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.


Vancouver Whitecaps set to play real football club in Champions League

March 13, 2017 at 9:51 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps season 2017 | 2 Comments
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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.



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!

Whitecaps flop badly against Revolution

June 20, 2016 at 10:44 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016, Whitecaps Season 2016 | 1 Comment
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We knew it was not going to be our strongest team when we headed to this match.  The Major League Soccer Discipline Committee and referees had seen to that. The suspension to Kendall Waston was understandable, but the suspensions given to Pedro Morales and Octavio Rivero were beyond stupid. We pay money to see our starters play, not our second stringers, thank you Don Garber.

Isn’t it time to get rid of Garber and get a League Commissioner who actually knows what football is?

After being treated to the sublime football in the European Championships and the Copa Centenario this match was almost guaranteed to be a disappointment. Still, I put on my old Whitecaps jersey, hoped for the best, and headed to the match with old Oasis tunes ringing in my head.

Fraser Aird was still missing so Jordan Smith played at right back.  Andrew Jacobsen took Waston’s place with ever presents Tim Parker in the centre and Jordan Harvey at left back.   Teibert and Laba lined up in defensive midfield while Nico Mezquida took the number 10 role flanked by Manneh on the left and Techera on the right.  Eric Hurtado took on the lone striker role.

New England lined up with no less than three players who have been associated with the Whitecaps in the past: keeper Brad Knighton; midfielder Daigo Kobayashi; and striker Lee Nguyen.  New England looked weak and ripe for the picking early on as the Whitecaps buzzed around in their end.  Mezquida went close on a steep angled shot.  New England rang our bell, however, with a header off the Whitecaps’ crossbar to show they were dangerous too.

In spite of the Whitecaps overall dominance, New England struck first in this match with a Lee Nguyen free kick crossed to the far post in the 31 minute. No less than three Whitecaps (Laba, Smith and Jacobsen) were present to take care of the danger, but big defenders Jacobsen and Smith left it to the tiny Laba to mount a rather pathetic physical challenge to the giant New England defender London Woodbury.  Woodbury easily swept Laba aside in the challenge and nodded home to make it 1-0 New England. To call this bad defending would be too charitable; neither Jacobsen not Smith, who should have been taking responsibility for clearing an unremarkable far post cross, even bothered challenging Woodbury at all.  It was clear they were all surprised Woodbury was even there.  No one detected his run into the box.  Oh, how we missed the arial dominance and marking of Waston on this play.

The heroic Nico Mezquida, who always works his backside off for the Whitecaps, drew us level with a lovely free kick ten minutes later from just outside the box.  It was a wonderful dipping shot which cleared the wall and beat Knighton to his right side.  It was wonderful technique by Mezquida, who kept his upper body and head over the ball when he struck it.

Hurtado missed a stellar breakaway chance just after halftime but his touch let him down and he shot wide of goal. Two players were exposed in this match by the suspensions. One was Andrew Jacobsen, who is just not really up to the job at centre back, and striker Eric Hurtado, who failed to score in a match where he should have.   Jacobsen and Hurtado just made us miss Waston and Rivero even more keenly with their poor performances.

Weak defending and poor marking left the Whitecaps exposed again for the second New England goal. Teibert was outmuscled for the ball by none other than Daigo Kobayashi,  who hardly had reputation as a strong man when he played here.  Teal Bunbary picked up the loose ball and crossed low along the top of the box for Keyln Rowe to shoot low past a sprawling David Ousted.  It was a beautifully executed goal which showed all of the qualities that were missing from the Whitecaps on this night.  It was 2-1 with plenty of time (35 minutes) left to play.

Another player who put in a substandard performance for Vancouver was Kekuta Manneh.  Manneh still perplexes Whitecaps coaching staff and fans alike with his lack of consistency.  Hurtado’s best play of the match was to dribble down the left side of New England’s defence and put a low touch-line cross right on Manneh’s foot only to watch the speedy winger sky the ball over the net like an amateur.  It was truly a cringeworthy moment for Manneh who was completely unmarked at the time with the whole New England net yawning in front of him.  Had Manneh scored it would have at least have given us a point to take away, and it might just have given the Whitecaps the confidence to get a third goal.

As it was the Whitecaps resorted to fruitless long balls over the top of the New England defence for Hurtado to head or chest down. While Hurtado worked like a dog nothing came of it.  Substitutions to bring striker Perez, and midfielders Bolanos and Bustos on to the pitch paid no dividends.

It has to be said that there was a lot going against Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson for this game.  Even top quality players Bolanos and Perez, who might have saved the match for the Whitecaps had they started, were rested after their Copa Centenario tournament exertions.   Both looked and played tired when they came on for the last third of the match.

Frankly, it was a disappointing experience and a reminder that once you scratch beneath the surface of most MLS starting elevens the quality gets poor pretty quick.

With the league rapidly expanding it is time to raise the salary cap and get better players into MLS squads to keep us fans interested for this kind of game.

Especially if MLS officials keep on handing out stupid suspensions to the players we pay to see.



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