Bad calls bounce Vancouver Whitecaps from playoffsNovember 2, 2012 at 10:06 am | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2012 | 9 Comments
Last night’s knockout match in Los Angeles proved that Martin Rennie does actually have some tactical intelligence, and also that Matt Watson is actually capable of playing football. Both did their jobs well, but some atrocious refereeing saw to it that the glamour boys of LA would march on in the playoffs just as Major League Soccer had hoped.
Within a few minutes of the start the Whitecaps were up one goal through some fine play by Matt Watson. We had seen absolutely nothing from this guy in previous appearances, but all of the sudden he looked like the Pele of Vancouver when he beat LA’s right fullback with a nifty move and sprinted down the wing past him. He then took the ball deep into LA territory and executed a perfect side footed pass to Darren Mattocks, who hit the ball first time into the net off of the post with his right foot. After all of the awful play we have seen from the Whitecaps in the second half of the season, this goal came as a nothing less than a shock, because the Whitecaps made it look so easy! We had one chance and one goal. It was the perfect start, and right on script for Martin Rennie’s match plan.
The other part of the match plan came into effect immediately after the goal as the Whitecaps hunkered down defensively in their own end and attempted to absorb the constant pressure of LA’s attacks. The possession figures on the screen had Vancouver with not even 30 percent of the ball.
Brad Knighton cemented his reputation by playing an excellent first half, making spectacular saves off of David Beckham and Juninho and fearlessly coming out of his goal to punch away crosses. At the half we had the lead, our defence was frustrating the Galaxy, and we had a confident goalkeeper on a hot streak. It was all going according to plan.
The Whitecaps continued the plan until they failed to execute properly in the turning point of the match. As LA threw men forward in number trying to get the tying goal, the Whitecaps were sure to get at least one more chance to score on the counter attack.
The chance came midway through the second half as Watson, Miller and Robson charged towards LA’s goal opposed by only three defenders who were struggling to catch up with them. Watson and Miller executed a superb one-two passing play which left Watson with a point blank shot on goal just inside the 18 yard box. He got a lot of power on the ball, but failed to direct it properly, and gave LA keeper Josh Saunders the chance to stop the ball he never should have had. The rebound fell to the hapless Kenny Miller, who had a classic striker’s goal teed up for him to finish. Not for the first time this season, Miller had the goal wide open in front of him and the keeper down and out. He hit the ball but it was clearly going wide of the net when it hit a defender and bounced to Barry Robson. Robson found himself on his weaker right foot and tried to pull the ball back to his left foot. By this time it was too late, the LA defenders had recovered and Robson’s weak shot accomplished nothing. The failure of these three to execute at a crucial time turned the match for Los Angeles, who marched the ball back down the field, won a corner, and then scored as the exhausted Whitecaps got caught ball watching.
On the same play poor Jay DeMerit, our courageous captain, pulled up with a groin injury. Martin Bonjour replaced him. Mere minutes later a charging Landon Donovan threw his body into Bonjour and fell down into the penalty box. Can you guess what happened next? Referee Petrescu, blinded by the stars of the LA Galaxy, called a penalty. It was a clear illustration of the poor quality of refereeing in MLS, which is damaging the credibility of the league. Petrescu bought a big pack of lies from Donovan, who then dispatched the penalty past Knighton to give LA the lead. The match plan had fallen apart,and the Whitecaps were on the ropes.
John Thorrington provided the Whitecaps with one last hope as he charged into the box with the ball late on in the game. He cut back and was caught by the trailing leg of the LA centre back and went down in the area. It was more of a penalty than the Donovan penalty but unfortunately for Thorrington he was wearing the wrong colour of jersey and the penalty was not given. The Match fizzled out from this point on, and the Whitecaps season was over.
I hope that our owners register a complaint with the league over this clearly incompetent display by the referee. At this level and in this kind of match, the referee should not be deciding the result with such poor calls.
The good news was the Whitecaps actually showed up for this match, displaying effort, tactical intelligence and skill which they have kept so hidden from us in the second half of the season. What they could not cope with was the star power of the LA Galaxy and the effect of that on the referee.
One message the Whitecaps need to take from this game is the effect of star power. The LA Galaxy have Beckham, Keane and Donovan, while we boast Miller and Robson, two relative unknowns.
The Whitecaps need to enhance the quality of our squad with some real stars the referees and the league will recognize. This way we will get the respect of the league and fair calls from the referees.
It has been all to easy this year for MLS and its officials to mistreat our team with astonishingly bad calls and decisions, both on and off the pitch.
It is the time our ownership group demanded respect from the league; we did not join up just to be cannon fodder for the likes of the LA Galaxy.