Kah double turns I5 nightmare into sweet dream

August 3, 2015 at 10:26 pm | Posted in Games In My Travels, Whitecaps season 2015 | 1 Comment
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I made up a group of four in a car heading down to Seattle for a crucial Cascadia Cup match. If the Sounders won the match it would mean passing the Cup over to them for 2015. I must admit I had my doubts heading down there; Seattle have always been a Major League Soccer powerhouse and more than 50,000 fans had bought tickets to the match. Reports had 1,000 Vancouver Whitecaps fans going down the I5 to Seattle.

We left Vancouver on a very hot Saturday morning at about 9:00AM. We arrived in Seattle at 3:15. We waited two hours to get to the border and got sent inside for another hour so our English companion could get checked out by secondary inspection. The other three of us had to accompany him to corroborate.

Traffic was awful on the way down and I promised myself to take the train next time. The train takes four hours; you can save yourself two hours on busy holiday weekend at the border.

What made matters worse was that my tickets were deep in Seattle fan territory, directly opposite from where the official Whitecaps section was. The last time I was in Seattle we lost 2-0 with Barry Robson serving a ban. We had won two games since in Seattle 4-1 and 1-0 and I thought it was too much to expect a win. I thought about the possibility of a 0-0 draw, but then saw that the Sounders were starting two strikers, Dempsey and Barrett. The Sounders’ form had been very poor recently and they were looking to reverse the trend in front of their massive home support.

Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson had lost Mauro Rosales to a mild groin injury and Nico Mezquida was expected to start in the number 10 role. He did, with Octavio Riveiro playing as sole striker. Kekuta Manneh played on the left flank, Chrisian Techera on the right. In defensive midfield were Mati Laba and Gershon Koffie who protected a back four of Jordan Harvey, Kendall Waston, Pa Modou Kah and Steven Beitashour. The towering and in-form David Ousted started in goal.

The Sounders were terrible in this match right from the start. I have never seen such a bad performance by Seattle players, who all seemed glued to the plastic playing surface. Clint Dempsey, the Sounders star striker, played his usual moody and lazy match with the occasional flash of quality.

The Whitecaps looked lively and in control right from the start, playing smart possession football. The diamond of Riveiro, Manneh, Mezquida and Techera moved the ball around with comparative ease, drawing some early fouls from the Sounders who were struggling with the Whitecaps’ fluid movement.

Christian Techera was fouled deep into Sounders territory to the right of their goal early on. Mezquida crossed the ball off of the free kick into Waston who deflected his near post header across the goal. The ball hit a Seattle defender and bounced in front of the net for Pa Modou Kah to slam home with a first time volley. Kah looked like a seasoned striker swinging his leg around to hit the ball just in front of the penalty spot. Stefan Frei in Seattle’s goal had no chance and didn’t bother to dive. It was 1-0 Whitecaps after 5 minutes of play. Whitecaps fans could not have hoped for a better start, and the travelling fans were loudly going bonkers off in the distance from where I was.

Techera and Mezquida put Riveiro through for a chance ten minutes later but the Uruguayan slid his low shot well wide. This was to be another barren match for Riveiro in goals, but his play holding the ball up in possession for our team was magnificent. Riveiro put fullback Harvey through alone on the left flank five minutes from half; Harvey elected to shoot from a steep angle and hit the post with a thundering shot over Frei’s head.

Seattle started to force matters late in the half and looked to have a goal when a close range effort was defeated by a desperate foot save from Ousted. The Whitecaps narrowly escaped and went into the locker room with their narrow advantage.

The Whitecaps earned a corner kick early in the first half and confounded a static Seattle defence with another Pa Modou Kah goal. Techera played a short corner to Manneh who took advantage of the time given by a lazy and disorganized Seattle defence to give the ball back to Techera at the top corner of the box. Techera shot a low drive towards the net which Kah back-heeled home.

Incredibly, Pa Modou Kah, who had not come close to scoring all year, had scored two and we were up 2-0 in Century Link Field after 48 minutes.

I thought Ousted in our goal would be laid siege to for the rest of the match, but a poor Seattle team could not move the ball up the field, and only Dempsey managed a shot which Ousted caught with little effort.

The Whitecaps were greedy with the ball and kept possession for long periods as a lazy Sounders team sat back and watched for the most part.

Nico Mezquida rang a free kick off of the goal post when the third man in the wall, (AKA Clint Dempsey) got out of the way for fear of getting hit by the ball. Mezquida gave way to Pedro Morales in the 72 minute. Morales strolled about the pitch for a few minutes before making it 3-0 with a brilliant free kick. Seattle set up a 3 man wall and again it was Dempsey who got out of the way of the ball, letting it through for a goal. I would imagine the Sounders will want some of their designated player money back from Dempsey after that shameful display.

