor defending has been a major contributor to the large number of goals the Whitecaps have had scored on them this season.

The poor fitness of Pedro Morales was laid bare as he could only last for two-thirds of the match.  The speculation is that he has tendinitis of the knees, which would only be irritated by all of the time the Whitecaps spend playing and practicing on plastic grass.  Mezquida came on in the number 10 role to finish out the game.

Kudo and Davies were brought on for Techera and Smith in a desperate attempt to score a goal, but neither made an impact.   It seemed foolish that Davies was not brought on earlier than the 79th minute.  This game needed a gamble and the Whitecaps coaching staff were too conservative to bring him on earlier.

Hurtado worked like a dog on the night,and got himself into great scoring positions, but missed chance after chance. Had Hurtado scored two of the many chances he had, it would have seen the Whitecaps back in playoff contention.  Instead, the Whitecaps face an even more daunting task than before, though they are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs yet.  Hurtado needs to drop down into the NASL to find his scoring touch.  He simply does not have what it takes to play at the MLS level.

It is hard to believe that heads won’t roll soon.

Carl Robinson remains very popular with the fans, which was demonstrated by the standing ovation he was given when he was sent off by yet another nutty MLS referee.  There is no doubt that the people responsible for player acquisition have a lot to answer for, because the players coming in to the team in 2016 have been poorer in quality than those that left in the off season.

I put the blame squarely at the feet of the owners of the team, who have failed to stump up the necessary cash for a striker who can actually score consistently in the MLS.

Even though it has been years since Camilo Sanvezzo flew the coop down to Mexico, his ghost still haunts the Vancouver Whitecaps.  Camilo could finish virtually every chance he got, and he could create his own goals, too.  Every striker since Camilo has been a bit of a disappointment, with the exception of Kenny Miller, who also had his troubles scoring when he first came here.

Sad to say that 2016 looks like a year in which things have moved dramatically backwards for the Vancouver Whitecaps rather than forwards.

 

 

 

 

 

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Whitecaps disappoint in San Jose loss

August 13, 2016 at 5:35 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps | 1 Comment

The mandate was clear for the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place: in order to stay in serious playoff contention they must beat San Jose. Having fallen to seventh place and with Seattle and San Jose surging, They had to win to keep pace.  Instead, they fell further behind, losing 2-1 in a match in which they performed very poorly. It was one of those nights that made you cringe over and over again.

It was a sad effort the Whitecaps put on display for the BC Place faithful.

New boys David Edgar and Nigel De Jong lined up in our defensive line alongside Parker and Waston.  It was to prove another leaky night as two more goals were conceded.   Coach Carl Robinson’s ceaseless experimentation continued as De Jong played so high up the pitch the Whitecaps looked like they were playing three at the back with Waston and Parker playing on the outside of Edgar.   The sight of Waston playing as a full back came as a bit of a shock to all of us!

Robbo’s dance with Pedro Morales continued as Morales was moved back alongside Mathias Laba in a more defensive position, playing passes from a deep position.  Morales was so far back at times he looked like a sweeper.

Giles Barnes got his first look at a competitive home match starting on the left side next to Mezquida, with Bolanos playing on the right flank. Masato Kudo was up front.

The sad fact about this match was the lack of enjoyment the players showed. The lack of harmony and the poor team play made the Whitecaps look like a team of guys who don’t like each other. This is astonishing since last year the Whitecaps seemed to be playing just to have fun with each other but were getting some great results. It looks like all of the fun left with the players who left the team in the off season.

Those players that have come in to Vancouver most recently have been underwhelming to say the least. De Jong, Edgar and Barnes distinguished themselves only through their mediocrity. The fact the Whitecaps have brought in some very average players only seems to have demoralized the players in the Whitecaps squad, who must have been hoping for better.

Whoever it was that thought Giles Barnes was going to help matters must have had a red face after last night’s performance. Barnes looked strictly like a meat and potatoes kind of player. I suppose there is a reason Houston is in the basement of the West; it is quite possibly the play of Barnes.

The fact is the players who came into the squad since last year have nowhere near replaced the quality we lost in the off-season. No wonder Pedro Morales looks depressed.

The Whitecaps conceded early with a point blank header off of a corner kick from Amarikwa. The odd thing about the goal is that Laba ducked and let the ball go over his head so Amarikwa could score. Ousted stopped the ball but then appears to have taken the ball with him over the goal line. Sad to say this was another grand gaffe by Ousted. It was a play made for the dreaded video replay, because the linesman didn’t see it and the referee was in no position to see it either. It was one of those MLS ref calls that has been going against us since day one in this league.  It was not a goal going against the run of play because San Jose had hit the cross bar a minute earlier.

The Whitecaps began the second half brightly with some shots on goal, none of which really challenged Bingham in San Jose’s goal.

