Sounders sink Whitecaps playoff hopes

October 3, 2016 at 9:11 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016, Whitecaps Season 2016 | Leave a comment
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The stage was set for a desperate match as Cascadia rivals the Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders squared off at BC Place on Sunday afternoon. While the Whitecaps only started the match with a slim mathematical chance to make the playoffs, Seattle started the match in the last playoff spot in the Western Conference of Major league Soccer. Even if there was precious little chance for us Whitecaps fans to get any joy out of the situation, at least we might get some joy out of doing some damage to our biggest rival.

It was a lively scene downtown because the Vancouver Canucks were dropping the puck at the same time the Whitecaps kicked off. This made for heavy traffic and many of the usual latecomers were even later because of it.

It was a match in which MLS refereeing again reared its ugly head, as match referee Ricardo Salazar’s hallucinations littered the match.

Ousted played in goal for the Whitecaps as per usual. Parker covered the suspended Waston at center back with Edgar; the two were flanked by Harvey and Smith as fullbacks. Teenage phenom Alphonso Davies started on the right side of midfield with Laba and Morales in the middle, and Barnes played on the left. Hurtado started up front with Bolanos playing behind him.

While it is all too easy to get all gloom and doom as a Whitecaps fan this season, the fact is the Whitecaps played quite well in the first half. They possessed the ball well and moved it around the park with an ease we just have not seen very often this season. Captain Morales looked like he was in the mood to play, which he seldom has been this season.

Helping matters no end was 15 year old Aphonso Davies, who caused troubles for the Sounders along the right side of the pitch. Davies also tracked back and tackled well while rumors of a Manchester United scout at BC Place to watch him circulated around the stadium. Lets hope they go away and leave him for us!

Davies made a surging run around Sounders fullback Fisher who responded by pulling him down in the penalty area.

Whitecaps captain Pedro Morales stepped up to take the penalty and convincingly converted his eighth goal of the season to make it 1-0 Whitecaps after 24 minutes. Morales had glanced a shot off of the post earlier. Sadly, an error in judgment later upset Morales’ chance to have a lasting effect on this game.

Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso won the battle of the defensive midfielders when Seattle tied up this match in the 39th minute. Seattle got possession of the ball to the right of Ousted’s goal after the Whitecaps had cleared a cross.  Alonso delayed his run into the box and then ghosted in and hit a first time shot from a low cross put in by Joevin Jones. Laba was too late to the scene and his body language after the goal told the tale that he had failed to mark his man. It was a shame because the Whitecaps were full value for the 1-0 score line and looked the more likely team to score the next goal in the match.

We were all set for a cracking second half in this important derby match when Morales ruined his team’s chances by getting sent off for a stupid foul on Seattle’s Roldan. In my view referee Salazar did not have to send Morales off for an incidental foul that was no more than a love-tap. This was an important match and only a yellow card was called for to keep the game going. None of us saw the incident, and the reaction from Salazar was consistent with MLS refs and their over-dramatic reactions to things. At the same time it has to be said that Morales let the team down, and as Captain he should have known better than to put the team at risk with such a stupid foul.

Morales has been a huge disappointment this year and hopefully this idiotic act has sealed his fate with the Whitecaps. We need our designated players to be more than just reliable penalty takers.

Even though we were down to ten men the Whitecaps looked like they were playing with eleven, (another shame on Morales!).   Jordan Smith was withdrawn for Blas Perez, and defensive midfielder Laba was taken off for Mezquida as the Whitecaps threw all caution to the wind to win the match.

Late in the match Jordan Harvey handled the ball in the Whitecaps box as he desperately attempted to block a cross in front of goal. The ball clearly hit his hand and dribbled to Ousted. Sounders Captain Brad Evans stepped up and converted the resulting penalty, sending Ousted the wrong way. It was advantage Seattle Sounders after 81 minutes.

Referee Salazar made another questionable call when he sent Evans off a few minutes later. After having words with Edgar, Evans jerked his head forward as if to threaten to headbutt on Edgar. He made no contact but ref Salazar sent him off, seemingly because of his embarrassment over sending Morales off earlier.

Like the Morales incident, a yellow card would have been better for this match. It was truly pathetic and just illustrated the fact that the worst thing going in MLS is the refereeing. MLS Commissioner Don Garber deserves nothing less than an “F” in terms of league officiating. It is inexcusably bad.

