Canada refuses to lose against Sweden and earns its place in the quarterfinal


Christine Sinclair and Melissa Tancredi connected on both of Canada’s goals in a 2-2 draw with Sweden. Photo courtesy AP

Canada did not break in impossible circumstances.

The Canadian national women’s team came back from an early, traumatic deficit to draw 2-2 against Sweden and in the process define the team’s resilient character. It’s a quality they will need if they are to provide a victory against the elite nations in Olympic women’s soccer.

Canada started with pace and threatened with three fine chances, but the game whipsawed from a blank slate to a desperate attempt to get something from nothing in the space of three minutes.

Sweden’s two goals were astounding in that they came so quickly, they came against the run of play and they were so simple: both balls from wide areas, both in the same weak spot that Japan took advantage of, weaker with the absence of the injured defender Emily Zurrer.

The rapid change in fortunes could have been devastating, and I’ve seen teams knocked flat by conceding twice before. But Canada stuck to their game, which focused on ball movement up the pitch, delivering to the area and hoping something happens. This is how Canada had 13 shots, but only 2 on the net. Olympic leading scorer Melissa Tancredi’s goal just before halftime was Canada’s first shot on target.

Sweden’s approach was to apply more of a physical game than Japan did, trying to frustrate the Canadians. And as you might expect from a team defending, they were comprehensively outposessed by Canada, who had them 60-30. But they didn’t close down les Rouges (and Christine Sinclair, specifically) the same way Japan did, and Canada simply created too many chances to be denied.

Sinclair, as well, was sublime. The prolific striker has turned to a provider, using her vision and poise on the ball to create many of Canada’s best chances. This has created the secondary scoring Canada has long desired, but the captain remains crucial.

Her teammates work hard, but create little alone; this was the root of striker Jonelle Filigno’s frustration, who was limited by offside and foul calls until she was replaced by Kaylyn Kyle. Sinclair has been the one to turn sparks into goals, and it was again her cross on Tancredi’s head that earned Canada the valuable point.

The reason why it was valuable is because Canada’s greatest asset is their inexhaustible confidence. Canada could have qualified for the quarterfinals with a loss, depending on other results, but if they were to shamble through to the knockout rounds with only a win against South Africa to their names they would not have anything to bring to the incredible challenge ahead.

Because try as they might, this draw did not break the glass ceiling in women’s soccer that has separated Canada from the elite teams in major tournaments. Qualifying as a third-place team will mean they cannot escape group-winners like the US, GB or Brazil, all three of which pose a sterner test than anything they found here.

But this too seemed impossible, and Canada were able to pull out a result, just to prove that they could. It would be unwise to count them out a second time.

Stats after the jump.

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Canada WNT couldn’t solve the world champions in 2-1 loss to Japan


Photo courtesy Ryan Remiorz/AP

They couldn’t quite find a satisfactory answer.

The Canadian women’s national team did not look outmatched in their Olympics debut against Japan, but couldn’t overcome the 2011 Women’s World Cup winners where it counted: possession and control.

The match started well, with the Japanese team looking uncomfortable and not incredibly confident. While they are the world champions, scuttlebutt had been that they came into this tournament feeling more vulnerable; a 2-0 shellacking in a friendly against the US did nothing to dispel that notion.

Canada replied to this by using a very physical defensive style, with more bruising tackles. (Kaylyn Kyle really should have picked up a penalty.) And it worked, for a time, in terms of putting them off their game offensively. But Canada were playing an incredibly cautious style when Japan didn’t have much going, and so found it a challenge to create anything.

That’s not to say that Japan didn’t have it together on the defensive side of the ball. They spent the match essentially marking Christine Sinclair out of existence, and what really made their game rock-solid was their midfielders’ ability to defend high up the pitch.

Japan’s second goal, just before half-time, is what put the game out of reach in terms of a group-stage win. (This was Canada’s true low-point, as it served as punishment for blowing a defensive assignment.) But Canada, through Melissa Tancredi, did well to score a goal in the second half; because only the best two of the three groups’ third-placed finishers advanced, Canada has got to keep games tight against higher-seeded Japan and Sweden.

