Montero shines in Whitecaps comeback

April 2, 2017 at 10:06 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps season 2017 | Leave a comment
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What a change!  After three matches in which no Whitecaps player has played well we get a match in which it is hard to pick man of the match because so many played so well.  Was it Montero, who scored one and created two more?  Was it Laba who score two?  Was it Techera who got it all rolling, scoring one and creating another?  Was it Tchani, who, in his debut match for the Whitecaps played for 30 minutes and was on the pitch for 3 Whitecaps goals?

To say this match was blessed relief would be an understatement.  We were actually able to experience joy at BC Place for the first time in 2017 MLS match play after two truly awful home games against Philly and Toronto.

Coach Carl Robinson started the match with an accent on speed and muscularity up front with striker Hurtado and youngster Davies on the left wing.  Techera, the speedy little Bug, started on right wing flanking Christian Bolanos who got the nod as the number 10 midfielder.  Jacobsen and Laba lined up in defensive midfield in front of a back line of Harvey, Waston, Parker and Williams.  David Ousted pulled the gloves on and played keeper.

Christian Techera was the player who took the leadership role early on in the game for the Whitecaps.  The Bug was buzzing around and nearly gave us an early goal after beating a few defenders in the Galaxy’s 18 yard box but his close range shot was parried by brave keeper Diop in LA’s goal.

On twenty minutes Whitecaps fullback Williams switched the ball to the left side finding Techera who had made a blind side run unnoticed by the LA defence.  Keeper Diop came out of his area and got beaten to the ball by Techera, who took the ball clumsily, but managed to bundle the ball into the back of  the net from 20 yards.  It was the start we needed.

As one would expect from the Galaxy there were some quality players on the pitch including Gio Dos Santos, Ashley Cole, Jelle Van Damme, and  a lesser known player called Alessandrini.  Alessandrini made himself more famous by scoring two very well taken goals in the space of four minutes.  It was 1-2 Galaxy making it eight goals the Whitecaps have conceded in four MLS matches.

Davies had a chance to score when he ball fell loose to him after Diop cleared the ball from out of his area straight to his feet, but the youngster decided to dribble instead and passed the ball to Techera, whose off-balance shot went wide of the net on 45 minutes.

At half time there was a bit of a sinking feeling, but when Robinson took Hurtado off and put Montero in we felt the game might change.  Another change that brought success was newcomer Tony Tchani, who came in for Jacobsen.  Within three minutes of his appearance in the 64th minute, the Whitecaps had scored two goals.

That man Techera was involved again when he was found by Davies who made perfect cross straight to the wee man’s foot.  Techera beat a man and then forced Diop to make a difficult save which rebounded to Montero who put his first MLS goal in for the Whitecaps.  It was 2-2 on 66 minutes.

Right after the kickoff LA coughed up the ball in midfield and the Whitecaps embarked on a quick counter attack.  Montero got the ball on the left and passed the ball to Laba, who was at the top of the penalty area.  Laba struck the ball low to Diop’s right and into the net.

Montero was again involved as he won the ball deep in LA territory and slotted the ball into the path of Bolanos, who beat Diop but not the sprawling Ashley Cole who came to his keeper’s rescue.

It was Montero yet again who broke free down the right on a counter attack in the 87th minute with LA thin at the back.  Montero struck a deadly dipping low shot to the keeper’s left, forcing him to parry into the path of a surging laba, who headed home an easy one from close range.  The Whitecaps were rampant, and Laba had scored two goals on his 100th MLS appearance.

It was a convincing win the Whitecaps badly needed.  With the team looking terrible through the first three MLS games, Coach Robinson must have been fearing for his job.  The players came through for him, however, and demonstrated there is actually great hope for the 2017 season.  The team proved they can score and play entertaining football.

On the other side of the coin is our leaky defence.  If a team concedes an average of two goals a game there is a problem.   Tony Tchani may well prove the solution to this problem, however.  When Tchani came on the team looked confident and had a spine it did not have before.  The team also started moving the ball through the midfield for the first time this year as well, which is very promising.

While we were all sad to see Scooter go, the Manneh-Tchani trade looks like a trade up.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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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