The Whitecaps fought to the end but were second best on this night, mostly because of the poor judgment of “Captain” Morales, who let his team down not for the first time this season. The Whitecaps need a rebuild and the first to go in the off-season has got to be Morales. His body cannot take the strain of playing on fieldturf, and his attitude has been very questionable this year. He started so well here a few years back but he seems to have lost any real passion for playing football.

There are still two games left to play this season, but is there any argument that this year has been the worst one on the books since the Whitecaps joined MLS in 2011? Every level of the Whitecaps organization performed poorly this year and let the team’s supporters down.

More of this in later postings!

Whitecaps tie Colorado in injury time

September 25, 2016 at 10:13 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016, Whitecaps Season 2016 | 1 Comment
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There was a pall of gloom that hung over BC Place as the fans filed in to see the Vancouver Whitecaps play the Colorado Rapids.   There was no urgency as the usually lazy Whitecaps fans showed up even later than usual, and by the time of kickoff the ground was only half-filled. The fans, just like the team, were behaving like also-rans.

There was a sense of resignation that this game would be mediocre just like much the Whitecaps 2016 campaign.   This turned out to be wrong as the match eventually lurched into life in the second half when there were some extraordinary moments of quality football.

Knowing the Whitecaps were desperate and needing a win to maintain even the faintest hope of playoff participation, Coach Carl Robinson abandoned his usual one striker formation and started with two men up front: Giles Barnes and Eric Hurtado. In central midfield Laba and Morales were paired up flanked by Bolanos on the right and 15 year old Davies on the left. Smith, Edgar, Waston and Harvey protected Ousted in goal.

The Whitecaps were poor in the first half. For a team that was supposed to be playing desperate soccer seeking a playoff spot, they played like they had already given up.

The Whitecaps conceded an early goal which demonstrated that Waston’s defensive brains were not functioning. Waston was drawn forward out of position chasing a Colorado striker when Colorado’s Sam Cronin lofted a ball straight down the middle over Waston’s head to a streaking Marlon Hairston who took possession of the ball with only Harvey in pursuit. Ousted charged out of his goal and 18 yard box and tried a bizarre Kamikaze dive to head the ball away from Hairston’s feet but his timing was well off and Hairston passed the ball to an unmarked Dominique Badji who finished easily while David Edgar looked on behind the play. No less than four Whitecaps defenders were too late arriving on the scene.

It was a comical goal which underscored the naïve mistake-ridden defending that has blighted the Whitecaps entire season. We might expect to see this kind of thing in the reserve squad but it was unforgivably poor for a professional match.

Morales had a relatively good half and did play some sublime balls through for players to run on to, but those same players soon gave up possession of the ball, with right back Smith being especially guilty.

Robinson must have used some choice words in the dressing room during the second half, and well he should have done, because it was the worst half we have seen the Whitecaps play at home all season long.   The fans were chatting together like it was a baseball game because nothing was really happening on the pitch.

The Whitecaps came out in the second half with a different kind of spirit. They won a corner kick (which has been relatively rare this season) and Bolanos expertly curled an in-swinger for the giant Waston to deflect inside the far post past big Tim Howard in Colorado’s goal. It was 1-1 with the greater part of the second half to play.

Soon after the Whitecaps were caught with another ball over the central defensive pair which was not anticipated by either Waston or Edgar. The other Colorado striker Badji was through alone on goal with Waston in pursuit. As Waston tried to catch him he bundled Badji over in the penalty area and was promptly sent off by referee Toledo. Albanian international Gashi confidently stroked the ball into the Whitecaps’ net on the resulting penalty kick. It was 2-1 with 33 minutes left to play.

The Whitecaps worked hard with the 10 men they had against Colorado’s 11. Barnes and Hurtado worked especially hard up front to get the ball back and it was these two who created a second goal through their industry. Hurtado got possession of the ball from Barnes with no less than 5 Colorado defenders surrounding him on the left flank. He beat one defender and tried to cross the ball past the others but it bounced off of a defender to the feet of a surging Barnes who strode past the defenders to deliver a low cross to our waiting captain Morales. Morales coolly and accurately passed the ball into the net to level the game on 70 minutes. Morales, like the rest of the crowd, seemed shocked that he had actually scored a goal in the run of play after so long.

Soon after the Whitecaps conceded a free kick outside of the box and Gashi scored a wonderful curling free kick the likes of which we haven’t seen since a fellow called Camilo played here. It was 3-2 on 75 minutes and it looked like too much to ask for the Whitecaps to come back a third time, especially with only 10 men on the pitch.