After it was 3-0 the Sounders were well beaten and I have to say I admired the Seattle fans who continued to chant and sing for their team right until the final whistle.

It was a hard journey out but now I have lived the dream of seeing the Whitecaps beat the Sounders in their own stadium. The day started at 7 AM and ended at 2 AM, but was it worth it? You bet it was. I will brag about being there when the Whitecaps beat Seattle in their own park 3-0 whenever I get the chance.

I imagine Pa Modou Kah will also brag about this game in which he scored two goals in a great victory in front of 50,000 hostile fans. No Whitecaps fan who saw it will forget that performance and surely Kah’s name now passes into Whitecaps legend.

The Whitecaps set up this Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions league match in Vancouver by taking a group photo in Century Link Field after the match, which incensed the Sounders. The Whitecaps first ever Champions league match could be a very tasty match indeed.

The Seattle Sounders Experience

August 11, 2010 at 5:06 am | Posted in Games In My Travels, General Football, Whitecaps Season 2010 | 11 Comments

I had the opportunity to visit Seattle this weekend and there just happened to be a game on last Sunday night: Seattle Sounders v Houston Dynamo.   It was an opportunity to get a glimpse of life in the Major League Soccer as we await the entry of the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2011.

To put it all into context, I can remember some five years ago making my way to see the Whitecaps play the Sounders in the old United Soccer Leagues Division 1.  The Sounders played in Quest field on that day, which can hold close to 70,000 fans, in front of what could only have been 2,000 fans at the most.   There was very little atmosphere as the fans, for the most part, watched the game in a kind of bored silence.

At Sunday nights match the attendance was announced as 36,000.    What an incredible difference!   The Sounders have masterfully marketed their team and Seattle has embraced the Sounders with a passion and love which is truly remarkable.  The Sounders fan group are clearly very well organized, making tremendous noise and conducting chants and songs which the whole ground participated in on the night.   One has to remember there is a deep recession going on in the US right now, but the ground was packed.

The game is put on as a form of choreographed entertainment and the atmosphere was like a festival.   It was a young well- heeled and apparently well educated crowd.    We walked through Pioneer Square before the match and the fans were just gathering for the pre-match parade to Quest field.

While I cannot begin to say exactly what it is that has made Seattle Sounders  such a huge success, it has something to do with the team’s intelligent and creative management and ownership, who have clearly engaged their supporters and made them feel a part of the team.  They have done this through direct Democracy (I believe season ticket holders have a say through a vote with respect to team management), and through treating the fans with respect, unlike the ownership of the Seattle Supersonics who pulled the old “give me a new facility or I will leave” trick which is so shamefully practiced by many owners in American sports.

If the experience proved anything to those of us who have been going to little Swangard Stadium and supporting the 86er’s and the Whitecaps all of these years, it is that a Tsunami is about to wash us away!    We will soon have a new regime which will overwhelm us.

As a long time supporter, I have already felt the alienation of this coming reality caused by the new uniform and logo fiasco.   I believe the whitecaps should have consulted long time season ticket holders on this topic, and acted in the manner of the Seattle Sounders, employing direct democracy.   Sadly we were overlooked by the new regime which has lost touch with us.  I suppose we had better get used to it.  I expect the Whitecaps to be a tremendous success in MLS, but if the team gets complacent on such issues and alienates fans further, they will not be the success the Seattle Sounders have been.

On a different note, I have to say the football itself was mediocre.  The game suffered from being played on fieldturf, which is a very unforgiving surface. Many good footballing moments were lost and many plays were broken up by the high bounce the ball takes off of the surface.

Houston was a poor team, and both teams played a quite pedestrian style of football.  The game was very competitive, fast and physical however.  Sounders fans were sent home happy as they beat Houston 2-0.  What was lacking in the match was a bit of tactical sophistication and fine footballing skill.  Seattle do have some great talents in their squad, however, in particular Fredy Monteiro, Sanna Nyassi and Uruguayan World Cup squad member Alvaro Fernandez.

I was thrilled to see Fernandez play;  he brought a footballing class to the game which was missing before he came on mid-way through the second half as a substitute. Fernandez coolly scored a goal on his home debut.  I feel Sounders fans will get a lot of joy out of him.

As a whole, the experience was nothing short of incredible and demonstrates how far the MLS has come.   Cynics who said the game of football would never catch on in the US and Canada must now surely eat their words and retreat in shame.

Football has truly arrived in the USA; Seattle is the place it is all happening.

Paris St Germain 0 Chelsea 3

March 31, 2009 at 4:45 am | Posted in Games In My Travels | Leave a comment

Yes, again in Paris…  This time I took my wife on our trip to Europe in fall of 2004 (It was our honeymoon!!!).   I had no idea there was going to be a Champions League game in Paris but I soon discovered this when we went to the PSG shop on the Champs Elysees.  I was thrilled, a chance to see Mourinho’s Chelsea in their pomp.   It was the opening round of the group phase of the Champs League.

