Job 1 for Carl Robinson: re-sign Jay DeMerit!

December 19, 2013 at 11:05 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps Season 2013 | Leave a comment
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Having assumed the glorious mantle of Vancouver Whitecaps Coach, Carl Robinson must fall back to earth and get down to business. In my view signing a new contract to keep Jay DeMerit playing here in Vancouver must be job one. 

One word: Character!

One word: Character!

While detractors and doubters think Demerit is injury prone and perhaps past his best, I disagree.  Centre backs have a longer shelf life than other positions (they are second only to goalkeepers who can seemingly play forever), and experience in that position is a huge benefit.   DeMerit keeps his body in shape, and his ability to bounce back from his Achilles injury was almost miraculous. 

While DeMerit has spent a lot of time injured, what he does off of the pitch is just as important as what he does on it.  Jay has extraordinary character and commitment to the team.  He brings honesty to the dressing room by his sheer effort, and puts sulkers like the immature Darren Mattocks to shame.

When Jay pulls on the captains armband, it is clear he deserves it more than any other player.  If Jay has been injured it is because he is always giving his all in the tackle, and he is willing to play hurt and to put his body on the line for the team.  

Frankly, you will go through a thousand footballers to get to another one who has the character of Jay DeMerit.  He may only have a few years left in his career, but lets make sure those years are with the Vancouver Whitecaps. 

Robbo, sign him up!  

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Robbo impresses with first press conference

December 17, 2013 at 10:19 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps Season 2013 | 3 Comments

After thinking about Carl Robinson’s introduction as head coach the other day I have to say I was impressed by his performance. He looked a bit nervous at first but spoke frankly and candidly, which was refreshing after former coach Martin Rennie’s polished business speak. Robinson (AKA “Robbo”) tiptoed skillfully around the awkward questions about being less than first choice for the Whitecaps.

Robinson used a great combination of emotion and football knowledge to impress. He was able to talk about his family and the loss of his father which showed great warmth and maturity. His discussion of the Darren Mattocks situation was skilful and strategic. He focused on the positive and brushed off the negative. Dealing with Mattocks will be a huge challenge of “man management” as they call it in England.

After listening to him speak so honestly and frankly it is easy to see why the players speak so highly of him. It is clear he is a very effective communicator. Robinson is able to speak from the heart in a manner we never got from Martin Rennie, who came across as a bit slick and cold.

The key challenge for Robinson will be making the transition from being the guy who helped guys on the reserve team respond positively to the bad news of not playing to being the one who actually gives the bad news.

If Robinson needs advice he has built up a great group of mentors overseas whom he can call on.

What I found most exciting were his comments about the need for the Whitecaps to get more goals from midfield, and his admiration for Latin American players. Does this mean we might get a proper playmaking midfielder in the Whitecaps squad? We haven’t had one since Davide Chiumiento left town midway through the 2012 season.

If Robinson gets his wish, the playoffs may well be attainable in 2014.

Carl Robinson set to take over Vancouver Whitecaps coaching job

December 15, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2013 | 3 Comments
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The Vancouver Whitecaps search for a new coach to replace Martin Rennie has been a humbling exercise. While the Whitecaps and us fans see the club as the belle of the ball, it turns out we are well down the list as far as the glamorous suitors are concerned.

The Whitecaps were batting their eyes at the likes of local boy made good Frank Yallop, Real Salt Lake super-coach Jason Kreis and former US Men’s national team gaffer Bob Bradley. Yallop and Kreis found more attractive clubs to couple with, while Bob Bradley hopes to hook up with West Bromwich Albion in the English Premier League.

The Whitecaps were so confident in their charms they cast aside none other than Stuart “psycho” Pierce, England and Nottingham Forest legend and former coach of England’s under-23 side. The reason given was he had no Major League Soccer experience. The Whitecaps may live to regret this.

