Montero puts Sounders to the Sword

April 16, 2017 at 11:03 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps season 2017 | Leave a comment
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Don’t ever diss the baby faced assassin. When Fredy Montero came to the Vancouver Whitecaps his old Sounders teammate Brad Evans made said he would “…never play for a rival team”.   If you are a plodder like Evans no other team wants you anyway.  That is the difference between the two players.  Montero showed Evans and the rest of the Seattle Sounders what a quality footballer is by putting two striker’s goals in Seattle’s net to win the match.

Both Cascadian teams have struggled for form of late, and losing this match would be a blow to either one.  On paper, this match should have been the Sounders to win, but the boys in white showed character and grit in scraping a win from their arch-rivals.  The illustrious Clint Dempsey was kept off of the score sheet (luckily, since he hit the woodwork twice!), and Nicolas Lodeiro, Seattle’s dynamic Uruguayan midfielder, was limited to one assist.

The post match statistics showed a Sounders win in every category but the goals column.  Seattle easily had more possession, more corner kicks, and more shots; Vancouver had many more saves and more fouls.

Carl Robinson made a tactical decision to play an away game at home.  The Whitecaps did not try to outgun the Sounders, knowing full well how deadly Dempsey, Lodeiro and young striker Jordan Morris can be on the counter attack.  Dempsy proved the point by hitting the crossbar from long range while being closely marked by two Whitecaps defenders.  It was safety first, and it was not pretty to watch the home side nervously playing a cautious game and barely venturing out of their own end.  It was frustrating stuff for the home crowd.

Robbo’s strategy worked well however, because the Whitecaps got out of the first half without conceding and their confidence grew from there.   Waston and Parker were playing their hearts out in central defence and so were Svensson and Marshall for Seattle. The game was looking like a rather dull stalemate.

Christian Techera is one Whitecaps player who has decided to shape up recently, and, just like his performance against the Galaxy a few weeks back, he became a leader in this game for the Whitecaps.   Techera’s left foot has been providing some deadly crosses of late, and he found Bolanos in the first half for a header that went over the crossbar.

It was Techera’s pin-point cross that found Montero in the 65th minute to break the deadlock.  Montero found some room behind the giant Svensson and rather awkwardly headed the ball on to his own shoulder and into the Sounders net.  It was not the prettiest header you have ever seen, but it proved accurate enough to beat Stephan Frei in Seattle’s goal in spite of Frei’s heroic effort to save it.

With Waston playing out of his skin it looked like one goal might be enough to do it, but with ten minutes left the Whitecaps earned one of those corner kicks they find so rarely.  Christian Bolanos curled in a beautiful corner right on to his fellow Costa Rican’s head.  Waston deflected the ball to the far post for an unmarked Montero to deflect into the net.

Funny how no Seattle defender was even near Montero on both of the Columbian’s goals.  The babyfaced assassin is expert in ghosting into positions unnoticed.  The Sounders defence looked shocked to see that something so cute could cause so much damage, in spite of having played with the man for four years.

It was a thrilling finish thanks to Lodeiro and the giant Will Bruin, who came on as a late Seattle substitute.  Lodeiro crossed from the right for Bruin to crash home to make it 2-1 with only two minutes and injury time left.  A last second mad scramble in the box saw Ousted fail to punch clear and the ball coming back towards his goal pinball style.  Ousted was beaten but that man Waston, who saved the ‘Caps bacon so many times he should have been named man of the match, kicked the ball off of the line saving a certain goal.

It was one of those heart attack endings, and it felt like we had robbed the bank having just escaped with the policeman’s bullets whizzing by our ears.

While it was a thriller, the game started with barely half of the seats filled.  The lazy Vancouver sports fan just cannot get to the match on time.  Why people cannot get their act together to support the team on time is just beyond me.  True supporters show their players that they care and have their ass in their seat at least in time for kickoff.

Even the Southsiders section was half empty at kickoff. Come on people, lets try to do better.

 

 

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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!

New Whitecaps players come good in Cascasia win

May 7, 2016 at 11:18 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016, Whitecaps Season 2016 | 2 Comments
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When looking for explanations why the Vancouver Whitecaps were playing so poorly in the first third of the 2016 Major League Soccer season there was a simple explanation.  The new guys coming in, in particular Aird, Bolanos and Kudo, were not playing as well for the Whitecaps as those players we had sent away: Beitashour, Koffie and Mattocks.

