Tigers toy with Whitecaps

April 5, 2017 at 10:12 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps season 2017 | Leave a comment
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Oh well, we knew it was a long shot. We only lost 1-2 at home to a far superior team in Tigres UNAL and once again, the free enterprise football teams of Mexico beat the salary capped Major League Soccer (MLS) teams of Canada and the USA.  The CONCACAF final will feature Tigres and Pachuca, and it is Mexico which will yet again send a team to the World Club Championship.

It all started well when a Christian Bolanos free kick found Techera whose cross put Tigres ‘keeper Guzman under pressure.  The big netminder coughed the ball up to Brek Shea, who neatly tucked the ball into the net past him.  It was 1-0 Whitecaps after only three minutes.  We were in with a chance.

Or so we thought.  For the rest of the match Tigres had possession of the ball for the vast majority of time.  Whenever the Whitecaps got possession of the ball they soon gave it up under the cohesive net of defensive pressure Tigres employed.

Even if we put one or two passes together, Tigres defenders were able to easily read what the ‘Caps players were doing and made the necessary adjustments to put out any brush fires.

Shea left the pitch early because of an injury, and youngster Davies came in and looked for the first time like a kid out of his depths.  In MLS play Davies is able to put heavy pressure on multiple defenders but he was easily squashed by just one defender tonight.

The overall quality of the Tigres team was solid from front to back and their team play was on another level.  The quality of Eduardo Vargas, Chilean international and Andre-Pierre Gignac, French international was on display and it was Gignac who put the tie beyond doubt with a curling shot from outside of the box mid way through the second half.  Whitecaps defenders gave the Frenchman too much room and time to shoot and you could see the punishment coming.  At 1-1 the Whitecaps needed three goals in a short amount of time; it was an impossible task.  Tigres struck again late on and there is no doubt they deserved to go ahead to the final of the CONCACAF Champion’s League.

All of this will make for grim news for MLS commissioner Don Garber.  His salary cap model is no match for Mexico’s free market Liga MX, which has once again proven itself to be  far superior in quality.   MLS has a long way to go before it can compete with the Mexican league, and it remains a distant second in terms of quality in the CONCACAF region.

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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.

 

 

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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