Tags: Brek Shea, Jozy Altidore, MLS, TFC, Toronto Football Club, Vancouver Whitecaps
Having to endure Major League Soccer season 2016 as a Vancouver Whitecaps season ticket holder was tough, but early indications have 2017 being worse. The Whitecaps have played three Major League Soccer games with only one point gained thus far via a boring 0-0 tie with Philadelphia on the first match day. In three games the Whitecaps have two goals and have conceded five. Now they have as many red cards as they have goals: new acquisition Brek Shea got him self sent off for dissent in the second half of Saturday’s 0-2 loss to Canadian rival Toronto FC .
Goalkeeper Spencer Richey got his first MLS start due to David Ousted’s suspension from his red card. Paulo Tornaghi was benched because of his less than convincing displays over two games in which he conceded five goals.
Richey’s defensive back line consisted of Harvey, Waston, Parker and Williams. Laba and Tiebert played defensive midfield with Davies, Shea and Mezquida playing ahead of them. Striker Freddy Montero was left alone up front all match.
It was a dreadful match to watch as a Whitecaps supporter. The Whitecaps were very flat and uninspired in the first half, and just as they were waking up from their slumbers in the second half, Shea said something stupid to referee Elfath and got a red card.
Very simply put, the Whitecaps have no midfield to speak of, and this is killing the team. In spite of playing a five man midfield, it was not uncommon to see Mathias Laba all by himself with the ball in midfield with the rest of the midfield players lining up like strikers. Neither Shea nor Davies bothered to go back and support Laba and Mezquida completely failed to act as any kind of midfield link.
The consequence was that Laba would have to pass the ball back to the defenders who would lob long balls over the top with the hope that some Whitecaps player would win the ball. It was pathetic to watch, and one wonders if coach Carl Robinson has no idea it is happening, (because it is plain to see), or if the players have just stopped listening to him. It was a sad display of technical incompetence.
Toronto easily soaked up this “pressure” from the Whitecaps. The only chance the Caps had was when striker Montero deflected a sloppy goalkeeper clearance, with the ball bouncing wide of the net.
At half time coach Robinson made a good move when he took out youngster Alfonso Davies, (who had his poorest match yet at the senior level), and put midfield mastermind Bolanos into the match. The Whitecaps were immediately better, and the switch clearly demonstrated that the Whitecaps need to get some talented and experienced midfielders on to the pitch if they are to go anywhere this year.
The Bolanos substitution was actually working and TFC were starting to look a bit uncomfortable on occasion. The Whitecaps were putting some real pressure on the men in red.
It all came for naught when Brek Shea first got a yellow card for hacking down a TFC player in what was a blatant foul. As he got the card he was talking to referee Elfath and caught his attention with something he said. He got another yellow and was sent off. With 20 minutes to go the Whitecaps were down to ten men.
It was an incredibly stupid thing for Shea to do. Shea has made a very poor impression with his blatant dive to try to get a penalty against Tigres earlier in the week, and now this. Shea’s stupidity cost the Whitecaps all of the momentum they had gained due to the Bolanos effect. With Shea the Whitecaps appear to have picked up a guy with poor character and no discipline. Sadly, it looks like we have bought damaged goods.
Coach Robinson gambled and decided to try to win the match with speed, in spite of being 10 men down, by putting in Manneh and Hurtado on for Montero and Mezquida after 74 minutes. It was very risky, especially given Manneh’s dislike for defending. It seemed like a daring throw of the dice that just might work, but two minutes later TFC scored.
TFC winger Edwards crossed a long ball from the left side of the pitch to the far post to danger man Jozy Altidore. Left back Jordan Harvey did not bother to challenge for the ball and Altidore had plenty of time to pick out a target, and he did, nodding the ball to the charging Vazquez who easily headed home past Richey from close range. Both Harvey and Parker simply looked on in admiration; both were guilty of ball watching.
Four minutes later in the 80th minute Jozy Altidore put the match beyond doubt when he received the ball at the top of the box and managed to easily turn Kendall Waston and fire the ball past a slumbering Parker into Richey’s net to make it 0-2. Like the first goal, Whitecaps defenders looked very static and responded slowly to what was happening.
Whitecaps fans voted with their feet at this time any many left the stadium. People who left cannot be blamed because the Whitecaps put on a terrible show that made me wonder for the first time since the team started in MLS if my money was well spent on a season ticket.
The Whitecaps actually had a good chance in injury time as Hurtato managed to wriggle free and charged with the ball towards the TFC goal. Inexplicably, he fired the ball high and wide from close range, not even making the keeper work at all. It just made those remaining in the stadium shake our heads in disbelief. It felt like insult had been added to injury.
A match that was poorly attended from the start was mercifully over. Fans are starting to stay home rather than come to see the poor soccer the Whitecaps are playing, and it looks like the Whitecaps, as a team and as an organization, are heading towards a crisis.
Tags: champions league, CONCACAF, Don Garber, MLS, Tigres UANL, Vancouver Whitecaps
It is a funny thing when you make the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League and all you have played is a couple of Major League Soccer (MLS) teams (and one of those clubs only played their b-team) and a very poor team indeed from Trinidad.