Aird played as though his internal GPS was broken and got lost on the pitch, resulting in goals against.  Bolanos had good skill but played defence like one of those dogs that doesn’t know how to play “fetch”.   Kudo looked like he needed to go to the gym and get some muscles. The only guy of the new crew who was looking to be useful was Blas Perez, even if he hadn’t scored a goal yet.

We needed our new acquisitions to raise their game against Cascadia rivals the Portland Timbers to give our season a bump.  Bolanos, Aird, Kudo and Perez did just that. They all played superb matches and gave us fans renewed hope for a season that was going sideways.

The other good news on this match day was that our finest player, Pedro Morales, finally looked fit and in the mood to play football.

Coach Carl Robinson did a masterful job and picked a team that clicked from the start against the Timbers with Ousted in goal; Aird, Waston, Parker and Harvey at the back;   Laba and Morales in deep midfield; Bolanos, Mezquida and Techera in attacking midfield; and striker Kudo alone up front.

With this line-up the ball moved smoothly from back to front. First half chances to score were plentiful for the Whitecaps, if not fruitful.  The Whitecaps created chance after chance, forcing saves from Portland’s keeper Gleeson.  Gleeson had played a blinder against TFC last Saturday and looked like he was going to do the same against Vancouver.  There also seemed to be some kine of magnetic field around Portland’s goal as numerous Vancouver shots bent narrowly wide.

As often happens in this funny old game, Portland scored late in the half against the run of play.  It was a superb goal orchestrated by the intelligent passing and running of Darlington Nagbe, (why didn’t we draft him?), in combination with giant striker Fanendo Adi. Adi flicked the ball back to Nagbe, who put the ball across Ousted’s goal for the bearded defender Nat Borchers to tap in at the far post.  It looked like another frustrating match as the Whitecaps could not reply before the halftime whistle went.   We were one goal down and in card trouble already with key men Waston and Morales both picking up yellow cards early in the match.

It took 15 minutes of hard work in the second half before the Whitecaps drew level.  After all of their masterful approach play failed, the Whitecaps got a lucky bounce off of a Portland defender which put Kudo in alone at a steep angle on the left side of the Timbers goal.  Kudo shaped up to shoot and managed to squeak the ball between Gleeson and the near post for his first goal for the Whitecaps.  The sellout crowd were delirious, as was Kudo.  It was about time he scored one.

Six minutes later Bolanos and Perez combined brilliantly for the go-ahead goal.  Bolanos managed to find himself in lots of space (he has a special knack for finding time and space with the ball), on the right side of the pitch.  He put a deft dipping cross into the path of a charging Perez.   Perez leapt to head the ball and barely missed it.  It was  enough to put Gleeson off, however,  and to his shock and our amusement, Gleeson lost track of the flight of the ball and it bounced through his legs into the net.  Cue more ecstatic celebrations inside BC Place.

New boy Aird went on a spectacular run from our own half all the way to the Timber’s penalty area.  Even if the run failed to result in a goal, it showed that Aird has grown in confidence, ability, and ambition.  Robbo must have put a spell on him in the dressing room.

The Whitecaps did a fine job of playing possession football for the rest of the match but nearly blew it late on when Portland charged down the field in a quick counter attack from a failed Whitecaps corner kick.  Jordan Harvey fell in a challange and left three Timbers players bearing down on our net with only one defender pursuing them.  After one pass Diego Valeri, arguably Portland’s most gifted player, was alone on our goal with only Ousted to beat.  Valeri took a clumsy touch of the ball and Pedro Morales, finally playing like a captain, managed to track back and reel Valeri in.  Morales managed to touch the ball to Ousted who cleared with his feet. Disaster was averted.

To see Morales play an entire game and play so well was a joy and perhaps the best news of this match.  There is no doubt the Whitecaps play much better when he is in the side.

When the final whistle blew it was like a breath of fresh air.  The Whitecaps had played very well, had scored two goals in open play, and had staged a come-from-behind victory against a Cascadia rival.  Bolanos was correctly named the man of the match.

All-in-all a great afternoon to remember at BC Place.

 

 

Whitecaps awake in 2016 with Cascadia win

March 20, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016 | 1 Comment
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After walking in their sleep through two early season matches the Vancouver Whitecaps finally woke up to the 2016 season in time to beat our greatest rival, the Seattle Sounders, 2-1.  It was a tough, physical contest in front of another big Seattle crowd with about 800-1000 Whitecaps fans making the trip down South.

Coach Carl Robinson proved his courage as a manager and played two strikers instead of his usual one.  Robinson favoured a 4-4-2 formation to his usual 4-2-3-1 setup, which was a gamble considering we were on the road playing against a powerful Cascadia rival.

