Whitecaps win on the road against New York and dismiss some old ghosts

Photo betancourt/flickr

Photo betancourt/flickr

Life in the middle of the standings is often a series of small crises.

Until two weeks ago, the Vancouver Whitecaps’ crisis was a series of uninspired performances that saw either gutless road losses or just-barely-rescued draws at home. Following a heartening 3-1 win against Los Angeles, the crisis for the last two matches has been the opposite: going up and then watching much-needed results melt away.

Tonight, the Whitecaps were able to come up with a result that did various things it seemed the club couldn’t do recently: Win on the road. Engineer a second-half comeback that goes all the way. Play confidently with a draw and a lead. Play well up a man.

But let’s start with the road win. A road win. The team’s first MLS road win since a 1-0 scrapper nine months ago in Colorado on July 4th, 2012. It certainly did not start out looking like it was going to be any different than your average Whitecaps road match.

It’s hard to overstate how little Vancouver created in that first frame: they got exactly zero shots on target and were outpossessed a staggering 72 per cent to 28 per cent. One of the biggest problems was that they were just a bit sloppy when they took control of the ball. Maybe it was a focus issue — all the Whitecaps looked highly affected by the heat — but a particularly large problem was an inability to readily take control of the ball when they did have possession. Too many balls rolled two, three, five feet on first touch, and players found themselves too far out to do anything with it.

But hey! They weren’t behind heading into the half, and they’d managed to put New York on edge; after the refs gave the Whitecaps the benefit of the doubt on a few consecutive fifty-fifty defensive calls, Dax McCarty responded by grabbing Camilo by the shoulders about thirty yards out of the New York goal and hauling him to earth.

Greg Klazura’s own goal near the beginning of the second half was part of a tragic first start for the mascot Vancouver defender that, as well an early exit due to injury, disguised the fact that he played okay, all things considered.

It also put the team back on script for a disappointing result. See how powerful these stories can seem? It was just like a 2-0 RSL road loss in May earned with a 47th minute opener, or the that opened with a conceded own goal. You’d be forgiven for calling the game a wash then and there. (Many on Twitter did.)

But sports, like life, measures us by how we react to the successes and challenges we encounter. Painfully, lately, the Whitecaps haven’t been able to deal with it, whether it’s being unable to come back from a goal down on the road, being unable to turn a draw into a win, as against Dallas and Salt Lake at home in April, conceding despite a red card as against Portland or, heart-breakingly, watching leads slip away last Wednesday against Montreal.

And hey, you know what? It worked out. Jordan Harvey, of all people, smashed in a goal to put the Whitecaps level, the team was able to respond to a change in shape when New York’s Jamison Olave was sent off, Kenny Miller got one (to put a nice capper on what was not a great game for him) and despite squandering a late breakaway, the Caps were able to hold in injury time. Neat.

This should be good going forward. Like the LA win, it will quell the chattering about Martin Rennie’s future, because it’s a lot more pleasant to come home with three points and see ourselves just four points out of the playoffs (and only two behind next week’s opponents, Seattle!) than to feel perpetually on the brink of oblivion, as Vancouver sports fans are wont to do.

Stats after the jump.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

2014 Voyageurs Cup to feature NASL play-in round

The second division North American Soccer League's (NASL) FC Edmonton take on the Vancouver Whitecaps last Wednesday. Photo courtesy Lewis/Canada Soccer

The second division North American Soccer League’s (NASL) FC Edmonton take on the Vancouver Whitecaps last Wednesday. Photo courtesy Lewis/Canada Soccer

One of the coolest things about cup competitions is the chance for big-league clubs and second-division dreamers to play teams they don’t often get to see and have a chance to fight it out. But when the Ottawa NASL expansion team debuts next year, they’ll be seeing second-div colleagues Edmonton in the Voyageurs Cup before they scrap with Vancouver, Montreal or Toronto.

Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani thinks that, provisionally, a five-team Amway Canadian Championship will retain its current two-semifinal home-and-away format, according to MLSSoccer.com. But Ottawa and Edmonton will have to compete in a play-in round before the first round proper, where it will meet the MLS team with the best record from the previous year.

I don’t know how I feel about this. I know I like to see inter-league play, but there could be benefits: You wouldn’t see NASL teams go home from the competition without even a win to their names less often. A play-in round could also weed out weak teams, ensuring that battle-ready squads make clashes between the tiers more competitive.

Something probably has to be done about the Canadian Championship eventually; attendance numbers were bad last weekend and it’s probably not going to be better in BC Place Wednesday, as the game is head to head against Game 1 of the Canucks’ first round playoff series. The CSA is dreaming of a third tier of regional leagues and Montagliani says that those teams might get a shot in the Cup eventually, which could work.

Do you think it’s a good idea? Let’s hear it in the comments.

