Unexpected wonders lift Whitecaps to break slump, beat LA 3-1

Players exhale after the Vancouver Whitecaps' 3-1 win over the LA Galaxy at BC Place. Photo courtesy frostcake

Players exhale after the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 3-1 win over the LA Galaxy at BC Place. Photo courtesy frostcake/pic.twitter.com

Sometimes you spend forever planning, and then something entirely different and wonderful happens instead.

The Whitecaps were in a rut of seven league games where everything should have worked and little did. So many chances, but not enough finish, not enough runs on. No combination of players or formations — go back to the diamond! Switch to 4-3-3! Koffie! Davidson! Koffie and Davidson! — seemed to produce the desired result.

The starting XI against the LA Galaxy felt like that: 1. Run out players who have had issues like Rochat, Davidson, Kobayashi and, most notably, Darren Mattocks. 2. Hope they turn it around. 3. ??? 4. Profit?

And yet, the player who did the most to change the game didn’t even start on the pitch. Injuries are always unfortunate, especially because Daigo Kobayashi’s 14th minute exit came as he tried to stay stuck in after being brought down by a tackle, keeping in mind recent criticism around soft play in the team. However, Kobayashi had been having trouble as of late and his early substitution created an opportunity that Russell Teibert seized with both hands.

Teibert, whose parents had come from Ontario to watch him play, stuck with the starters instead of peeling away with the subs in the pre-match warm up, and seemed determined and not a step behind upon his introduction.

His first goal was the most impressive. It was the kind of play the Whitecaps have been flubbing repeatedly of late: Teibert got himself on the end of a ball, weaved in and out of the box looking for an opportunity and was able to create something dangerous. It immediately changed the complexion of a game that had been thoroughly tentative to that point.

Though out-possessed, the Whitecaps had looked like they could still, with luck, get something from the game at half-time. But oblivion loomed. Thanks to out-of-town results, even a draw in this game would leave the Whitecaps back on the foot of the Western Conference table. Mattocks was, regrettably, still looking out of ideas on the ball.

LA defender Omar Gonzalez had a header that, though it was just past the far post, cut through the Whitecaps defence like hot butter two minutes before the goal. Had it gone in, these would all have been different conversations.

But it was Teibert’s confidence that put a different stamp on the game. Watch his second goal again to see how thoroughly he masterminds the opportunity. First, he calls for the pass. Not recieving it, he buzzes around Y.P. Lee until the ‘Caps defender decides to leave it for him anyways. He sends a ball through to Gershon Koffie, who holds the ball up and turns to see Teibert blazing into the box. Koffie’s pass is simple, like the shooting drill the team ran just before kickoff. Teibert, who that morning had never scored a professional goal, blasts in his second to give the Whitecaps, whose stalemate looked so tenuous just fifteen minutes earlier, not just a lead but a cushion.

These elements of the game are hard to describe or quantify, because they’re so immaterial. Why does one chance go in and another spill just wide? How can you turn around a team having such trouble with finishing when it seems so often to come down to circumstance? Teibert managed to do it.

And speaking of confidence, let’s return one last time to the issue of Darren Mattocks’ luck. It is impossible to overstate how mystifying his lack of success has been in front of goal has been week-in, week-out. He brought a portable raincloud to the attack in the first half against Edmonton, and nothing seemed to be working. Management was pleading for ideas, and supporters were anxious to know how long Mattocks needed to sputter before he could produce.

When I saw Mattocks pounce on a turnover and break in one-on-one with a defender only to put it right on LA goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, I thought his confidence may have broken for good. He collapsed onto his knees and stayed down for moments. When he got up again to contest the resulting corner, he hung his head and A.J. DeLaGarza, the defender marking him, gave him a consolation pat on the back. I thought I had seen a low from which it would be nearly impossible to recover.

And yet.

It is, like I said, hard to quantify confidence or belief. But Mattocks, who has been so often out of position or ideas or plain unable to find and complete opportunities, saw a ball get away from Jordan Harvey and float tantalizingly in front of him for just a moment. He broke away from DeLaGarza easily and whacked it in off of Cudicini’s insole. The relief for Mattocks but also his whole team on seeing that goal go in is palpable. What makes this different than all the other attempts of late? Can’t say. But he was in the right place. He went for it. He made it count.