Things will change dramatically tomorrow night when the Whitecaps play comparative giants Tigres UANL in Monterrey, Mexico. Whereas MLS clubs play in a climate controlled aquarium, Tigres play in the open ocean of world football. MLS clubs labour away under a heavily cost controlled environment with mysterious rules which only a priestly caste can understand. Tigres operate freely, and can pay their players what they wish.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber would love to have MLS teams beat Mexican teams in the tournament, but it just does not happen that often. It is always a Mexican team that lifts the trophy at the final whistle in the tournament finale. The truth is that most clubs in the MLS are not that enthusiastic about the tournament, and MLS fans tend not to show up for games. The barrier to MLS clubs winning is not just money, but commitment, especially, south of the border. Canadian clubs have shown more enthusiasm, especially the Montreal Impact, who made their way to the final only to be humbled by Club America of Mexico.
Liga MX, Mexico’s top football league, is superior to MLS in overall player quality, as the Vancouver Whitecaps are about to find out. If the Whitecaps escape Monterrey tomorrow night having conceded only four goals, they will have done well.
The Whitecaps will face a crowd of over 40,000 hostile Tigres fans who will expect their team to deliver on the beautiful grass pitch in the stadium called “the Volcano”. The Whitecaps will also face international players Vargas, of Chile, and Gignac, of France, if Tigres deem it necessary to play them.
While I will cheer the Whitecaps on with hope in my heart, the reality is that the MLS cost controlled model does not yet produce teams capable of winning the tournament. It will require MLS some years of development and some loosening of financial restrictions before that can happen.
With three games in eight days we knew this period was going to stretch the Vancouver Whitecaps squad. San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, Tigres UNAL on Tuesday and Toronto FC the following Saturday. The San Jose match looked like the easiest of the three even if it was on the road.
Coach Carl Robinson started a mix of second stringers and first stringers. Ousted started in Goal with a back line of Nerwinski, Dean, Waston, and Harvey. Robbo started a five man midfield consisting of McKendry, Teibert, Manneh, Mezquida, and Techera. Hurtado got the call as lone striker.
Things started exceedingly well when a hustling Hurtado chased a high bouncing ball headed into San Jose’s box by Techera which was met with some poor and hesitant defending. Hurtado nipped between two defenders and an out of position David Bingham in San Jose’s goal and volleyed the ball into the net off of the upright. It was not pretty, but Hurtado got an “A” for effort on that one. It was great to see the hard working Hurtado get some joy.
The goal got the Whitecaps tails up and they played with plenty of confidence against a San Jose team which came out flat. Soon after the surging Hurtado made a great move to get clear of a defender Lima to the left of San Jose’s goal. He crossed a low one into Mezquida, who took one touch to get past a couple of defenders and then cooly stroked the ball in low past Bingham with his left foot to make it 2-0 Whitecaps with not even twenty minutes on the board. It was a superb way to start a testing week.
Not five minutes later came the critical series of errors which would unravel all that the Whitecaps had done. San Jose sent a high ball straight to the heart of the Whitecaps defence with one San Jose striker challenging. Dean went for the ball in midfield and so did Waston, but neither got there properly to head the ball to safety. The ball arched over to a charging Wondolowski who was in all alone on Ousted. Ousted came out of his box and met the striker there, going down with his feet and catching the strikers foot as he went by. It was a straight red card and we were down to ten men with more than two-thirds of the match left.
Oh, David Ousted. If only we could get the keeper to stop these game changing errors which caused us so much damage in 2016. Ousted should have stayed in his box and tried to make Wondo go wide in the hopes he would miss the net. The striker probably wouldn’t have missed but at least we would have had eleven men on the pitch. In came the comparatively skinny Paulo Tornaghi. And, very strangely, it was Nico Mezquida, one of our hardest working players, who came off for him.
I am not sure what Robbo was thinking bringing Mezquida off and not MLS debutant McKendry, who struggled for the rest of the night. McKendry had trouble with the pace of the match and was seen slipping and falling on the surface a number of times.
Backup keeper Tornaghi started very well, making some excellent saves which gave hope that the Whitecaps might be able to survive. In the 32nd minute Tornaghi was exposed, however, when he came out weakly on a corner kick and failed to clear his area with a poorly executed punch. The ball fell in the box to the giant Honduran Bernardez who crossed in for Wondolowski to score another of his many goals verses the Whitecaps. The house of cards had begun to fall.
It is a lot to ask for a team to play one man down for 70 minutes. The Whitecaps had very little possession of the ball, and the 2017 version of the Earthquakes has some very potent attacking weapons including Godoy, Hyka, and Lima in addition to Wondolowski. An unmarked Lima scored in the 52nd minutes after Wondolowski knocked a deep cross back to him for an easy finish. Manneh was close behind Lima but forgot to defend on the play.
Robbo threw Bolanos and Montero on for Manneh and Hurtado in the 61st minute and briefly it looked as though we might actually be able to possess the ball for some periods. The Whitecaps did look better than they had with the changes.
Godoy scored a screamer in the 80th that I fancy Ousted would have stopped. Unfortunately Tornaghi, whom I rate as the worst backup keeper in the entire MLS, flapped at what was, admitted, a very hard shot to stop.
It was a deflating end to a match that had started with such great promise. There is no doubt it would have been a hard match even though we were up at 2-0, but Ousted’s red card sealed our fate.
While Ousted will be able to play against Tigres UNAL on Tuesday, we face the prospect of starting a weak goalkeeper going up against TFC and the likes of Altidore and Bradly next Saturday while Ousted serves a ban. Lets hope Giovinco misses that one through the injury he sustained against Philadelphia.
And the week had started so well…