Robbo running to the Coaching job

Robbo running to the Coaching job

Frankly, we have to reassess our standing as a club in the football world. As usual, many have taken to blaming Bob Lenarduzzi and the Whitecaps management structure for everything, but other more important factors play against us. Vancouver is not really a high profile city, people see the Canadian tax system as more burdensome than the US tax system, and we are perched far away in the Pacific Northwest, away from the centre of everything. If I am Jason Kreis, why would I turn down the bright lights and unlimited resources of New York City for a provincial club of comparatively modest means? Perhaps it is best that we resign ourselves to being a small pond which attempts to develop big fish.

Media leaks now have it that Carl Robinson will be named coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps tomorrow. Robinson was seen as a dark horse, and seems to have been chosen because other high profile coaches would not agree to come here. Robinson has his coaching badges, but has never taken the reigns of a club at any level as head coach/manager. It seems an odd choice when the major knock against Rennie was his lack of experience. Robinson was the Whitecaps assistant coach to Martin Rennie for two years, and worked quietly and anonymously under his boss.

While it is difficult to assess Robinson’s performance under Martin Rennie, he has had several glowing reviews from players, notably Camilo Sanvezzo and Russell Teibert, both of whom had great years in 2013 and credited Robinson for instilling confidence in them.

Robinson knows all of the players in the Whitecaps system, which means he has a head start in his duties as head coach. Having played and coached in the MLS for some years now he will understand the league and it’s bizarre rules. Perhaps the biggest advantage Robinson has over Rennie is his extensive experience as a player at high levels of the game. While Robinson was not a top class player, he had a career to be proud of, having played many games for clubs such as Sunderland, Norwich, Wolverhampton and Portsmouth in the English Premier League, the English Championship, and the English First Division. Robinson also starred for Toronto Football Club in MLS for three seasons, and ended his career with the New York Red Bulls. He represented his home country Wales 52 times in international football. Players instinctively trust a coach who knows the game through playing it at a high level.

I always liked Robinson as a player, and I always liked the way he conducted himself in the capacity of assistant coach and reserve team coach. Although I admit I wanted a higher profile coach, I will throw my full weight (such as it is) behind him if the rumours are true and the Whitecaps announce him as head coach tomorrow.

Knighton on his way, Heinemann stays put… I think

December 11, 2013 at 10:23 pm | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2013 | Leave a comment

The MLS rule book truly is an enigma wrapped up in a riddle. A week of so ago the Whitecaps appeared to release a bunch of players into a pool of players who were then eligible to be drafted by other teams. Two of these were goalkeeper Brad Knighton and striker Tom Heinemann. Today, however, it was announced that the Whitecaps had traded Brad Knighton to New England, and Tom Heinemann, by some mysterious process, is back in the Whitecaps fold having declined to be put into the re-entry draft. This apparently allows him to re-sign with the Whitecaps, although there appears to be no guarantee this will happen.

Confused? You bet. We can only keep the faith, however, and assume the priests know what they are talking about!

Superb performance? Trade him!

Superb performance? Trade him!

Brad Knighton is probably one of the most hard done by Whitecaps of recent memory. He became the chosen keeper in 2013 after number one Joe Cannon fell out of favour with Martin Rennie. He played very well and consistently until the big Dane David Ousted came on board and took his spot. It was not as though Knighton had committed any grave errors, in fact, it was quite the opposite.

Knighton put on one of the best performances by a Vancouver Whitecaps player in the MLS era on July 6 this year when he kept a seemingly impossible clean sheet against the Seattle Sounders at BC Place. This allowed the Whitecaps to win their first Cascadia derby in the MLS era. It was a historic event that would not have occurred without him. His reward was to be replaced and now traded away. It just doesn’t seem right.

A well deserved goal against Chivas

A well deserved goal against Chivas

Whatever Tom Heinemann’s status is, I hope he stays with the team. I can think of no other player on the squad who showed more joy and pride in being a Vancouver Whitecaps player, and no player who showed more passion during his time on the pitch. His injury time goal against Chivas USA in Early September saved the match by tying it up. It was well deserved reward for the “wolf man”. He had limited time on the pitch and needs to work on his timing, footwork and speed, but I think he is worth keeping in the squad because of his passion and work ethic. Lets hope he stays.

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