It remains, regardless, Teibert’s night. And perhaps it’s better that way; now Mattocks and the ‘Caps can put this long, dim run of three points from a possible 21 behind them. They managed to neutralize the defending champions in front of a (as far as the club claims) sell-out crowd. Nobody could have laid out, prior to the game, the road map to this victory. But it happened. Onwards.

Stats after the jump.

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Whitecaps U-23 turn frustration to a comeback win in PDL opener

Vancouver Whitecaps kick off their PDL campaign against Kitsap Pumas. Previously spread out around the lower mainland, Thunderbird Stadium at UBC will be the home ground for PDL games. Photo Andrew Bates/Little Rubber Pellets

Vancouver Whitecaps kick off their PDL campaign against Kitsap Pumas. Previously spread out around the lower mainland, Thunderbird Stadium at UBC will be the home ground for PDL games. Photo Andrew Bates/Little Rubber Pellets

It could have been a lousy way to start the season, but it turned around fast.

The Vancouver Whitecaps U-23 team started off their USL Premier Development League season against Kitsap Pumas with a 2-1 win Friday night at Thunderbird Stadium.

The league occupies a weird spot in the Whitecaps’ player development system. Players are often identified for loans to lower-division teams, NCAA programs or first-team spots already by the time they turn 19.

So the PDL is a place for Residency grads and other players who have promise but aren’t not ready to step right into the first team get games against good opposition. This year’s crop of 11 college players include UBC’s Gagandeep Dosanjh, UVic’s Cam Hundal and SFU’s Derrick Bassi. The team also has MLS players Simon Thomas, Adam Clement and Aminu Abdallah.

Thomas is a bit more of a known factor, starved for minutes due to being third on the depth chart behind both Brad Knighton and Joe Cannon. But Clement and Abdallah are more recent signings, with lots of hours in practice and less game experience.

The new crop of players did not, however, start their season off on the right foot. On six minutes, a ball bounced straight up out of a scramble in front of the Whitecaps goal. Kitsap forward Sebastiaan Jansen found it with his head to stab home and establish a lead.

The early deficit was especially painful for the ‘Caps, who had the greater share of chances in the first period. Forward Bobby Jhutty sent a wonderful free kick low on the right post and Dosanjh fired high right, both saved by Kitsap keeper Dustyn Brim.

The finest chance of the half belonged to Jhutty. He was wide-open on the left when he got his head on a cross around the 40th minute, but Brim somehow leapt across to claim it. Despite being up 8-4 in shots, the Whitecaps went into the half down a goal.

The early parts of the first half did not seem to improve. The emboldened Bremerton, Washington side pushed the Caps defence and goalkeeper Thomas, who earned his first two senior caps for Canada in January, keeping a 0-0 clean sheet against the US men’s national team.

But the Whitecaps were still generating chances, including an attempt around sixty minutes where Cam Hundal slapped a volley on goal only to be saved again by Brim.

It was Hundal who would equalize for the Caps on 69 minutes. Taking a pass from substitute Spencer DeBoice, he fired a right rocket of a shot from high on the left side of the penalty area that went across a diving Brim and beat him on the right side.

Three minutes later, the Whitecaps reversal was complete. A ‘Caps player was bundled over in the box, but play went on despite penalty calls and the ball fell to DeBoice, who smashed it into goal from 12 yards to put the ‘Caps up 2-1.

Kitsap did not go down easily, with forward Andrew Sterling hitting the crossbar on 81 minutes, but they did go down. They have started the season at the bottom of the PDL’s Northwest Division, having played in the only other game of the year so far, a 3-0 loss to the Victoria Highlanders.

The Whitecaps will see the Highlanders next week on Friday, the Salish Sea derby being this year’s principal decider for the supporter-purchased Juan de Fuca Plate.

It’s a bright start for a team that missed out on the playoffs by a point last year. Their strength was their quality rather than their chemistry, but the rest can come with time.

Stats after the jump.

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Monday Review: In a time loop, does your GAA go down?