The Whitecaps refused to give up however, and with a scandalously low three minutes of injury time left there was precious little left to work with when the Whitecaps scored to tie it all up at 3-3. Hurtado, who had run tirelessly all night, got his just desserts.

Jordan Harvey latched on to a poor clearance header from Colorado’s defence and got a decent cross in between his two markers; the ball went to the near post where it was deflected off of a Colorado defender’s head straight to Hurtado at the far post. Hurtado hit the cross bar with his header but the ball then bounced off a Colorado defender over the goal line as Howard struggled to juggle the ball out of his net. The linesman signalled for a goal and it completed a wonderful come back for the Whitecaps. It was the last play of the match.

It was a great finish to a peculiar, emotionally disjointed game.   A game which had started with the bland mediocrity which has typified this MLS season in Vancouver had ended as a thriller, of sorts. Had the Whitecaps played well in the first half they might have taken all three points to at least put some pressure on other Whitecaps teams fighting to get the last playoff spot.   With only one point to show from this game, playoff hopes dimmed even further.


Hurtado horror: Red Bulls 1 Whitecaps 0

September 5, 2016 at 9:52 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016, Whitecaps Season 2016 | 1 Comment
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Oh, the humanity.  Poor Eric Hurtado died a horrible striker’s death in front of 20,000 or so horrified Vancouver Whitecaps fans on Saturday night.

The international matches for CONCACAF teams meant the Whitecaps were missing no less than six possible starters for the match against the New York Red Bulls.  Waston, Bolanos, Perez, De Jong, Barnes and Edgar were all missing.  The Red Bulls were missing their talented playmaking midfielder Sacha Kljestan.  They did have goal scorer Bradley Wright -Phillips, however, who sealed the Whitecaps fate on this night.

It was a patchwork team for the Whitecaps with Harvey at left back, Parker and Jacobson at centre back, and Smith at right back.  Teibert and Laba patrolled in front of the defense, and Morales, Techera and Aird supported lone striker Hurtado up front.

There was one real story to this game: the stark contrast between the scoring ability of Bradley Wright-Phillips and the lack of scoring ability of Eric Hurtado.

Wright-Phillips had one good chance and took it; Hurtado had five good chances and missed the net on all of them. It was not as if it could be said that we were robbed by an excellent goalkeeping performance by keeper Robles in the Red Bull’s goal; Hurtado missed the net on every shot he had.  The statistics showed the Whitecaps had 12 shots but no shots on goal.

We fans were subjected to another poor MLS referee in Sorin Stoica, who seemed more interested in his own in-depth explanations and conversations with players than he was in keeping the match flowing for the people who had paid to watch.  He created a first for the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS play when he sent Carl Robinson off for disputing a throw in call.  Never were the words “ref you suck” chanted by the fans so well deserved.

The Whitecaps did a good job of keeping scoring opportunities low for the Red bulls.  They also created numerous great chances for its one striker, but the tiger was toothless and could not go in to kill the prey.

The winning goal came early in the second half. Red Bull’s defender Collin hit a high clearing header into the Whitecaps half and for some reason, Parker let the ball hit the pitch and bounce rather than clear the ball before it hit the ground.  After the bounce Parker  weakly headed the ball to Red Bulls midfielder Phillipe as his mark, Wright Phillips, slipped past him.  Phillipe found Wright-Phillips, who moved across the top of the Whitecaps penalty area with the ball to be confronted by an off-balance Jordan Harvey.  Harvey could only weakly kick the ball into the striker’s midriff, and the ball bounced down for Wright-Phillips to hit past a sprawling David Ousted.

Tim Parker’s sophomore blues continued on this night and we can only hope he is learning from these basic mistakes.  His poor defending has been a major contributor to the large number of goals the Whitecaps have had scored on them this season.

The poor fitness of Pedro Morales was laid bare as he could only last for two-thirds of the match.  The speculation is that he has tendinitis of the knees, which would only be irritated by all of the time the Whitecaps spend playing and practicing on plastic grass.  Mezquida came on in the number 10 role to finish out the game.

Kudo and Davies were brought on for Techera and Smith in a desperate attempt to score a goal, but neither made an impact.   It seemed foolish that Davies was not brought on earlier than the 79th minute.  This game needed a gamble and the Whitecaps coaching staff were too conservative to bring him on earlier.

Hurtado worked like a dog on the night,and got himself into great scoring positions, but missed chance after chance. Had Hurtado scored two of the many chances he had, it would have seen the Whitecaps back in playoff contention.  Instead, the Whitecaps face an even more daunting task than before, though they are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs yet.  Hurtado needs to drop down into the NASL to find his scoring touch.  He simply does not have what it takes to play at the MLS level.

