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.

 

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.

 

 

 

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