Thanks to Richard Howes of

March 3, 2015 at 11:05 pm | Posted in General Football, Vancouver Whitecaps | 1 Comment
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There will soon be a changing of the guard at British Columbia’s best soccer website: Richard Howes, who has been the editor for the last 10 years, is passing the torch to Bill Currie, local soccer enthusiast and activist.

Under Richard Howes, has been a superb soccer website; a treasure trove of news about local soccer, including the Vancouver Whitecaps. Howes’ reign covered that period when the Vancouver Whitecaps made their dramatic transition from an obscure local second-tier USL club to the Pacific Northwest powerhouse of Major League Soccer it is today. Howes’ nose for soccer news made a daily visit to his site a must for local soccer enthusiasts. His photography of local amateur football matches and of the Vancouver Whitecaps was excellent, and the good news is he plans to continue contributing photography to the site.

BC Soccer's loyal servant in his Tilley hat!

BC Soccer’s loyal servant in his Tilley hat!

I first met Howes in about 2007 or so when I was just beginning to write whitecapsfanblog. I started sending him articles to publish on bcsoccerweb. Howes wanted local content and my blog was the beneficiary. At that time very few people were actually writing about the Whitecaps, unlike today, when the field is getting very crowded indeed!

All of us who have made daily visits to bcsoccerweb owe a great debt of thanks to Richard Howes. He is a modest and quiet sort of fellow, but his contribution to BC soccer has been truly great.

Richard Howes passes the torch to Bill Currie, who has been one of the most loyal supporters of the Vancouver 86ers and Vancouver Whitecaps you could ever meet. Currie also is a bit of an activist, fighting the good fight to make the game of soccer accessible to all wherever it is played in Canada. I have no doubt Bill will bring his own considerable energy, ideas and enthusiasm to bcsoccerweb. I am sure we will also see the work of his partner Monique, who is an excellent photographer, on the site.

To Richard, thank you! To Bill, good luck!

Robbo’s Vancouver Whitecaps revolution rolls on in 2015

March 1, 2015 at 4:35 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2015 | 2 Comments
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Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson is rolling into the 2015 Major League Soccer season with the best Whitecaps squad since the Whitecaps’ MLS era began in 2011.

Last year’s off-season was a nightmare with the loss of the best Whitecaps player Camilo to Mexican team Queretaro. Then there was the refusal of several high profile coaching candidates, including Bob Bradley and Frank Yallop, to join the Whitecaps. This year’s off-season has been a decidedly more cheery affair.

Robbo has consolidated his power and legitimacy in the team, and looks fully in charge in pre-season training. In his first year Robbo earned credibility and respect both inside and outside of the squad when he pulled the unlikely Whitecaps into the playoffs.

"Och, aye, they're better this year!

“Och, aye, they’re better this year!

Robbo’s preferred combination of speedy youth with a core of experienced veterans is now coming into full effect. Key talent in the squad is maturing. We have yet to see the best of Gershon Koffie, Darren Mattocks, Russel Teibert, Kekuta Manneh and Nico Mezquida. These young players will play their best football yet as their minds and bodies come closer to full maturity.

The “spine” of the team is the strongest yet. Ousted, Waston, the newly acquired Pa Modou Kah, Harvey, Beitashour, Morales, Laba, Koffie and Rivero, all presumptive starters, look solid, tough, and ready to compete with any team in the fast and physical MLS.

The Whitecaps lost two Latinos during the off-season in Uruguayan Seb Fernandez and Honduran Johnny Leveron, which was no great loss. Fernandez scored five goals, but did not earn an assist all year, and Leveron looked painfully slow last season and a bit overweight to boot. We have traded up in footballing terms, with Uruguayans Octavio Rivero and Diego Rodriguez. Striker Rivero was setting the Chilean league on fire when we signed him from O’Higgins, and central defender Rodriguez looks to be a talented understudy to Waston and Kah. This adds to our existing talented Latino complement of Uruguayan Nico Mezquida, Argentinian Mauro Rosales, Costa Rican Kendall Waston and Chilean Pedro Morales.

The competitive pairings within the squad look to be the best they have ever been, and the intra-squad competition promises to be the best yet. Veterans like Harvey and Beitashour will have Adekugbe and Sampson snapping at their heels all season long. Will Koffie or Teibert start next to Laba? Will Nico Mezquida challenge Kekuta Manneh? Will Mauro Rosales start or finish games now the veteran of the Argentinian and Dutch top flights is getting older?

The addition of Whitecaps FC2 in 2015 with a full second team playing in the USL means squad players will be fresher and in better match condition than they have ever been. Lack of fitness among squad players has proven to be an Achilles heel in past seasons; squad players have come out on the pitch stumbling rather than running in the fast-paced MLS.

Not only will the competition in the Western Conference be intense as usual, but the Whitecaps will also compete in the CONCACAF Champions League. A strong squad kept alert in USL play will be a necessity to get through all of the matches without embarassment.

If this year’s team looks better than last year’s, this is good, because it will have to be. Traditional MLS powerhouses Houston and Kansas City will be joining the Western Conference after being bumped out of the Eastern Conference by shiny new MLS franchises Orlando City and New York City FC. The competition for the five available playoff spots will be very intense indeed.

