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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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 hit new low with Shea Red Card

March 19, 2017 at 10:26 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps season 2017 | 1 Comment
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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.

 

 

 

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 | 1 Comment
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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.

 

 

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