And just pummel South Africa on Saturday.

Stats after the jump.

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A run out for rusty legs as Whitecaps reserves lose 3-1 to Chivas USA


Etienne Barbara tries to beat the Chivas USA reserves defense at UBC Thunderbird Stadium. Photo Andrew Bates/Little Rubber Pellets

It was a chance for both Vancouver’s newest striker and an old familiar face to get 45 minutes on the pitch.

New designated player Kenny Miller started and Atiba Harris replaced him at half time as the Vancouver Whitecaps reserves fell 3-1 to the Chivas USA reserves Monday. It was the first reserve team match in a month, and both an attempt to get perennial first team bench-sitters some minutes and give Whitecaps U-23 players something to do after the end of their league’s season.

As a result, the Caps had plenty of effort forward, but unsurprisingly little clicked. Scotland captain Miller, fresh from his rousing 78th minute cameo against San Jose the night before, started the game and ran hard in the misty morning at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium.

Like against San Jose, he was pacy and had a couple promising runs in on goal, though he was frustrated in his attempts to bag a first goal in a Whitecaps shirt. His last contribution to the half was being hauled down by Chivas keeper Tim Melia in the box for a penalty, after which he needed treatment but picked up no knocks.

The penalty was the highlight of an interesting day for Michael Nanchoff, who played in the centre of midfield rather than in his usual left-wing position. Unlike the rest of his performance, however, which was promising, Nanchoff’s penalty–taken, you remember, with a DP striker on the pitch–ran straight into Melia’s chest.

The penalty miss upended the flow of the game, which to that point was largely in Vancouver’s favour; a Chivas goal before half time further changed the complexion of the affair. Russell Teibert was in his best form in the first half, with a number of strong runs marking the Canaidian midfielder with distinction.

Miller gave way to Atiba Harris at half time, making his first appearance since a muscle tear on May 25. Harris wasn’t poor, but he didn’t shine in a half where the Whitecaps–21 shots on the game, with 11 on goal– were frustrated. The moment belonged to Kianz Froese, who had a solo run to bury in the Chivas net after burning three defenders. It would stand as the Caps’ only goal.

Froese was one of five PDL players to get a look at the reserve level, a reflection of the lack of games for U23 players after the league closes for the summer and lack of development opportunities overall. (Michael McColl of AFTN has a great piece on this, and I wrote about it for the Ubyssey in April.) Overall, of the 15 players who figured in Monday’s game, 10 have played 90 minutes or less in the MLS all season. Of the other four, Atiba Harris has been injured for two months, and Matt Watson hasn’t played in three months.

There are only three reserve games left. That should be enough.


Paul Rennie, Whitecaps FC assistant coach

On whether the playing time benefited Kenny Miller:

“Yeah, he needs minutes. I thought, you see the first half performance from Kenny, his movement and the chances he creates, the space he creates for a lot of players. Kenny Miller will be a fantastic addition to the squad and he’s someone I can’t wait to be working with on a regular basis.”

On the lesson Nanchoff learned in the game:

“Nanchoff played a different position from where he usually does, he was in the middle of the park and he was very, very busy, as he usually is. He missed his penalty, it’s the first penalty he’s missed in 24, 25, he was telling me, but these things happen. I think his reaction after that shows that he’s got the hunger and desire to do well. He was fantastic today.”

On how Harris looked coming back:

“Great. Atiba’s been out for a long time, and he looked a little bit rusty at the start, but as the game went on I think he grew in confidence and had some great touches. It was good to have him back on the field. We need options now and we won’t rush him. He was on the bench yesterday and we’ll use him sparingly at the moment until he’s fully up and running. But I thought he contributed in the second half, he’s a great big target man to have and he’s excellent with his feet and he’s a great lad as well, so I’m delighted with his performance.”


Vancouver Whitecaps FC reserves: Brad Knighton; Jordan Harvey (Bobby Jhutty 63’), James Farenhorst, Carlyle Mitchell, Greg Klazura; Etienne Barbara, Matt Watson (Alex Marrello 78’), Michael Nanchoff, Russell Teibert; Kianz Froese (Gagandeep Dosanjh 72’), Kenny Miller (Atiba Harris 45’)
Unused subs: Brian Sylvestre

Whitecaps hold the lead in emotional win against first-place Earthquakes


Robson prepares to test San Jose’s Jon Busch for the go-ahead penalty. Photo Andrew Bates/Little Rubber Pellets

Love the one you’re with.

