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 walk over poor LA Galaxy

April 6, 2015 at 10:25 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2015 | 2 Comments
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What a difference one year makes. What a difference one player makes.

Landon Donovan retired last year after leading the Los Angeles Galaxy to the MLS Championship. This year, in Donovan’s absence, the Galaxy are a shadow of their former selves. Donovan and the Galaxy used to come up North and make the Whitecaps struggle and mostly lose, but last night’s match was a walk in the park for the home side.

Manneh's goal celebration

Manneh’s goal celebration

Robbie Keane looked like an orphan out there without Donovan.

Coach Carl Robinson clearly told his team to try to love the ball more after last week’s match against Portland, when the Whitecaps only had just over one-third of possession. While the statistics showed the Galaxy had almost as much of the ball as the Whitecaps, in reality the Galaxy were rarely in this match.

The Galaxy’s star now is Robbie Keane, but Keane had very little to do with this match, with no service from his midfield and with Russell Teibert harassing him like a tiger all night.

Robbo started Ousted in goal, Adekugbe, Waston, Kah and Beitashour on the back line. Robinson preferred Teibert to play alongside Laba in defensive midfield on this night instead of Gershon Koffie, who has a bad knee. Mesquida, Morales and Manneh played in attacking midfield, supporting lone striker Rivero up front.

Kekuta Manneh’s return from a one match ban lifted the team, and his running and dribbling on the left flank gave LA trouble right from the start.

A poacher's goal and its 2-0

A poacher’s goal and its 2-0

The good news on this night was that Pedro Morales is starting to get into the groove and be more like his old self. Morales appeared more fit and lively than he has been in other matches this season and performed some stunning trickery, putting the ball through the legs of his opponents at least three times. In one sequence he juggled the ball on his foot while three Galaxy players tried to get the ball off him in vain. It looks like our Captain is starting to enjoy himself again, which is great news.

In a scoreless first half the Whitecaps created plenty of chances but few actually troubled Penedo in LA’s goal. Manneh had several chances but kept shooting the ball high over the goal.

Just past ten minutes into the second half it was Morales who took the ball on the left flank and put a perfect ball through to a surging Kekuta Manneh. The ball had glorious back-spin on it which allowed Manneh to get on the end of it with ease. Manneh went one on one with a rather slow and listless LA defender, easily getting past him to strike the ball low to LA Keeper Penedo’s right. It was 1-0 and it looked as though it was easily going to be Vancouver’s night.

Maestro Morales is back

Maestro Morales is back

Rivero made it 2-0 ten minutes later after a darting Mezquida took the ball from him to the left of Penedo’s gaol. Mezquida’s run caught LA defenders napping and his low cross was only knocked out in front of goal by a diving Penedo to the alert Rivero who had an easy shot into the back of the net.

Looking back on the match I questioned whether the Whitecaps were so good or were the Galaxy just so awful? I give credit to the Whitecaps, there is no doubt they put in a first class effort to a man. But I still wonder if Robbie Keane would have been so easily shut down if he had Donovan to play with.

LA put nowhere near the effort Portland did in last weeks Cascadia clash in BC Place. Bruce Arena later accused his team of not competing enough but the Galaxy lack identity. It looks like they are just waiting for their big designated player Steven Gerrard to show up and save their season.

How the mighty have fallen!

Whitecaps youngsters tire of chasing Galaxy in loss

April 14, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps season 2014 | Leave a comment
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The first leg of the home-and-away series verses the LA Galaxy featured an experimental line-up.  For the Los Angeles leg Carl Robinson was faced with a suspended Mathias Laba and a still-recovering Nigel Reo-Coker;  our key midfielders were unavailable.  Robinson decided to put a young squad out to rattle the Galaxy with speed and pressure.  It nearly worked.  

Robinson played Gershon Koffie and Russell Tiebert in front of the usual back four of Beitashour, DeMerit, Obrien and Harvey.  Kekuta Manneh started on the left side of midfield, alongside Morales in the middle and Fernandez on the right.  Darren Mattocks sprinted around alone up front.  

The Whitecaps chased and harried the Galaxy in the first half, so much so they were able to keep the Galaxy uncomfortable on the ball.  Though the Galaxy had the lion’s share of possession, the Whitecaps looked dangerous when Mattocks and Manneh were able to get some room to run with the ball.  The Whitecaps created clear chances but came up against their nemesis Jaime Penedo in the Galaxy goal.  Only two excellent saves by Penedo off of point blank shots by Kekuta Manneh kept the Galaxy on a clean sheet in the first half which they would eventually keep.   Darren Mattocks also had a good chance which the Panamanian saved.  

At half time it was anybody’s match, and the Whitecaps went to the dressing room looking like they would score at least one. 

The second half the Whitecaps reverted to traditional form which is expected of away matches against the Galaxy.  They were still sleeping from half time when they gave up a goal just one minute into the second half. Perhaps they were just tired from all of that running in the first half.

A long ball from the Galaxy half found Stefan Ishizaki to the right of goal.  DeMerit conceded possession and closed Ishizaki down.  Meanwhile, Robbie Keane moved into the penalty area in the space left by O’Brien, who retreated to support DeMerit.  Gershon Koffie saw Keane running, made an attempt to catch him, and then inexplicably gave up the chase at the top of the penalty box, allowing Keane to run into the box on O’Brien’s blind side unopposed.  Ishizaki curled the ball around DeMerit to find Keane who had the easiest of finishes.  It was a beautifully executed goal, the only problem was the ball ended up in the Whitecaps’ net.

Gershon Koffie has a lot of explaining to do for just giving up the chase of Keane, and for not communicating with O’Brien about Keane’s approach.  In his fourth season with the Whitecaps in MLS, Koffie still has a lot of maturing to do. At the level the Galaxy plays, one mistake is all they need to punish you. 

Robinson waited rather long to bring Kenny Miller into the match, and when he did so in the 70th minute he brought Erik Hurtado into the match at the same time for Morales and Fernandez, who had both long disappeared from this match.  Miller nearly stole one off of a clever corner kick by Mezquida but his near post header went straight at Penedo, who seems to have a supernatural touch when it comes to playing the Whitecaps.  Hurtado was completely useless as usual, and looked like the guy who shows up at the park for a kick-around who has never played soccer.  Why the Whitecaps keep this guy in the roster is beyond me; speed alone will not cut it in the MLS. 

Given Manneh’s earlier close misses in the first half, I was surprised to see Mezquida brought in for Manneh with 15 minutes left.  By this time Robinson seemed to be just rolling the dice and thinking beyond this game to the next match this coming Saturday.  

The loss was the Whitecaps’ second in a row, but the match showed some positive signs for the season.   The Whitecaps were unlucky not to score in this match, and really gave LA a game.  I expect we will see a dramatically different line-up when the Galaxy come to town for the return leg, With Laba and Reo-Coker involved from the start.  

I don’t know why but I feel positive that we will win.   

 

 

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