It is hard to believe that heads won’t roll soon.

Carl Robinson remains very popular with the fans, which was demonstrated by the standing ovation he was given when he was sent off by yet another nutty MLS referee.  There is no doubt that the people responsible for player acquisition have a lot to answer for, because the players coming in to the team in 2016 have been poorer in quality than those that left in the off season.

I put the blame squarely at the feet of the owners of the team, who have failed to stump up the necessary cash for a striker who can actually score consistently in the MLS.

Even though it has been years since Camilo Sanvezzo flew the coop down to Mexico, his ghost still haunts the Vancouver Whitecaps.  Camilo could finish virtually every chance he got, and he could create his own goals, too.  Every striker since Camilo has been a bit of a disappointment, with the exception of Kenny Miller, who also had his troubles scoring when he first came here.

Sad to say that 2016 looks like a year in which things have moved dramatically backwards for the Vancouver Whitecaps rather than forwards.








Whitecaps looking awful in Texas and 2016

July 31, 2016 at 10:17 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016, Whitecaps Season 2016 | 2 Comments
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What happened to all of the fun of Whitecaps 2015?  Where did all of that great  squad harmony go?  Last year the Whitecaps were highly motivated and the players were playing for each other in what was one big Robbo love-in.  The recent indifferent back-to-back  performances in Texas were enough to get even the best Whitecaps fans questioning whether it was worth it to spend four hours watching the Whitecaps play really awful football.

The Whitecaps have always struggled in Texas.  In the last two weeks they have picked up a 0-0 tie in Houston and a 2-0 loss to Dallas.  While it would be easy to say this is just more of the same, the Whitecaps have looked very poor recently and the team and squad have grown very stale.

One of the reasons for our poor performance in 2016 is that key players in our squad have gone downhill in their performances since last year.

The biggest disappointment is Pedro Morales, who shuffled around the pitch against both Dallas and Houston looking like an old man who would rather be doing something else. Coach Robinson is trying in vain to find a place for Morales to be effective since he no longer has the fitness and stamina to play anywhere close to 90 minutes in the number 10 role.  Effectively Morales has become a passenger who plays for his free kick ability and nothing more.  His performance against Dallas was truly pathetic. How many balls did he pass to the other team?

Morales is not the only player who is playing worse than last year.  Other key players such as Laba, Waston, Parker, and Manneh have either plateaued or gone backwards in their quality.  The only player in the squad who has improved is Mezquida, who rarely gets a start.

Sadly, it looks like complacency has crept into the squad.  Parker, Waston, and Ousted have become the leagues’ leakiest defensive partnership.

Even David Ousted, who has made some very spectacular saves, has let the team down with some very basic goalkeeping errors this season as he did today in Dallas, where he just failed to get down to a routine save.    One such basic error cost us the 2016 Canadian Championship.

While last year’s highly motivated team was characterized by their fun-loving character, this year’s team just seems bored and complacent. The players have hit some kind of ceiling and don’t show any sign of wanting to get better as players or as a team.

While Coach Carl Robinson has been a very popular manager he and his coaching staff must take their share of blame.  The players seem to be just malingering with no real drive to become better.  Are Robinson and his coaches losing their  grip on the team?

Perhaps  we need a more discipline oriented coach who is willing to really punish players for underperforming.  Morales needs a real tongue lashing but instead he gets the Captain’s arm band.  I don’t think there is any captain in the entire MLS who underperforms like Morales.

The Whitecaps ownership also seems to be disengaged and lacking in ambition.  The recent Fabian Espindola farce shows that players really don’t want to be in Vancouver.  Teams like Dallas and LA seem to have mastered the art of maximizing MLS rules in order to build solid squads.  I would say that the Whitecaps are using MLS rules well below their potential.  The team is suffering and has had a major setback since last season, as our huge goals against number demonstrates.

Perhaps there is some Cascadia virus going around; all three teams in Cascadia seem to have caught colds.  This is unfortunate, since the support they get from their fans is the envy of most MLS clubs.  Cascadia teams don’t do themselves any favours by playing on plastic grass, the one thing that holds all three clubs back from being regarded as serious football clubs.

I think it is time we stopped being Mr. nice guys.  This Whitecaps team needs a shake-up because players are just not performing on the pitch.  Robbo’s love-in is over and it is time heads started to roll both in the squad and outside it.


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