By Sunday, Whitecaps fans had not still dealt with the last and hardest departure in the summer transfer window. The announcement that the Caps’ first designated player Eric Hassli had been traded came out Friday at 5 PM, not the traditional time to announce good news.

It came too late for the printers to take Hassli’s name out of the matchday program, but the Southsiders just added his homemade player banner to an already planned tribute to sign the banners of departed Caps Davide Chiumiento, Sebastien Le Toux and Long Tan. The ceremony was incredibly maudlin, like a funeral; banners were set up against walls in the Cellar Nightclub beneath Doolins in an empty booth with a leather couch, fans stepping up to write their goodbyes, taking photos with the banners and trying not to make eye contact with other fans to allow them to have their own moments in privacy.

It’s no surprise that as the Whitecaps prepared to take on the first-place San Jose Earthquakes, it hung heavy on fans’ minds that the miracle last-minute goal that propelled the Caps to a win in the teams’ last meeting was supplied by the man who just got shipped out. But it made it that much sweeter that today’s win was very much powered by the newest Caps.

The Blue and White started out the game at a fiery pace, but with some amount of foreboding. They earned two yellow cards in quick succession, as Bonjour hauled down MLS leading scorer Wondolowski and Robson charged towards the free kick before it was actually taken. But the foreboding disappeared at the 20th minute, Dane Richards recorded his first goal since arriving from New York in the Le Toux trade.

Served off a superb Y.P. Lee pass, Richards burned in on the right-hand side and struck with power, scoring even though San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch got a glove on it. He was rewarded for his pace, and the current 4-3-3 midfield formation, with Rochat back on the left wing and Camilo, Richards, and Mattocks in a three-man attack seems to be serving everyone well.

The buoyant mood caused by being 1-0 up on the league leaders was shattered just before halftime as Alan Gordon swung his shaggy locks and headed in the equalizer for the Earthquakes. The Whitecaps howled that Gordon’s elbow found Alain Rochat behind the play, which should have called it dead before Gordon’s head found the ball. Regardless, the Caps rode into the second half flat after conceding.

The start to the second was strong, though, and Richards did well again in a close shot. Some good pressure paid off for Vancouver as Camilo was pulled down in the box, and there was terror in the moments it looked like referee Jair Marrufo had called it off. But even though he didn’t, his assistant was on it, and from that moment the Whitecaps slipped under frantic pressure with the lead. Robson waved up the crowd before taking the penalty, and for most of the next half hour, the Earthquakes battered the Whitecaps in an attempt to make it back up.

But they were superb in holding, with San Jose outshooting Vancouver 18-9 over the course of the game. And when new designated player Kenny Miller came on, the atmosphere was electric. Miller himself exploded onto the scene, with a great run from nothing right away. Between Miller and the constant defending, everything was wound up and nervous till the final minutes, with Joe Cannon pumping up the crowd for the final corner. But then the whistle blew, and the win was sound, and everything was whole again, with the Whitecaps’ three newest players well on their way to marking out a place for themselves.

In the 29th minute, chants rang out for Eric Hassli, but by the end of the game it was Robson, Richards, and Super Kenny whose names were on the lips of the Whitecaps faithful.

Stats after the jump.

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A note on tickets, and what the LA match meant for the club


When the Galaxy come to town, people worry which team fans are there to see. Photo Andrew Bates/Little Rubber Pellets

A match with a team like the MLS champions Galaxy (and their Beckham-fueled celebrity bubble) draws attention and provokes emotion. A strong market should be able to draw a crowd for a game of this stature, but fans are always worried of being overtaken by the rush, of being betrayed by Vancouver casuals there to see the other guy, not the team supporters want them to love.

