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: Carl Robinson, Giovinco, Greg Vanney, Jozy Altidore, MLS first kick, Octavio Rivero, Vancouver Whitecaps
For five years now the Vancouver Whitecaps have had the privilege of playing their first game at home. In Major League Soccer playing at home is a distinct advantage. Squads like Toronto Football club face a five hour flight and a three hour time adjustment when they come to Vancouver. This, in part, explains why the Whitecaps have won their four previous opening day matches, which have always been against Eastern Conference opposition. With TFC signing some major talent in Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco to accompany Micheal Bradley I had the feeling this might be our first opening day loss. It was, as the Whitecaps went down 1-3.
Early in the match the Whitecaps were buzzing with new signing Octavio Rivero starting up top as the Whitecaps’ striker. Kekuta Manneh and Mauro Rosales played on the flanks with Pedro Morales at the bottom of the diamond. Canadian Russell Teibert and Matias Laba played midfield stoppers in front of a back line of Jordan Harvey, Pah-Moduo Kah, Kendall Waston and Steven Beitashour. The ever-present David Ousted started in goal.
TFC had a major overhaul in terms of their personnel in the off-season and early on they played like a team that did not know each other. The Whitecaps were rampant and had no difficulty in getting behind TCF’s flat back defence. Early on Russell Teibert got deep and crossed the ball right on the foot of Rivero who had an easy tap-in. Instead, he stepped on the ball and left it behind. We can thank our artificial turf manufacturers Polytan for that miss, and Rivero will now be condemned to being on YouTube under the “incredible misses” category. We would later wonder what the result would be had Rivero scored.
Soon after Rivero would make up for the miss, however, as a fine ball from Kah found La Cabeza running behind TFC’s high line of defence. Rivero ran for 30 yard on his own and put the ball through TFC keeper Joe Bendik’s legs to put the Whitecaps up 1-0 after 20 minutes. Rivero looked excellent in this match, but suffered from starvation in the second half because of a lack of service.
The high price talent of TFC struck back 12 minutes later when Giovinco managed to lose Teibert on the right side of the pitch. He headed for the middle and found Altidore in the box with a wonderfully deft pass; Altidore dribbled around Ousted and slotted home from the right of the goal. Altidore had managed to get on the blind side of both Watston and Kah, who were caught ball watching. Harvey saw Altidore’s run but reacted too late to do anything useful about it. This same mistake would be repeated by all in the second half.
Even though the Whitecaps had been pegged back to 1-1, they went into the half time break knowing they were unlucky not to be 2 goals up on TFC. It still looked promising for a win.
The Whitecaps’ tea lady must have got the brew wrong during the half-time break; did she use Sleepy Time Tea instead of English Breakfast? Perhaps coach Robinson sang lullabies instead of giving a stirring speech. The Whitecaps came into the second half with none of the urgency they had so effectively used in the first half. TFC Coach Greg Vanney made some smart tactical adjustments, playing his whole team much deeper in defence, thereby neutralizing the Whitecaps’ ability to get behind their defensive line. Manneh consequently disappeared, as did Rosales. It was nothing but frustration in the second half as the Whitecaps created far less chances in the second half, and could not adjust their own tactics to meet TFC’s changes.
One would think that Vanney’s tactical move would have given Pedro Morales more room to play in midfield but our star player had a bad match overall. While he sprayed some magnificent long passes to the flanks, his short passing game in the middle of the pitch was abysmal. He gave the ball away time and time again. Worse still, Morales did not look match fit, and was probably one of the worst conditioned players on the pitch. Last year the excuse was that he had not had a break and was exhausted. Lets hope this game has helped him to get into shape. There is no doubt TFC’s new star Giovinco easily outplayed our star Morales.
While the Whitecaps misfired through the second half, TFC grew in strength. Justin Morrow got around Beitashour and crossed low for Robbie Findley to blast in to the Whitecaps’ net from close range after 60 minutes. As in the first goal, Kah and Waston were caught ball watching and were unaware of Findley’s blind side run between Kah and Harvey. Harvey again saw Findley’s run but was again too slow to react and chased him in vain. The fact is both Beitashour and Harvey looked easily beaten in this game, and if I were Sam Adekugbe and Ethen Sampson I would be getting butterflies because they might just be starting matches soon enough. The fact is too many Whitecaps put in sub-standard performances in the second half.
TFC’s third goal came from a ball played right over the middle of the Whitecaps defence as Atidore got the better of Kah. Kah took a wild swing at the ball across Altidore’s body and brought him down. Altidore’s cheeky chip into the net on the penalty and his sarcastic celebration in front of the Southsiders brought him a beer shower as fans chucked their beverages at him. We will have to see what the club and MLS does about that one, but I would imagine some fans are going to lose their season tickets if they can be identified.
As the final whistle blew, we fans were left to ponder our first opening game loss in the Whitecaps MLS era. One fellow sitting in front of me joked “the season is over”. It all made me reflect on the fact that money does win soccer games as TFC’s high priced talent certainly was more effective in execution than our comparatively cheap squad.
Coach Carl Robinson must also look in the mirror; he was not able to match Vanney’s half time tactical shift. Robinson’s substitutes were more naive than effective as Laba and Rosales made way for Hurtado and Mattocks. The changes left the Whitecaps lacking in shape and intelligence, looking for all the world like a schoolboy team. TFC easily absorbed the “pressure” and saw the game out for a convincing win.
It is back to the drawing board for coach Robinson. Last year’s problem was a lack of goals, but this year’s problem would appear to be poor defending. The Whitecaps defence looked just as unconvincing as the team’s captain in this match.