Refs and foul weather undo Whitecaps in Colorado

May 25, 2015 at 10:32 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps | Leave a comment
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Oh, how sad the refereeing is in Major League Soccer. We tune in or pay to see to see a professional match which gets spoiled by refereeing not worthy of a kid’s game. This most recent decision was so bad that MLS initially decided it was too ripe to put on the hi-light reel even though it was the crucial play in the match. The replay of the incident was added later after the outcry which followed.

Late in the match it was 1-0 for Colorado when Pedro Morales strode up to the ball and fired it over the wall, scoring a beauty which appeared to be the equalizer. There was some pushing and shoving around the wall, and Pa Modou Kah did apply shoulder pressure on the man next to him and then fell across the front of the wall. It made no difference to the shot Morales had taken, and the Whitecaps gained no advantage in the goal by any of it.

In professional games, this is a goal. In a kids game perhaps a referee wants to teach the kids the rules by calling everything but that is not what the professional game is about.

Coach Carl Robinson had fielded an experimental line-up with several changes from the usual in midfield. Morales sat on the bench while Mauro Rosales returned from injury to take on the number 10 role in central midfield. Teibert sat on the bench and Gershon Koffie took up his post next to Mathias Laba. Kianz Froese and Kekuta Manneh lined up either side of Rosales while the ever present Rivero started up front.

It was a tale of two halves as the Whitecaps had the better of the play in the first half over a very poor Colorado team that looked like a group of Sunday players. Manneh took a wicked first time shot that Colorado Rapids keeper Clint Irwin saved spectacularly. Irwin again palmed another shot off of a Rosales free kick over the bar.

When Rivero rattled a header off of the bar in stoppage time it looked like the Whitecaps would carry the momentum into the second half.

The skies opened up with rain and lightning struck at half time. Half time was extended by half an hour or so as it was deemed too dangerous to play. The timing could not have been worse, as the delay and the conditions worked in Colorado’s favour.

The soaked pitch was much heavier in the second half and the Whitecaps looked sluggish and slow for the rest of the match. Colorado thrived; the slow tempo suited them just fine. Poor conditions almost always suit poorer teams in football.

Froese had a chance soon after the extended break as he got a lucky bounce which left him all alone to the right of goal with only goalkeeper Irwin to beat. He lashed at the ball but slice it well wide. It was a key opportunity missed.

In another play the MLS chose to edit out, Koffie was fouled in midfield and left writhing in pain on the pitch as Colorado crafted an excellent goal to make it 1-0. Striker Gabriel Torres flicked a low pass up behind him for Pittinari to volley in. It was a truly remarkable and well-taken goal but for the clear foul that led to it. Whitecaps coach Robinson was livid.

The truth be told, the Whitecaps as a team had a mental lapse and were all standing around like traffic cones when Torres and Pittinari did their work.

David Ousted performed miracles again in the Whitecaps goal, deflecting a long range effort that was labeled for the back of the net, and stopping a point-blank breakaway shot to keep the Whitecaps in it with hope.

Robinson threw caution to the wind and took out Laba for Morales, Froese for Techera, and Mattocks for the largely ineffective Manneh. Techera drew the fateful free kick in the 80th minute, which is when Referee Rivero (obviously no relation to Octavio) made his mystery call to void Morales’ magnificent free kick.

There was plenty of dancing going on as Kah, Waston and Harvey tried to disrupt and infiltrate Colorado’s wall, but the footage showed no clear foul, just some shoving which was much less than occurs on a typical on a corner kick these days. Like many other fans I have tried to find it, but such is the state of refereeing in MLS that I think we are looking for reason where there really is none.

With this loss it is clear the Whitecaps have caught a bit of a cold. Three losses out of the last 5 games is a bit of a letdown after the early season surge. The lucky bounce which was so ever present at the beginning of the season is now going the other way.

The Whitecaps remain competitive, however, and the Seattle match was the only recent match in which they ran out of ideas and were well beaten.