It was announced two days before the game that all 21,000 tickets had sold out, only the third such match this season. (The other two were the home opener against Montreal and the Seattle match in May.) The controversial point was that, of course, B.C. Place holds much more than 21,000 people. With the upper bowl open, it holds 58,941 people. With just the tarps in the lower bowl pulled, it holds 27,000 for soccer. 48,172 showed up at the old B.C. Place to gawk when LA played the Div 2 Whitecaps in 2007. So why stop the tickets?

One argument, made by the Whitecaps and many fans, goes that it needed to be done for marketing reasons–that Vancouver casuals needed to know that if they really wanted to get in, they had to buy seasons tickets. Another argument, made eloquently by Ben Massey, goes that taxpayer dollars funded the damn stadium, and it’s dirty pool for the Whitecaps to put tarps over seats, keep fans out and still call it a sellout.

I’m no Vancouver casual! But I am too broke for season’s tickets, and I got caught in the wilderness. Roughly $20-$50 were being added onto the face value of tickets on gameday, with some tickets going for as much as $400 for a pair in the purple sections. After days fervently refreshing Craigslist and a frankly pitiful “tickets wanted” post, I managed to nick one at face value, getting the actual ticket minutes before kickoff. Much love to the guy that let me stand by his seat in the Southside, rather than forcing me to take mine in the north end.

So, how did the experience make me feel? Clearly, this was a hot ticket to get. And though people were still in to gawk at Beckham, Galaxy jerseys were rare. Vancouverites were in the Whitecaps’ corner.

It is good that people, myself included, thought of this experience as special. But the Whitecaps should do something to ensure that people with money can fill seats. If they operated a centralized reselling system that moved tickets at face value with a nominal fee, they could retain that feeling of demand while picking fans over scalpers.

Whitecaps put the optimism back into cautious optimism with 2-2 draw against LA


Photo Mafue/Flickr

After a weird couple of weeks, a breathless night at home against the LA Galaxy restored some faith in the new phase in the Whitecaps season.

Apart from the generally demoralizing 3-0 loss the last time the Caps saw the Gals, there was a long, cagey 1-1-3 road trip. Barry Robson’s debut did not make him appear in the greatest of form. Davide Chiumiento and Sebastien Le Toux got moved, with Dane Richards and Scotland captain Kenny Miller arriving. The Galaxy’s now-permanent star power that ticks up ears wherever they go, for good reasons in bad. All these and more set up worries as to whether or not the Caps would be able to maintain a fairly excellent start to the season.

And then they were up 2-0. It was a stellar first half for the Whitecaps; energy from all of the players. Beckham stepped up for a famous free kick and put it over the bar, building confidence among the home support. Camilo, possibly mindful of the new competition for forward spots, was much better coming back to defend. And it was his work in dispossessing Beckham that lead to Koffie’s first goal, a great piece of trickery to walk it past the defense and put it in the bottom corner. Robson linked up well with Y.P. Lee and directed a pretty beautiful header into the goal, one of many great pieces of work on the evening that showed quality returning where it was marred by rust in earlier matches.

The second half was less bright. LA commanded more possession and got more chances and the Whitecaps squandered a bit. Darren Mattocks reminded everyone that he isn’t all flash, but a perfectly reasonable mix of talent and not-yet-ripened potential. The Galaxy scored twice in the last ten minutes, both quick-acting shots from outside the box that took slight advantage of defensive disorganization. So, should we be disappointed?

Overall, no. The Whitecaps could have done a lot more to hold on to their lead, but the Galaxy showed they were the champions for a reason. It can be seen as a mark of huge improvement from three weeks ago that the Caps were even an influence in the game, Robson showed real class in his home debut, and the team in general showed a lot more promise than they had on a long, grinding away trip.

Stats after the jump.

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Toronto shakes the Whitecaps loose to snag a rare win


Whatever you do, don’t shake loose Joe Cannon’s short shorts (screengrab)

It’s finally time to change things up.

This seems like the road trip that lasts forever, hasn’t it? It’s only been eight days since manager Martin Rennie fielded an experimental side against Colorado that replaced suspended Jun Marques Davidson and injured John Thorrington in the midfield with defender Alain Rochat and new arrival Barry Robson.