"Do you feel like... we've done this before?" Photo illustration Andrew Bates, original photo courtesy Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star

“Do you feel like… we’ve done this before?” Photo illustration Andrew Bates, original photo courtesy Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star

As Vancouver shipped its third consecutive goal in the first five minutes of the second half on the way to its second consecutive 2-0 road loss, Toronto dropped points after conceding in the final minutes of the game for the fourth time in a row. All this repetition leads me to wonder: How would this affect a goalie’s goals-against average?

If you realize you are playing the same game over and over, are you statistically putting in multiple shifts or are you just doing over the same performance? Would you carry the memories of past goals nobody remembers to haunt/empower you, or would you be doomed to repeat it?

Either way, it won’t help TFC in the standings.

Major League Soccer

Welp, here we are again. Toronto were cruising to a 0-0 draw away to an out-of-conference opponent, and then Logan Emory fell over in the box. The man he was marking, former useless TFC striker Edson Buddle, picked it up and washed it all away. Toronto falls to 1-4-4, and ninth in the East. Six out points of a possible twelve lost in the dying minutes over the last four games.

Montreal bled late too, conceding in injury-time to draw 2-2 against San Jose. In the ever-touchy east, the dropped means Montreal is the bottom team in a four-way tie for first, all on 17 points.

Seattle also clawed back to a 2-2 draw after conceding to Philadelphia’s Danny Cruz twice in two minutes, while Portland never got started, scoreless at home against New England. Sporting Kansas City thumped Chivas 4-0 and Houston made it out of LA with a 1-0 win, which means with FC Dallas on a bye, Salt Lake and Colorado were the only teams from the West to get anything. Vancouver sits eighth, three points back of the fifth-place Rapids.

North American Soccer League

Edmonton, who nicked their first win of the season last week, are still chugging along. They conceded an early penalty kick, but turned it into a 1-1 away draw against joint league leaders Tampa Bay Rowdies. Shawn Seiko levelled it in the 35th minute and the tired Eddies managed to bring it home with them. Edmonton are 5th with five points, but the top is a log-jam on eight points, so it’s not out of reach.

National Womens Soccer League

Sophie Schmidt tried, but she couldn’t get Sky Blue FC past the Western New York Flash. Trailing 2-0, Schmidt buried it late in the first half to bring it within a goal, but they didn’t make it home. In much the same way, Diane Matheson’s penalty kick similarly got the Washington Spirit on the board against the Portland Thorns, but couldn’t stop a 2-1 loss.

Sydney Leroux, villain to Canadians (but let that be a story for another day) scored a hat trick to power the Boston Breakers 4-1 over Chicago, and Seattle has lost again, a 1-0 defeat to Kansas City for the second straight week. Boy do they need Megan Rapinoe to come back from Europe.

Amway Canadian Championship.

Hahahahaha. As Vancouver eased to a 2-0 win to usher out Edmonton, Toronto conceded again and again and again to lose 6-0, 6-2 on aggregate against Montreal. When I got to BC Place Wednesday, I eyed the score, sitting at 3-0 as I waited for the elevator. By the time I got to the top it was 4-0. So that’s how that went. It’s an off-week for the competition before the first leg of the final kicks off next weekend in Montreal.

Pacific Coast Soccer League

The Whitecaps Girls Elite team started off brightly with a 4-0 win against the NSGSC Eagles in the Womens Premier division, with Summer Clarke getting a brace.

Defending Mens Premier champions Vancouver Thunderbirds started with a 2-1 loss to the Victoria Highlanders reserves. The Highlanders then crossed the Georgia Straight the next day to fall 3-2 to Khalsa Sporting Club. Khalsa were fresh off a thumping 7-2 win against Victoria United, sporting a 3-0 hat trick from UBC star Milad Mehrabi.

Bellingham, who started last weekend with a pair of wins on Vancouver Island, weren’t so lucky at home across the border with a 2-1 loss to Estrella de Chile.

Whitecaps watch the game pass them by in road loss to Salt Lake

The moment where Reo-Coker realizes that a simple goal kick could possibly be fatal.

The moment where Reo-Coker realizes that a simple goal kick could possibly be fatal.