It is too early to sound the alarm, and this Saturday’s contest with the poor Real Salt Lake is likely to help turn things around.

Seattle Sounders spoil Vancouver’s Cascadia party

May 18, 2015 at 10:41 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps | Leave a comment
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If you are a fan of the Vancouver Whitecaps, it was no fun last Saturday watching the Seattle Sounders dominate us on our own pitch. In recent memory we have had a lot of fun with the Seattle Sounders but it was their turn this time.

The Sounders played an intelligent away game, patiently soaking up pressure while taking advantage of two defensive errors and some poor goalkeeping to snatch a 2-0 win at BC Place.

Great march, but why not get in your seat on time?

Great march, but why not get in your seat on time?

Carl Robinson started with a strong defensive line up with Ousted in goal, Harvey and Beitashour on the flanks, and Waston and Kah in the middle. In midfield Teibert and Laba shielded the back four, while Manneh, Morales and Techera pressed forward in attacking midfield. Rivero was the sole striker.

Techera looked effective but one could not stop wondering what a fit Mauro Rosales could have done in his place against his old teammates.

Robinson chose to award Kekuta Manneh with the start after the little winger had terrorized the Sounders down the I-5 in the last few years. It turned out to be an error. Manneh ran out of ideas during the match and was easily contained by the Sounders defence, who had enough men back to put two on him whenever he got the ball. When he did get through, Manneh put poor crosses and passes to his teammates. In retrospect, Manneh should have been held in reserve and brought on as a substitute to shock Seattle when they were tired.

Seattle were happy to let striker Chad Barrett play alone up front while the illustrious Clint Dempsey played in a deep midfield role. The Teibert-Dempsey rematch did not materialize as Dempsey played so far back he rarely had anything to do with Teibert. Dempsey played very well in midfield, always having time on the ball and never looking flustered.

Our defence, which has been so solid this season, looked very ordinary in this match. An unfortunate aerial challenge by Rivero turned the ball over to Dempsey on the centre line. Dempsey took one touch and put a simple ball between Kah and Waston to a charging Chad Barrett, who had timed his run to perfection. Ousted hesitated and should have rushed out to challenge for the ball, as Barrett needed only one touch four yards into the 18 yard box to score on Ousted’s goal. Had Ousted challenged earlier he had a very good chance to meet with Barrett over the ball in the box for a 50/50 challenge he likely would have won. The Dane has been excellent this year but he took a few steps backward in this match.

Watson and Kah both looked slow and indecisive and seemed to lose track of who was supposed to be marking Barrett. Waston was slow in pursuit, and the Whitecaps were down 1-0 after five minutes.

The rest of the match was an exercise in frustration as Seattle played their advantage perfectly, biding their time soaking up the Whitecaps’ pressure. Once the Sounders managed to get possession, they made it very difficult for the Whitecaps to get the ball back. They patiently used all of the space on the pitch and stroked the ball around for extended periods of time while the Whitecaps stood back and watched.

The Sounders played an enormous number of passes before their second goal in the 38th minute. The Whitecaps sat back and watched as the Sounders lulled them to sleep with seemingly harmless passes around midfield. Marco Pappa, who was unmarked and had lots of room to work, spotted Barrett making a lightening forward run and passed a fantastic curling ball over Barrett’s left shoulder. Barrett cracked a volley with his left foot and beat Ousted, who was caught too far in his goal for the second time. Had Ousted come out further and challenged Barrett, he would have had a real chance to stop the shot. Waston was slow to react to Barrett’s run and put no real pressure on the shooter.

Our complicated captain Pedro Morales had a frustrating match. He lost the ball time and again, and only once did he look a threat to score when he forced Stephan Frei to make a save off of a tricky volley. Morales’s shooting was abysmal all night after this. While Morales seems able to finish difficult trick shots, he seems unable to accurately shoot the simplest of shots of off the ground. With the Sounders parking the bus 20 years out all night, the Whitecaps needed some accurate long range shooting, but no one was able to hit the net with any real effectiveness. The Whitecaps tried to tick-tack-toe it in the Sounders 18 yard box, but with all of the legs standing about it was impossible to get the ball through for a clean shot. Seattle keeper Frei has a relatively relaxed afternoon.

