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.

 

 

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 tie Colorado in injury time

September 25, 2016 at 10:13 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps 2016, Whitecaps Season 2016 | 1 Comment
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There was a pall of gloom that hung over BC Place as the fans filed in to see the Vancouver Whitecaps play the Colorado Rapids.   There was no urgency as the usually lazy Whitecaps fans showed up even later than usual, and by the time of kickoff the ground was only half-filled. The fans, just like the team, were behaving like also-rans.

There was a sense of resignation that this game would be mediocre just like much the Whitecaps 2016 campaign.   This turned out to be wrong as the match eventually lurched into life in the second half when there were some extraordinary moments of quality football.

Knowing the Whitecaps were desperate and needing a win to maintain even the faintest hope of playoff participation, Coach Carl Robinson abandoned his usual one striker formation and started with two men up front: Giles Barnes and Eric Hurtado. In central midfield Laba and Morales were paired up flanked by Bolanos on the right and 15 year old Davies on the left. Smith, Edgar, Waston and Harvey protected Ousted in goal.

The Whitecaps were poor in the first half. For a team that was supposed to be playing desperate soccer seeking a playoff spot, they played like they had already given up.

The Whitecaps conceded an early goal which demonstrated that Waston’s defensive brains were not functioning. Waston was drawn forward out of position chasing a Colorado striker when Colorado’s Sam Cronin lofted a ball straight down the middle over Waston’s head to a streaking Marlon Hairston who took possession of the ball with only Harvey in pursuit. Ousted charged out of his goal and 18 yard box and tried a bizarre Kamikaze dive to head the ball away from Hairston’s feet but his timing was well off and Hairston passed the ball to an unmarked Dominique Badji who finished easily while David Edgar looked on behind the play. No less than four Whitecaps defenders were too late arriving on the scene.

It was a comical goal which underscored the naïve mistake-ridden defending that has blighted the Whitecaps entire season. We might expect to see this kind of thing in the reserve squad but it was unforgivably poor for a professional match.

Morales had a relatively good half and did play some sublime balls through for players to run on to, but those same players soon gave up possession of the ball, with right back Smith being especially guilty.

Robinson must have used some choice words in the dressing room during the second half, and well he should have done, because it was the worst half we have seen the Whitecaps play at home all season long.   The fans were chatting together like it was a baseball game because nothing was really happening on the pitch.

The Whitecaps came out in the second half with a different kind of spirit. They won a corner kick (which has been relatively rare this season) and Bolanos expertly curled an in-swinger for the giant Waston to deflect inside the far post past big Tim Howard in Colorado’s goal. It was 1-1 with the greater part of the second half to play.

Soon after the Whitecaps were caught with another ball over the central defensive pair which was not anticipated by either Waston or Edgar. The other Colorado striker Badji was through alone on goal with Waston in pursuit. As Waston tried to catch him he bundled Badji over in the penalty area and was promptly sent off by referee Toledo. Albanian international Gashi confidently stroked the ball into the Whitecaps’ net on the resulting penalty kick. It was 2-1 with 33 minutes left to play.

The Whitecaps worked hard with the 10 men they had against Colorado’s 11. Barnes and Hurtado worked especially hard up front to get the ball back and it was these two who created a second goal through their industry. Hurtado got possession of the ball from Barnes with no less than 5 Colorado defenders surrounding him on the left flank. He beat one defender and tried to cross the ball past the others but it bounced off of a defender to the feet of a surging Barnes who strode past the defenders to deliver a low cross to our waiting captain Morales. Morales coolly and accurately passed the ball into the net to level the game on 70 minutes. Morales, like the rest of the crowd, seemed shocked that he had actually scored a goal in the run of play after so long.

Soon after the Whitecaps conceded a free kick outside of the box and Gashi scored a wonderful curling free kick the likes of which we haven’t seen since a fellow called Camilo played here. It was 3-2 on 75 minutes and it looked like too much to ask for the Whitecaps to come back a third time, especially with only 10 men on the pitch.

The Whitecaps refused to give up however, and with a scandalously low three minutes of injury time left there was precious little left to work with when the Whitecaps scored to tie it all up at 3-3. Hurtado, who had run tirelessly all night, got his just desserts.

Jordan Harvey latched on to a poor clearance header from Colorado’s defence and got a decent cross in between his two markers; the ball went to the near post where it was deflected off of a Colorado defender’s head straight to Hurtado at the far post. Hurtado hit the cross bar with his header but the ball then bounced off a Colorado defender over the goal line as Howard struggled to juggle the ball out of his net. The linesman signalled for a goal and it completed a wonderful come back for the Whitecaps. It was the last play of the match.

It was a great finish to a peculiar, emotionally disjointed game.   A game which had started with the bland mediocrity which has typified this MLS season in Vancouver had ended as a thriller, of sorts. Had the Whitecaps played well in the first half they might have taken all three points to at least put some pressure on other Whitecaps teams fighting to get the last playoff spot.   With only one point to show from this game, playoff hopes dimmed even further.

 

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