I was once told that in journalism, your chances of getting a big story were based not just on talent, but availability: your freedom to pick up a phone or run across town to do something now.

In sports, if you wait for something to happen to start moving, it will be finished before you arrive. Maybe you’re on the road or tired or tense, but you have to react and stay ahead of the game if you’re going to pull off anything impressive. I was working during the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2-0 road loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday, but watching the highlights it was clear that both the offense and defense faced situations where starting late killed their chances of pulling off the big play.

Observe the first goal at 2:11 of this highlight package, after Nigel Reo-Coker’s free kick from distance sails over everyone’s heads into the stands. While the team exhales for a moment, frustrated after the chance went nowhere, exactly two Whitecaps start running. Look at the gif above to see the exact moment when Reo-Coker, already near the halfway line, realizes the danger that the Whitecaps face from Rimando’s free-kick and starts sprinting.

By the time Joao Plata takes possession just outside the box, four Whitecaps are marking three RSL attackers. Andy O’Brien lets his man, Luis Gil, go on as he watches to see where the ball goes. It goes to Luis Gil, now standing five feet behind him, who heads it home.

At 2:10, when Reo-Coker sends a speculative long ball to Corey Hertzog, the rest of the team is moving at about quarter speed. Watch Daigo Kobayashi. At 5:57, he is standing just over the penalty spot. As Kekuta Manneh crosses in on a volley, Kobayashi is straining away from it, towards the goal, and is pushed over by the defender. He rolls over backwards before standing up. Reo-Coker fights off two men to send in a second ball that just misses Corey Hertzog, who has run across the box but cannot make it to a ball which rolls to nowhere. Kobayashi has walked exactly two feet from where he stood up after rolling over.

The aftermath of the loss has been continued handwringing over why the team loses games on the road. The manager and Reo-Coker, the acting captain, have criticized the desire of the team. Reo-Coker said to the TEAM 1040 that the ‘Caps weren’t “being tough and hard to beat. Defending properly, running back, doubling back, helping your teammates and making unselfish runs.” Basically, if you work hard and you move fast, you have a chance to be a factor. If you don’t, you’re just watching the game go by.

Stats after the jump.

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Kids show their stuff as ‘Caps put away ten-men Edmonton, advance to Voyageurs Cup final

Though there were some patches in the stands (this was taken at kickoff) a respectable crowd of 14,000 showed up despite a Canucks playoff game across the street in Rogers Arena. Photo Andrew Bates/Little Rubber Pellets

Though there were some patches in the stands (this was taken at kickoff) a respectable crowd of 14,000 showed up despite a Canucks playoff game across the street in Rogers Arena. Photo Andrew Bates/Little Rubber Pellets

If it was a showcase, at least it was an entertaining one.

A red card helped give the Vancouver Whitecaps space to run to a 2-0 win over FC Edmonton on a brisk Wednesday night at B.C. Place. Because of manager Martin Rennie’s rotation strategy, you couldn’t call it a reserve team, as it was a side of players who are being surveyed for their usefulness in the harder days to come and veterans given a chance to answer for themselves. For this year’s talented crop of Whitecaps rookies, it was a great time. For Darren Mattocks, it was not.

Edmonton, who play in the second-division North American Soccer League, had given the ‘Caps trouble in the away leg of the home-at-home Voyageurs Cup semifinal. But though they tried (and largely, succeeded) to fill the space in the first half, they couldn’t get the ball up the pitch with any speed to try and counter attack.

By the second half, the opportunity was lost. Vancouver attacked with heavy pressure in the opening, and six minutes in Adrian Leroy clipped Corey Hertzog, the last man back. It wasn’t vicious, and it may not have been intentional, but there was contact and it was denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity. It had to be red. Edmonton’s wings were clipped, and the Whitecaps were free to romp.

Romp they did. A host of youngsters got their chance, and the offense in the second half felt like a fun place to be. Between Kekuta Manneh, Tommy Heinemann, Erik Hurtado and Corey Hertzog, players who have seemed to be easing into their roles got a chance to run rampant. Hertzog’s stunner was amazing, launching a cannon from forty yards that bounced past Edmonton’s Lance Parker. When Teibert’s ghostly corner got in, a gift from Edmonton that sealed the end of their night, he was mobbed on the sideline. Heinemann got a ovation on his exit, a sign of a crowd warming to his robust play after an uneven start to the season.

