Whitecaps lose Canadian Championship (version 2013)May 30, 2013 at 9:04 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps Season 2013 | 2 Comments
Disappointment in the Canadian Championship is becoming an annual event for fans of the Vancouver Whitecaps ever since 2002 when the whole thing started. Year after year, the Voyageurs cup (called the Voyeurs cup by the BC Place announcer!) eludes our grasp.
This year’s failure came with a pulsating 2-2 draw at BC Place, which gave Montreal 2 away goals and the advantage they needed to break the tie (away goals count for double in the event of a tie). The only consolation was that it was a thrilling match to watch, one of the most exciting we have seen in Whitecaps history. What made the match so great is that both teams were very keen to win.
The Whitecaps have always put emphasis on the importance of winning the Canadian Championship, which brings with it the benefit of participation in the CONCACAF Champions League. Coach Martin Rennie has been told it is a priority for the club, and has failed to win it two years running. Given the Whitecaps are second from bottom in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference, and with tonight’s result, I would not be surprised if this has been Rennie’s last match in charge of the Whitecaps. Two tough road games await, and if it is time for change now is the time.
For the second match in a row the Whitecaps squandered two leads. In fact, the match was a virtual re-run of the Portland match ten days earlier. Camilo opened the scoring early with a stunning goal from a free kick from 30 yards in the fifth minute. Martin Rennie’s script was being followed at this point, as the Whitecaps looked to overwhelm Montreal early on in the quest for an early goal. Close chances just did not find the back of the net for what could have been a killer second goal: Koffie should have scored from a free header, Miller got through on goal on a break with a clear shot that hit the keeper; and Johnny Leveron headed a corner kick against the cross bar. Any of these chances could have put the Whitecaps at half time with a comfortable lead; it was not to be. The difference in the match overall was the two team’s proficiency in taking chances: Montreal had about four good chances and scored two; The Whitecaps had seven or eight good chances and scored two.
When the Whitecaps went into the dressing room up 1-0 we knew it would be a tough second half because it always felt like Montreal had an extra gear. With players in the squad like Di Vaio, Nesta, Mapp and Ferrari, Montreal were always going to be a threat to come back. They did come back early in the second half, as Rochat’s tackle deep in the Whitecaps box bounced straight to Filipe Martins, who pinged a superb first-time low drive past a sprawling Brad Knighton into the net.
An injury to Gershon Koffie midway through the second half appeared to take the heart out of our midfield, but his substitute Daigo Kobayashi turned out to be a match changer. Nigel Reo-Coker found him in the box with a cross in the 69th minute; Daigo went up for a header with a Montreal defender and scrambled the resulting loose ball home for the lead late in the match. On 73 minutes Kenny Miller was taken off for Jordan Harvey, our left full back who was put out wide on the left in midfield. Camilo, who hammered a tight angle shot off of the woodwork in the second half, was subbed for Mattocks in the 82nd minute, with the hope he might be able to use his speed on the counter attack to get the third goal to kill the match as Montreal threw men forward for the equalizer.
All that was required was for the Whitecaps to defend a lead. As we have seen many times, they were unable to do so. A Montreal corner kick in the 87th minute by Mapp found Camara, who had lost marker Andy O’Brien for a free header. O’Brien lost his man because of crafty running by Camera, who used his own man as a “pick” a la basketball, and was all alone when the cross came directly to him to head into goal. We all remember seeing YP Lee save a goal by positioning himself on the far post on a corner kick. This time he was not there at all; nor was anyone else. The relatively weak header by Camera bounced lazily into the far corner of the Whitecaps goal, completely unopposed, where a defender should have been. Even kids know enough to put men on the posts to defend on corner kicks. It was unforgivable. It all looked pathetically amateurish, and in the end this very poor defending lost us the Canadian Championship. It was a shame, because both Leveron and O’Brien had made heroic last gasp tackles in the second half to protect the Whitecaps lead. A chance in injury time fell to Jordan Harvey’s right foot, but he scuffed the chance wide from close range. We could only dream of what Camilo would have done with a chance like that had he been left on the pitch.
What wins championships for football teams is the ability to play 90 minutes with full concentration, and the ability to execute key plays at key times; this aspect is missing from the Whitecaps game. Is it the players or is it the coach? My own view is that our squad is substandard, but a better coach could find a way to get more out of this squad. The Vancouver Whitecaps are caught in a ditch, spinning their wheels. All Martin Rennie has done is to take us further into the ditch. Change is needed.
Our ownership group has also got to look at themselves in the mirror. Joey Saputo has put together a great team only one season and a half into Montreal’s MLS history. Montreal won the Canadian Championship because they are the better team with better players. Even though our guys played a hell of a game, they were second best going in and second best coming out.
Our owners seem satisfied to have the Whitecaps be an also-ran team. As the squad stands now, with the exception of very few players, the squad needs turning over and better players need to be bought. It is time for the owners to get angry and to do something. They should look at what Joey Saputo has achieved and say to themselves “why isn’t my team as good as his?” The fans are doing their bit and want to win, but where is the owner’s commitment to winning?