That game against Colorado was fine and the Caps ground out an away win by counting on a piece of individual brilliance from Darren Mattocks for a 1-0 win. But at the the time, I thought it was certain the Caps wouldn’t know what to do if the opposing team had scored again.

If a few chances had went the other way—and they were very, very close—I’m not convinced they had an answer that would have helped them retain the three points.

See? I said that. Martin Rennie named the same side—even though he had Davidson back—against Chivas USA. And they weren’t able to come up with anything, with Mattocks suspended. Commentators noted that Rennie didn’t want to change things up when things were working, which is a fine sentiment except they weren’t. That game was a goalless draw, meaning that in 120 minutes, the Whitecaps garnered a goal and two shots on target, but they patted themselves on the back for garnering road results.

So Wednesday night, it wasn’t an unfamiliar story. They sold away Davide Chiumiento, one of the few players to create a chance against Chivas, on gameday to FC Zurich. Alain Rochat started in midfield and Davidson started on the bench.

The Whitecaps had trouble creating anything through the first half and managed to get something out of the blue at 50 minutes to go up 1-0. If you look at it, it’s good! One of the first pieces of great work from Robson in a looping ball to Mattocks who, like his goal against Colorado, simply worked as hard as he could to get the ball in the goal. Excellent, but not the thing you can count on happening because it was certainly against the run of play. Two minutes before it, pinned on the left hand side, a short throw in went to Robson, who passed it back to DeMerit, who gave it to Rochat, who gave it right back to DeMerit, who kicked it back to Robson, who put it out. That play never left the same ten yards. They had nothing.

1-0 up because Mattocks pulled something out of nowhere. Just like Colorado. Except this time, the Whitecaps conceded. And then they conceded again. The first goal came just after Y.P. Lee picked up a wrist knock while trying to send in a cross from the Toronto byline. As a result, the guy in charge of guarding TFC defener Ashtone Morgan’s cross is Le Toux, a centre forward playing as a midfield winger. Toronto’s Luis Silva at that point is already behind Gershon Koffie—also a midfielder—and makes it to the ball easily.

On the second, Cannon punches away a cross and immediately the defense splits: half to the clump of players on the left, half towards Frings on the right, leaving a space filled only by Gershon Koffie, who looks at the ball dumbly as it careens past. At this point, the Whitecaps have tried to make themselves look like an outlet capable of scoring a goal and as a result bungled their organization. The goals, combined with some physical play from Toronto, shook them away from being the lean unit that ground out those points in Colorado and LA; at this point in the game everyone is everywhere in an attempt to do something useful.

Then Mattocks came back to equalize in the 90th minute against the Worst Team in the World because he has a four-foot vertical jump. The club have this goal plastered everywhere, because it’s nicer than the result. Look at it! It’s pretty. But it wouldn’t be the result, because the Whitecaps were still all over the place. Two minutes later, Dunfield broke his cover on a corner and got a free header. Cannon couldn’t do one of his patented diving saves because Y.P. Lee, who is 5’9″, tried to head it off the line and succeeded only in knocking it into the goal.

But more than anything else, what I’ll remember about this game is Gershon Koffie lumbering around stock still by every single goal and covering his head dumbfoundedly.


First goal, Koffie on the near post.


Second and worst: Koffie hanging out around where Frings’ shot careened.


Third, Koffie looks on at Dunfield’s 94th minute header.

But I don’t even blame Koffie! Why is he, a central midfielder, carrying the most important marking assignments standing still watching Frings’ shot careen past him? The same reason why Y.P. Lee is trying to head a ball while Cannon is trying to dive for it. Because the current Whitecaps formation is a patchwork job that scrambles under pressure.

But at least now we know that it doesn’t work.

Stats after the jump.

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Defense rescues a goalless draw against Chivas in LA


(Photo courtesy Getty Images)

The Whitecaps offense seems to be trying to figure out who it is, but at least they can rely on Joe Cannon.

The Vancouver Whitecaps made it out of LA on Saturday night with a 0-0 draw against Chivas USA on the third of a five game road trip. The odd defensive formation that worked against Colorado, with Alain Rochat as a defensive midfielder, bore fruit again defensively, managing to hold possession through 60 minutes and keep things from getting too far out of control.