Blas Perez has proven himself to be too good to start a match on the bench in the first two games this season.  He was handed a well-deserved start alongside Octavio Rivero up front.   Pedro Morales and Mathias Laba played central midfield flanked by Bolanos on the right and  Manneh on the left.    Fraser Aird took to the field having won the argument between himself and Jordan Smith concerning the right back position.  Parker and Waston played the middle and Harvey played left back.  The ever present David Ousted wore the keeper’s gloves.

Pedro Morales proved to be the central figure of this match.  He was involved in  all three goals, two as penalty taker and one as the guy who defended poorly.  Perez was the other key man for the Whitecaps.  He was crucially involved in both goals the Whitecaps scored.

Perez created the first goal early in the match with a perfectly weighted pass to Bolanos, who was making a well-timed surging run around Seattle’s defender Jones in to Seattle’s box.   Bolanos was slightly clipped on his way by Jones and went down in the box.   Replays did not show any detectable contact, but Bolanos went down in a manner that suggested there was contact, however slight it was.  Referee Mark Geiger immediately called for a penalty which Morales dispatched with his usual calm.  It was a perfect start for our road warriors and it was 1-0 after only ten minutes.

The Whitecaps had a very solid and mentally sharp first half.  Ousted looked very sharp in goal, coming to claim crosses calmly, and his confidence spread through the team.  One Whitecap  who looked really good was Fraser Aird.  Though he tends to get caught out of position occasionally, he was competitive physically and his speed was a big asset to Vancouver.

Seattle are obviously having teething problems since the departure of Obafemi Martins, who has gone off to China to capitalize on the massive money being thrown at players over there.  Nelson Valdez, new boy Jordan Morris, and the surly Clint Dempsey struggled to find any rhythm up front all night against our well organized defence.

The Sounders scored on a free kick to equalize six minutes into the second half.  Dempsey found a gap in the Whitecaps’ defence and was running through it when Morales brought him down just outside the box.  The Whitecaps set up a wall but put it too far to the left, leaving the near post exposed.   Morales took his spot on the far right of the wall, and Seattle’s Ivanshitz curled it round him as Morales turned his back on the ball.  Poor Pedro looked a bit sheepish having conceded the foul and then having looked weak in the wall.  It was 1-1.

Both teams looked poor in the second half, which was spent mostly in the Whitecaps’ half.  The Whitecaps in particular struggled to make use of the ball and poor passes meant they turned the ball over to Seattle again and again.  Thankfully the  Whitecaps were sharp in defending and did not concede for the rest of the match.

The match was decided on another controversial penalty call.  Again Morales was involved.  He curled a deadly accurate pass on to Perez to run onto.  The ball curled on to Perez’ left side and Perez moved to his right to block Seattle defender Marshall who made a reckless lunge across Perez’ body to get to the ball. Marshall got to the ball but only through clattering Perez and bringing him down.  Geiger again blew his whistle, and Seattle players and fans went bonkers.  Really they had nothing to complain about since Marshall was slow to react to Perez’s run and then made a desperate gamble to stop him with a foolish lunge.  All of the experience and strength of Perez made that play successful for the Whitecaps.

Morales made up for his earlier defensive errors and put us on top again; it was 2-1 Whitecaps with fifteen minutes to go.

Seattle laid siege to our goal and their efforts culminated in a clear goal scoring opportunity as Dempsey arrived late in the box for an open shot from a cross from the left of goal. Dempsey tried to side foot the ball into the far corner but missed with inches to spare.  He rightly hung his head in shame because it should have been 2-2, and all of that money he gets paid as a designated player looked mis-spent.

Just before injury time Bolanos and Perez conspired to give Techera a clear shot at goal from close range but the wee man did a Dempsey and fired just wide on the volley. Had that gone in it would have been a real beauty.

Ousted et al did all they needed to do to preserve the advantage and it ended in a stirring win to set our season on the right path.  It was very satisfying because it meant our rivals the Sounders are now in a tailspin having lost their first three matches.

The off season acquisition of Blas Perez looks to have been a master stroke.  Christian Bolanos, after a quiet start, is also looking very valuable.  Full marks went to Carl Robinson.  While it was too early to call our slow start to the season a crisis, the players really let Robbo down in the first two games and he has now righted the ship.  There was no doubt the players all gave 100% for the jersey on this night, and all played as they should have.

A very satisfying win indeed, and Whitecaps version 2016 has finally arrived.

 

 

 

 

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