Seattle did what Toronto did on the season’s first match: they sat deep and forced the Whitecaps to try to pass the ball around them. Like the season’s first match, the Whitecaps were unable to do so.

Morales wasted virtually every corner kick he took, and one has to wonder why he is incapable of hitting Waston or Kah’s heads in front of goal. He overshot the whole team on two or three corner kicks which suited Seattle just fine.

I don’t think any of the Whitecaps could walk off of the pitch with their heads held high. Substitutes Koffie, Mattocks and Froese proved unable to change the match at all, and simply put in mediocre performances like the men they replaced.

Coach Robinson would have to admit he lost the battle of ideas with Seattle coach Sigi Schmidt. Schmidt had a good master plan, and put a big team of superb athletes on the pitch who made easy work of our team.

Even Seattle’s travelling fans out-performed those of the Whitecaps. The Sounders faithful were all in their seats twenty minutes before the match started while many Whitecaps fans (including the Southsiders) couldn’t be bothered to show up on time for kickoff.

It was a poor performance not only by the Vancouver Whitecaps, but by their supporters as well.

Whitecaps reserves salvage tie verses Edmonton

May 14, 2015 at 9:44 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps | Leave a comment

Vancouver Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson played a team composed mainly of second stringers in the opening leg of the Canadian Championship against Edmonton. It was meant to be the second leg, but due to weather the second leg will be in Edmonton next Wednesday.

Paulo Tornaghi started in goal, with a back line of Ethan Sampson, Christian Dean, Tim Parker and Sam Adekugbe. Gershon Koffie wore the captain’s armband and played alongside Deybi Flores, Kianz Froese, Nico Mezquida. Eric Hurtado and Darren Mattocks looked to score up front.

It has to be said that the Whitecaps played like a bunch of strangers playing in a pick-up game. There was no cohesion or shape to their play. Frankly, it was a real disappointment because I had hoped to see some of our team’s young talent show what they had to bring to the table. Instead virtually all of the players showed exactly why they are not in the first eleven.

It was a gong show from the start made worse by Koffie coughing up the ball in the fourth minute after receiving an ill-advised and overly casual pass from Flores. Koffee took a heavy first touch in front of the Whitecaps 18 yard box and should have laid off the ball to Parker, but decided to try to dribble himself out of trouble instead. He took another bad touch and coughed up the ball for Edmonton’s striker Ameobi who easily finished to make it 1-0 Edmonton.

Edmonton played a big physical team and soon Sam Adekugbe limped off the pitch to be replaced by Jordan Harvey. Of all of the players on this night, only Harvey gave a convincing performance.

When the first half whistle blew there were a few boos from the restless crowd that had hoped to see better.

The poor form continued in the second half and Eric Hurtado missed an absolute sitter, having found himself with a clear shot in front of goal only to put it well wide. Mattocks crashed a volley over the bar from close range as well.

Kekuta Manneh came on for the ineffective Flores in the 74th minute and injected some life and shape into the game. Robbie Earnshaw came on for Mezquida as the Whitecaps last substitution.

Both Earnshaw and Manneh helped out to turn the match around, and in the last few minutes of normal time Harvey drove a superb ball into the box in the path of charging Whitecaps Earnshaw, Hurtado and Koffie. Hurtado challenged for the ball which fell to Koffie who took one touch and then toe poked the ball into the net.

It looked like the Whitecaps had the winner coming when Earnshaw found himself alone to the right of the goal. He mistimed his strike of the bouncing ball and hit it well wide from close range. It was another embarrassing miss to join those of Hurtado and Mattocks.

When the final whistle blew the consensus was that we had seen some very poor play from the team fielded by Whitecaps’ coach Robinson. He cannot be pleased by what he saw. Save one or two of those who played for the Whitecaps, the rest were very poor. I had thought we had more squad depth than that.