But like against the Rapids, the Whitecaps generated almost nothing offensively. Darren Mattocks, who was able to create a momentary spark on Wednesday, was suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card of the year in the same game. Without Mattocks, Vancouver’s established forwards displayed a continuing inability to play together.

For the second game, Jun Marques Davidson didn’t start, which the commentators suggested was a mark of manager Martin Rennie’s pleasure with the team’s performance at midweek. Without his linking play, the offense had nothing to contribute as the defense held its shape in the first half and was largely the result of whichever player was trying the hardest at any given moment; Eric Hassli gave his all in the ten minutes before he was substituted as though he was fighting against it.

New Designated Player Barry Robson also looked poor for the second game in the row. The issue doesn’t seem to be as much familiarity with the team as match fitness; he’s linking up fine with players but is unable to carry out the attacking moves he wants to when he has the ball. Early in the game, Robson was served a long ball and was one-on-one with the keeper down the wing. But his first touch was like a brick, and when he had the ball he stood thinking for a bit before having his pass blocked and losing the ball.

Back in 2007, one of the biggest complaints I heard about the onset of DPs was players joining midseason, because of the gulf they miss when they don’t catch preseason training. This is certainly the case, as these games really seem like Robson isn’t near fitness. He joked when he arrived that it would be hard to get in the team, but if Thorrington wasn’t injured, I’m not sure I would pick Robson over Thorrington and Davidson, to be honest. He just doesn’t seem that ready.

The defense had a perfectly reasonable game for the first 60, 70 minutes. Rochat isn’t awful in a defensive midfield role, and the Whitecaps held mainly to the midfield without creating much. In the later part of the game, though, Chivas got a lot more possession, and the longer the game went on the more dangerous they seemed. Cannon had to spring into form when the Goats got a sequence of two corners and two free kicks, eliciting one of his worst moments of the season and also one of his finest saves. When the Whitecaps finally did get attacking movements going in the game’s last five minutes, they seemed quite vulnerable on the counterattack.

But in the end, nothing awful happened, I guess. Every point is valuable in the Western Conference, and they’ll at least stay tied for third. Whitecaps have got Toronto FC on the other side of the continent in four days, and Eric Hassli will be unavailable for accumulation of yellow cards after picking up a caution for Being Eric Hassli.

Hopefully, they’ll be able to get something together. If the offense can figure itself out, maybe the Whitecaps can reward their defense, now leading the league with nine clean sheets, by scoring a goal.

Stats after the jump.

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Whitecaps U-23 have a mad dash down a hard road to the PDL playoffs

To make it to the PDL playoffs, Vancouver Whitecaps U-23 must win all their remaining games, including a home game against rivals Victoria in Richmond. (Photo BlueAnWhiteArmy/Flickr)

The Vancouver Whitecaps U-23s are on the outside looking in to the USL PDL playoffs, but a 4-0 victory against the North Sound SeaWolves was the first in a sequence of three games in six days they must win to have any chance at the post-season.

The Caps set out for revenge for a 3-1 loss to the SeaWolves in Edmonds, WA, and had the lions share of momentum throughout the game with 21 shots on goal. Cam Hundal and Bobby Jhutty scored, with Coulton Jackson notching a brace between 33 and 49 minutes as the goals all bunched up around half-time. Nolan Wirth, a callup from the Whitecaps U-16s, made five saves in a shutout to bundle away second-last-place North Sound in the first of three must-win games from the Caps.

The Whitecaps sit in fifth place, four points out of the last playoff spot in the Northwest Division, and they’ve got a game in hand on the fourth-placed Washington Crossfire. But a 3-3-1 June that included losses to the Crossfire, Portland Timbers U-23 and the SeaWolves has put them in a spot where they need to do three things to see playoffs:

  1. Win without their best players. The Whitecaps are playing without MLS first-team player Caleb Clarke, on a tryout in Germany, as well as starting goalkeeper Callum Irving, defender Daniel Stanese, midfielder Ben McKendry, and strikers Ben Fisk and Yassin Essa, who’ve been called up to the Canadian U-20 team. And with the U-18s, including backup GK Lucas Menz, eyeing USSDA Finals Week on the 16th, it’s an awful time to make a playoff push. Assistant coach Martin Nash suited up as an overage player the other day because they literally didn’t have enough bodies to fill the required bench spots.
    The Caps drooped to a goalless draw away to the Kitsap Pumas and a loss to the Crossfire that put them in this sorry mess in the first place, but responded nicely against North Sound. They’ve still got a 16-year-old in goal, though.
  2. Win three games in six days. Last night’s win in Swangard was just the first step. Tomorrow, the Whitecaps will play a Salish Sea derby against the Victoria Highlanders in Richmond, where they have a chance to lift the supporters-backed Juan de Fuca Plate trophy for PDL teams based in B.C. The final game in the swing is against the Fraser Valley Mariners, the other B.C. team in the division. The University of the Fraser Valley’s summer team has not fared well this year, recording 13 losses and a single draw. It’s lucky that all three teams are the bottom three in the league, but Victoria held Vancouver to a 1-1 draw in May, and the same result would sink them.
  3. Hope results go their way. If they can accomplish all that, the Whitecaps still need to rely on the Portland Timbers. Their U-23 squad beat the Crossfire 1-0 last night in Portland to seal their spot in the playoffs, and travel to Washington to play the reverse fixture Wednesday. If Vancouver take nine of nine points, a Portland win or draw would send them clear to the playoffs. A Crossfire win would end it for the Caps, so their results are in other hands. Nine points are absolutely necessary to top Washington: the PDL tiebreakers are head-to-head points (tied), wins (Crossfire have 8 to the Caps’ 6, so they need two to tie), and goal differences (heavily in Vancouver favour.)
  4. So if they can win three times in six games missing six starters, all they have to do is hope the Portland Timbers win when they’ve already qualified for the playoffs.

    But it’s possible.

Feels just like the first time: Retooling Caps scrap to away win against Rapids


Courtesy Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

From the ashes rises an okay team.

It made sense to think of the last twelve days between games as a checkpoint for the Whitecaps this season. The Caps ushered out a number of familiar but ill-used squad players and finally saw much-talked-about recruit Barry Robson available for selection. They were also shattered in their last match against the LA Galaxy: they shipped four goals in sorry fashion, lost midfielders John Thorrington to injury and Jun Marques Davidson to suspension.

So how did the Caps do with a changed squad, stretched legs and something to prove? They were alright, in the end. They were a bit shaky when on even terms in the first half and a bit too error-prone, but a piece of individual brilliance from striker Darren Mattocks helped them nose ahead before halftime.

A sneaky play from Mattocks, the goal was a bit of surprise after Jordan Harvey thought his looping ball in from the left had been caught by the Colorado defense. But Drew Moor’s first touch dribbled towards the keeper, and Mattocks saw an opportunity to slip in and slot true against the run of play.

How did new old boy Robson do? Also okay, making way for Sebastian Le Toux early in the second half on 57 minutes. He took a blistering shot from distance early on that just went over the crossbar, but didn’t seem especially comfortable on the ball, giving away a few near-costly turnovers. In his post-match interview, he said he needed to do more work to get sharp, and it shows.

The second half was a defensive masterclass, and disco legend Joe Cannon showed again how good he is in keeping the Caps’ sheet clean. The Rapids are winless this season when down a goal at half-time, so the Whitecaps weren’t punished when they were mostly content to let them fruitlessly try–17 shots, six on target–to break that streak.

But the Whitecaps’ goal was also their only shot on target in the game. If a few chances had went the other way–and they were very, very close–I’m not convinced they had an answer that would have helped them retain the three points.

But in the meantime, all is well. As the Sportsnet graphic gaudily proclaimed, BOUNCE BACK SUCCESSFUL!!!! The Whitecaps did much to put the 4-0 disaster behind them, proved their narrative-defining win against Colorado in June was not a fluke and moved into third in the West.

When the lineup–and its new expensive jewel in midfield–starts clicking or at least getting more than one shot on goal, maybe those deeper doubts about change can be answered, as well.

Stats after the jump.

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