Will we win the Western division? Not in my view. Other clubs have taken the off-season equally as seriously as the Whitecaps have, and the MLS takes a noticable jump in quality each season. Just because we have improved does not mean others haven’t.

The hard work and thoughtful planning of Robinson, (and, don’t forget, Bob Lenarduzzi), will see us in the thick of the battle this season seriously competing for a playoff spot. It will be intensely competitive, and I’ll bet it will come down to the last few games of the season before we’ll know if we are in the playoffs again.

Don’t blame CSA for sexism in Women’s World Cup: blame FIFA

January 22, 2015 at 10:48 pm | Posted in General Football, Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium | 2 Comments
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For some time now a number of top players in Women’s football, (Abby Wambach, Marta, and other notables) have accused FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) of sexism because of the plastic playing surfaces to be used for the Women’s World Cup in Canada in 2015.

Is there a villain here? If so, who is it?

In my view the CSA is not the villain. The CSA had no intention of being sexist when it put its bid in. Quite the contrary, there is no doubt in my mind they have every intention of hosting a great Women’s World Cup on behalf of Canada.

By the same token, and whatever their intentions, by playing virtually all of the matches on plastic surfaces, the CSA will be putting on a World Cup that is undoubtedly inferior to previous Women’s World Cups played on grass. If the CSA is guilty of anything, it is naiveté. The sad fact is that most Canadians (including the CSA) are so out of touch with football reality they believe plastic grass is just as good as natural grass. The attitude seems to be that if it is good for gridiron football, it must be good for real football. This is dead wrong.

Wambach et al are absolutely correct in their allegations of sexism where FIFA is concerned. FIFA would NEVER contemplate having a men’s World Cup on anything other than the best grass playing surfaces. In spite of FIFA’s claim that a men’s World Cup would be played on artificial surfaces “sooner rather than later”, there is no doubt in my mind that the world’s best footballers would boycott such a World Cup, and their domestic teams would put huge pressure on their players not to participate.

In spite of “evidence” that there are no more injuries when football is played on plastic grass than on real grass, none of the World’s best football teams or players has ever accepted this. Having played football extensively on both types of surfaces, it is clear to me that plastic grass is absolutely brutal on the body. You feel as though you have been in a car crash for days after playing on it. Furthermore, plastic grass fundamentally changes the way the ball bounces and runs, making the game far less attractive to watch as a spectator, and far less enjoyable for players to play on.

I have never heard of any professional footballer who prefers playing on plastic playing surfaces, such as Polytan or Fieldturf, to playing on natural grass. Anyone who claims plastic grass is better or just as good as real grass as a playing surface either has a vested interest in the issue or does not know anything about football (yes, I am speaking to you, Richard Farley!). The fact there is a plan to install a new playing surface with longer fake blades of grass at BC Place does not remedy the issue: it is still an inferior surface. I am tired of these mad alchemists who think they can create something better than grass to play football on.

Asking professional footballers to play on plastic grass is rather like asking the musicians in a symphony orchestra to play with inferior instruments made of plastic. While it still might sound better than the rest of us would, something would still be noticeably wrong. The musicians would be royally pissed off, just like Major League Soccer star Robbie Keane is when he plays in our city on plastic grass against the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place. Give the players what they want: a natural grass playing surface. Then they can perform at their highest level.

As usual, the villain here is FIFA. To repeat: FIFA would NEVER allow a nation to host a men’s World Cup on plastic grass. The only reason it is allowing it in this case is FIFA’s perception that the women’s World Cup is not as important as the men’s World Cup. To FIFA, the concerns of players who are women are not as serious as those of male players. If it was Christiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi complaining rather than Abby Wambach, the complaints would be taken very seriously by FIFA. FIFA is not taking the women players seriously because they are women. FIFA has been dismissive of Wambach et al rather than addressing their very serious and legitimate concerns. My regret is that Wambach et al have not threatened to boycott the event altogether.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal will not be making a definitive ruling, since the players have now dropped their complaint, but is there any real doubt that FIFA is guilty of sexism?

Given what we know about FIFA, an organization of dinosaurs, is anyone really surprised?

Farewell Andy O’Brien

January 14, 2015 at 10:44 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps season 2015 | Leave a comment
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Andy O’Brien joined the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2012 and quickly endeared himself to the fans of the club. Andy, who played at centre-back, is the kind of player Canadians like: hardworking, tough, honest and fair.

Andy had fallen out of favour with his club Leeds United back in Old Blighty. Part of the issue was his struggle with depression. He needed a change, and our city was that change.IMG_8557

Vancouver, with its West Coast attitudes, had no problem embracing a fellow who had been open with his struggle with mental illness. In fact, it just made us love Andy more. The fact that he was open with his depression issues, and made an effort to educate people about mental health issues while he was here, just made him even more lovable still.

Andy did his job well here. If not for the strict salary cap in Major League Soccer, there may have still been room for him on the Whitecaps roster. I would be angry at the club for not signing him, but the salary cap rules force teams to make ruthless decisions where costs are concerned.

There is no doubt that O’Brien was worth every penny he asked of the Whitecaps, but finding the money he deserves proved too difficult.

Andy leaves a legacy of love and respect here in Vancouver. We will not forget the player and the man; he will always be welcome in our city.

Farewell and good luck Andy O’Brien!

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