All credit to Canadian football great Colin Miller, who coached his Edmonton team to a great result. He heads back to Edmonton in charge of the two-match series, and the Whitecaps will need to work hard to get out of the hole they are in.

Vancouver Whitecaps thrash Philadelphia 3-0

May 10, 2015 at 10:37 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps | 1 Comment
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The lowly Philadelphia Union made their way to Vancouver for a warm May afternoon clash. It was the top of the West versus the bottom of the East. The open roof at BC Place cast huge shadows accross a sun-drenched pitch.

Vancouver whitecaps coach Carl Robinson put Tim Parker into the match for his first MLS start as right back in place of Stephen Beitashour who  continues to suffer from a sore gluteus maximus muscle. Jordan Harvey seems to have won back his position at left back from Sam Adekugbe.  The giant Kendall Waston joined Pa Modou Kah in the centre of defence. Defensive midfielder Matias Laba was back from suspension and joined Russel Teibert breacking up attacks in midfield.  Captain Pedro Morales was flanked by Kekuta Manneh and Mauro Rosales in attacking midfield. Lone striker Rivero looked to score a goal after a dry spell.

The Whitecaps seem to have a habit of starting games in a lazy fashion. They did so again in this match and the Union nearly capitalized with a blind-side far post run by Andrew Wenger. Only a piece of brilliant goalkeeping by David Ousted saved the Whitecaps from going down 0-1 early. Ousted made himself look big and Wenger shot the ball into Ousted’s body at point blank range. The fact is only a poor shot by Wenger gave Ousted any chance at all, but the big man refused to give up and put himself in a position to stop the ball. Save of the week, here we come.

The whitecaps lost Argentinian midfielder Mauro Rosales to a quad injury early in the match. Replacing him  was “the Bug,” Christian Techera.  Soon after he came on the Bug spotted a surging Morales on the left side of the pitch and found him with a curling pass. There was a hint of offside, but Morales found himself one-on-one with Whitecaps old boy Brian Sylvestre in Philadelphia’s goal. Morales calmly curled the ball past the big lad and put the Whitecaps up 1-0.

Just before halftime the Whitecaps found themselves up 2-0. A poor back pass to Union defender White put him under heavy pressure from Rivero. Rivero bundled White over and stole the ball. He had the time to take a touch and easily slotted home.  It was a mystery as to why a foul was not called, but White went into the tackle with Rivero like a limp piece of lettuce in an attempt to draw a foul which cannot have impressed referee Elfath.

Elfish gave the Whitecaps another gift in the second half for a tackle in the 78th minute in which the Union’s Richie Marquez brought the Bug down. It looked harmless enough and did not injure Techera, who made a meal of it all, but off he was sent nevertheless. It looked like a warning at best was warranted, but I suppose we had to be grateful that one of the funny calls by an MLS Official finally went the other way. Referee Elfath handed the Whitecaps the victory on platter with that call.

Soon after substitute Darren Mattocks (who had replaced Rivero in the 69th minute) scored a wonderful goal. The Union brought big Connor Casey and speedy ex Whitecap Seb Le Toux to try to score but in doing so left their defenders exposed. Mattocks found himself one-on-one with a defender and, after a few vicious cuts, blasted the ball home to make it 3-0.

It cannot be said that the Whitecaps played particularly well even if the score was 3-0. But for a great save by goalkeeper Ousted and a funny sending off by the referee things might well have been different. It has to be said that the Union are a pretty poor side. They looked demoralized, disorganized and dispirited. Coach Jim Curtain has some serious sorting out to do for the Union. The Whitecaps are going to need to play better than they did against Philly when the Seattle Sounders come to town next week.

Coach Carl Robinson’s revolution continues to pay off, and the Vancouver Whitecaps find themselves in dizzy heights at the top of the MLS standings. It took four years to get there, but there we are.

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