Laba’s troubles continued when he was beaten for the ball in midfield by Quintero. Quintero then fed Dawkins on the right flank. Dawkins was one-on-one with Parker, who gave the striker too much space and was easily beaten when Dawkins dragged the ball past him. Dawkins beat Ousted to the far corner and it was 2-0. Parker’s play was typical on this night when all of the Whitecaps players were second best to those of San Jose.

Laba was substituted and Aird was brought in. It was Robbo’s message to Laba that he had played very poorly.

Kudo had a very quiet night up front but just before he was substituted he found himself alone in front of the net due to a lucky bounce. He fumbled on the ball however, and was soon covered by a San Jose defender. Kudo chose to shoot rather than give the ball to Bolanos, who was wide open and in a better position to shoot. The opportunity fizzled out.

Substitutes Davies and Perez seemed to brighten the prospects for the Whitecaps briefly, and Perez hit the crossbar when he should have scored off of a perfect cross from Mezquida. Perez was all-alone but could not get the height to head the ball downwards.

Mezquida scored in extra time after a perfectly executed corner kick, but sadly it was the first thing the Whitecaps had done all night. It was too late to save this match.

By the time Nico scored, fully two-thirds of the crowd had called it a night. The emptiness of BC Place spoke volumes about how poorly the Whitecaps played on this night.

Though the Whitecaps are still mathematically in it to make the playoffs it is clear the team and its coaches have run out of ideas and inspiration. Robbo’s players, who played so hard for him last year, appear to have given up the ghost. None of the players is leading and those players that led last year have fallen silent.

It is a very sorry state of affairs.

 

 

Whitecaps looking awful in Texas and 2016

July 31, 2016 at 10:17 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016, Whitecaps Season 2016 | 2 Comments
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What happened to all of the fun of Whitecaps 2015?  Where did all of that great  squad harmony go?  Last year the Whitecaps were highly motivated and the players were playing for each other in what was one big Robbo love-in.  The recent indifferent back-to-back  performances in Texas were enough to get even the best Whitecaps fans questioning whether it was worth it to spend four hours watching the Whitecaps play really awful football.

The Whitecaps have always struggled in Texas.  In the last two weeks they have picked up a 0-0 tie in Houston and a 2-0 loss to Dallas.  While it would be easy to say this is just more of the same, the Whitecaps have looked very poor recently and the team and squad have grown very stale.

One of the reasons for our poor performance in 2016 is that key players in our squad have gone downhill in their performances since last year.

The biggest disappointment is Pedro Morales, who shuffled around the pitch against both Dallas and Houston looking like an old man who would rather be doing something else. Coach Robinson is trying in vain to find a place for Morales to be effective since he no longer has the fitness and stamina to play anywhere close to 90 minutes in the number 10 role.  Effectively Morales has become a passenger who plays for his free kick ability and nothing more.  His performance against Dallas was truly pathetic. How many balls did he pass to the other team?

Morales is not the only player who is playing worse than last year.  Other key players such as Laba, Waston, Parker, and Manneh have either plateaued or gone backwards in their quality.  The only player in the squad who has improved is Mezquida, who rarely gets a start.

Sadly, it looks like complacency has crept into the squad.  Parker, Waston, and Ousted have become the leagues’ leakiest defensive partnership.

Even David Ousted, who has made some very spectacular saves, has let the team down with some very basic goalkeeping errors this season as he did today in Dallas, where he just failed to get down to a routine save.    One such basic error cost us the 2016 Canadian Championship.

While last year’s highly motivated team was characterized by their fun-loving character, this year’s team just seems bored and complacent. The players have hit some kind of ceiling and don’t show any sign of wanting to get better as players or as a team.

While Coach Carl Robinson has been a very popular manager he and his coaching staff must take their share of blame.  The players seem to be just malingering with no real drive to become better.  Are Robinson and his coaches losing their  grip on the team?

Perhaps  we need a more discipline oriented coach who is willing to really punish players for underperforming.  Morales needs a real tongue lashing but instead he gets the Captain’s arm band.  I don’t think there is any captain in the entire MLS who underperforms like Morales.

The Whitecaps ownership also seems to be disengaged and lacking in ambition.  The recent Fabian Espindola farce shows that players really don’t want to be in Vancouver.  Teams like Dallas and LA seem to have mastered the art of maximizing MLS rules in order to build solid squads.  I would say that the Whitecaps are using MLS rules well below their potential.  The team is suffering and has had a major setback since last season, as our huge goals against number demonstrates.

Perhaps there is some Cascadia virus going around; all three teams in Cascadia seem to have caught colds.  This is unfortunate, since the support they get from their fans is the envy of most MLS clubs.  Cascadia teams don’t do themselves any favours by playing on plastic grass, the one thing that holds all three clubs back from being regarded as serious football clubs.

I think it is time we stopped being Mr. nice guys.  This Whitecaps team needs a shake-up because players are just not performing on the pitch.  Robbo’s love-in is over and it is time heads started to roll both in the squad and outside it.

 

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