If the second half was a new-look 4-3-3, the first half was an old-school 4-4-2 diamond, with Jun Marques Davidson, who didn’t do much, in the pocket and Camilo, who was great, up top reminiscent of 2012. But there wasn’t as much of the air of mirth due to the continuing trials of Darren Mattocks.

Mattocks is snake-bit. He’s looked rough before, but this wasn’t rough; he was much better today at getting into position. But things just aren’t going his way. Opportunities burble over the line into goal kicks. His brightest moment, a great ball from Gershon Koffie, rocketed into the crossbar. Rennie made the call at the half-time whistle to give Mattocks a rest, which bore out in a win, ultimately. Mattocks can only solve this cold streak with a goal, but a night like tonight proves that people are ready to take him on.

The defensive side of the field was fine, and with a lack of pressure it’s hard to pass judgement or declare great performances. Brad Knighton, amid speculation that he could swing for Joe Cannon’s starter spot again, had neither an outstanding or a bad game, as befits a three-save clean sheet. Neither did Johnny Leveron, the Honduran centre-back easing his way to fitness after visa trouble.

Ultimately, after the red card, less and less was at stake. But after a couple of weeks of tough, dour fare, a respectable crowd of 14,000 was pleased with a win and a shot at Canadian championship gold. Montreal, fresh from an unbelievable 6-0 romp of TFC, await.

Stats after the jump.

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Whitecaps tactfully decided to delete tweets trolling Dallas fans over diving

"After gauging reaction from Dallas fans to these tweets during the match... we decided it was best to move in a different direction."

“After gauging reaction from Dallas fans to these tweets during the match… we decided it was best to move in a different direction.”

We know the people who run the front office are fans at heart as well, but the Whitecaps decided maybe they shouldn’t be yelling “How is your face, Ferreira?” from their main account.

Things are getting heated in the rivalry between FC Dallas and the Vancouver Whitecaps. Despite a playful back-and-forth between the teams’ social media accounts (Vancouvering!) before the game Saturday, it was during the first half where things really started to get a shade more uncouth than you might be used to seeing from official Twitter accounts. Here are some tweets from the @WhitecapsFC account:

  • @WhitecapsFC: How is your face Ferreira? #Vancouvering
  • @WhitecapsFC: Dear @FCDallas strength and conditioning coach, please work on improving your players’ leg strength. It’s like watching Bambi out there!
  • @WhitecapsFC: @spevin @DFElite You mean “on fire”…don’t worry we’ve been informed that Dallas fans are the most sensitive in the league …Our apologies
  • @WhitecapsFC: A second goal for #VWFC and we’re tied 2-2!!!!!!! We kindly ask that you not rub it in to Dallas fans though, they’re very sensitive

To be fair, it’s not without precedent: The Vancouver Canucks’ official livetweeting account is ran by a guy named Derek Jory who aims for playful, passionate tweets. But we think of main accounts as having a little more decorum, and those first two tweets vanished by the beginning of the second half. When I asked the Whitecaps, this is what they had to say:

Both ourselves and FC Dallas are keen on creating fun, engaging social media content to stimulate fan interest… However, after gauging reaction from Dallas fans to these tweets during the match, and in consultation with FC Dallas communications staff, we decided it was best to move in a different direction for the remainder of the match.

The Caps said they had been “all healthy discussions,” so perhaps the staffer wasn’t fired.

The real comedy in all of this is the giant elephant in the room. Same reason why the obvious response to the Vancouvering video, defining Dallasing as a verb meaning “to dive” came from blog Pucked in the Head and didn’t get coverage from the Caps’ official social media; same reason why Schellas Hyndman lost it on the Province’s Marc Weber on Saturday.

Despite the fact that everyone knows, make sure you never talk about Dallas and diving — at least not in front of them.

Sources: I got the full text of the first two from this message board post, though I’d MTed the Bambi tweet myself. Second two are still up.