We took the Metro to the closest stop to Parc Des Princes and walked with the crowd to the stadium.  I must say there was a frightening mood in the crowd and I was very glad to get inside the stadium to the relative security of our seat.   The stadium was packed and pumped to see Chelsea play.  The PSG ultras put on a great show and made tremendous noise.  I must say that I have become a fan of PSG having seen them play at home a number of times.  Part of the reason the crowd was was pumped up was that Didier Drogba had just joined Chelsea in the off season.  Drogba played for PSG’s most hated rival- Olympique Marseilles.   PSG fans hate Drogba with a passion.

This game showed the vast difference between the French and English leagues.  In spite of playing away from home in front of a hostile crowd,  Chelsea dominated the match from the start and PSG did not stand a chance.  PSG could hardly put more than two passes together before they lost possession.   They rarely threatened Chelsea’s goal.

John Terry scored first in the first half off of a corner after the PSG keeper misjudged the cross.

Didier Drogba was the story of the match.  He scored two goals and rubbed it in with the crowd who responded with ferocious boos and whistles.  I am a great fan of his because he is a monster and every defender’s nightmare.  He is strong, big and fearless.  He is a great finisher.  He has even mastered the art of diving…

Chelsea played with tremendous confidence, the kind of confidence Mourinho’s sides all play with.  He is a master manager,  and it was fantastic to see one of his teams play.


Torino 1 AC Milan 3

September 2, 2008 at 6:26 am | Posted in Games In My Travels | Leave a comment

I travelled on an overnight train from Barcelona to Torino in September of 2000.  I got off at the wrong stop at the smaller train station at about 5:30 AM and had to walk to the tourist kiosk to try to get a room for the next night.  The kiosk didn’t open until 9 am so I had a sleep on a bench out front.

I was sent to a place near the big train station.  It was not a particularly nice neighbourhood, but the room was clean and cheap.  I had not eaten since the previous evening so I was famished and went out in search of food. I found a nice deli and ordered some absolutely gorgeous food and found a local newspaper.  It was Saturday and I had thought that I was going to see a division 2 clash between Torino and Venizia the next day, but it tuned out that it was in fact a Coppa Italia match between Torino and…AC Milan!!! My heart leaped.  I had not thought that I was going to see one of the biggest clubs in world football.  I asked the proprietor of the deli to tell me where to get a ticket.  Very kindly she walked me around to a place called “Solo Toro” a fan shop which sold Toro gear and souvenirs.  It was run by a depressed looking couple who told me just to go to the stadium and buy a ticket there.  I foolishly thought that a match with AC Milan would be sold out.

The Coppa Italia has the status of the League Cup in England.  No one takes it that seriously and the big teams play their second teams in the early rounds and don’t take it seriously until they are in the quarters.   Mind you, AC Milan, like all of the world’s big teams, has one hell of a second team.  On the night Oliver Bierhoff started up front and World Cup starter for Brazil Leonardo also played.

Torino is one of World Football’s tragic clubs.  It was the undisputed best team in all of Italy and won four or five Italian championships in the late 1940’s.  In 1949, A plane carrying all but one of the Toro players crashed in the fog in a tragedy more nasty than Manchester United’s Munich disaster in 1958.   Torino did not win another Italian championship until 1976, and have not won another since. They have had success in the Coppa Italia, but not on this night.

Toro used to play at their ground Filadelfia, but moved to the stadio Communale and then Stadio Dell Alpe which they shared with Juventus.  It has to be one of the worst places to watch a football match.  It has the deadly running track and then some separating the fans from the intensity of the action on the pitch.   I could not believe how far away I was from the field of play. I soon realised how foolish I was in trying to buy a ticket earlier, because there were no more than 10, 000 in a stadium that can hold 70,000.  The majority of the Fans were crowded behind one goal.  AC Milan had some travelling support who were well organized and vocal.

A fellow called Guly scored two long range crackers for AC Milan either side of halftime.  They were superb low shots which hit the corner of the net from 25 to 30 yards out.  Bierhoff scored, but Toro pulled one back late through a little guy called Pinga. AC Milan put the match away with the latter Guly wonder strike strike at the end of the match.

It was an odd experience sitting in this vast stadium with so few people present after sitting with 90,000 or so for the Champions league match in Barcelona, and I am glad that Torino now play in the smaller Olympic Stadium instead of the Del Alpe (which  Juventus are in the process of renovating to better suit footy viewing).

Toro are now back up in Serie A and I hope they manage to claw their way back up to the top end of the table.  Go TORO!!!



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