Monday Review: Ryan Nelsen and the Infinite Sadness

courtesy toronto fc

He just can’t. He has lost the ability to can, just like TFC has lost the ability to defend in the last ten minutes. Photo courtesy Toronto FC

Well, that was a week about getting by for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Behind 2-1 against Edmonton, they left Edmonton a goal up, and then, down 2-0, they managed a draw against Dallas. An alright haul. What else happened? Let’s review.

Major League Soccer

It’s happened to Toronto again. Despite looking like they were going to reverse a trend of late collapses when Jonathan Osorio scored an equalizer on 83 minutes, New York scored just afterwards to seal a defeat for TFC. Tim Cahill’s bruising header flattened poor Ashtone Morgan, but Morgan was really at fault for flipping the clearance right to New York’s Peguy Luyindula moments earlier, who served Henry on the wing like an expert barman. The loss makes five goals in the last fifteen minutes for TFC, and extends an 11-game home winless streak in MLS.

At Saputo Stadium, the Montreal Impact ran up a confident-looking 2-0 win against the Chicago Fire thanks to a lovely piece of work by on-loan Argentinian Andres Romero, an excellent turn-and-shot by Marco Di Vaio, and a red card for Chicago’s Jeff Larentowicz on what he likely feels was incidental contact on Andrea Pisanu, streaking right into the box. It puts the Impact up first in the east. New England leapt past Chicago and 9th-place Toronto to 7th in the standings with a 2-0 win against Philadelphia, while sorry DC United (1-1-6) stay where they are at the bottom of the league after a 3-0 thumping from Columbus.

In the slimmer, fitter Western conference, draws between Chivas (4th) and San Jose (6th) as well as Houston and Colorado (8th) mean most stay where they are. Whitecaps in 7th. Ahead of Vancouver’s visit next weekend, the LA Galaxy defense flummoxed Real Salt Lake 2-0 at Rio Tinto and Portland pulled out a 3-2 win after a shootout of a first half. The MLS recap’s lede says it spoiled both the first two goals of a promising young player’s career and SKC’s “roll-out of its new black third kit with blue argyle trim.” Good. Argyle is our thing, as is having a dumb-looking third jersey. Back off, KC.

National Women’s Soccer League

The Seattle Reign are having a tough time without U.S. national women’s team stars Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe, and they stuttered to a 2-0 loss away in Kansas City Friday. The best moment from the Blues win was a defensive clearance from Lauren Cheney, who got the ball facing the goal in her own final third and managed to get it on the carpet at centre for Renee Cuellar. Cuellar broke past her two defenders and ran right into the box for an easy one-on-one to seal the points.

The Battle of the Canadian Keepers (as I’m sure everyone referred to it) went Karina Leblanc’s way as the Portland Thorns defeated the Chicago Red Stars 2-0. Erin McCloud had a lot more to deal with in the Chicago goal, though, putting up a lot of solid saves and only conceding the first after the Red Star defense left her all alone with Alex Morgan and Danielle Foxhoven. The second goal was national team comrade Christine Sinclair paying her a visit with a stunner from the top of the box on an individual effort. The Boston Breakers beat the Western New York Flash 2-1, and Sky Blue FC got the same score on the road against the Washington Spirit. Portland still sit on top with a 2-1-0 record.

North American Soccer League

Edmonton had a nicer day than they’d been having! Shawn Seiko scored a penalty against the San Antonio Scorpions to win 1-0 in their home opener, their first win in a season that has started sour (1-1-4). It was like a Whitecaps alumni game, as the Rabbits and the Scorpions shared five or six players with ‘Caps connections, including Greg Janicki, Kevin Harmse, Blake Wagner, and loanee Carlyle Mitchell. Too bad Wes Knight popped his foot.

Amway Canadian Championship

Cup competitions are always a good time for lower division clubs (and Toronto) to try and get a plucky result against superior opposition, aren’t they? Toronto beat Montreal 2-0 and look to go through unless the Impact can produce, uh, the same result they did against Chicago on the weekend. We’ll see how far their good luck in this competition can carry them.

B.C. Provincial Cup

The Thunderbirds couldn’t make it past Surrey, sadly, going a man down and then conceding to lose 1-0. They will face West Van FC at the final in Langford, B.C., who beat Cowichan 3-1. At the Surrey game, a yell of “West Van’s going to beat you!” floated through the stands, almost certainly from the clump of West Van players at the top. Take that as you may. Surrey United FC face Castaways FC in the women’s A final.

Whitecaps comeback shows only place to get revenge is the back of the net

Much attention was pored on the antics of Dallas' David Ferreira. Photo Mafue/flickr

Much attention was pored on the antics of Dallas’ David Ferreira (centre). Photo Mafue/flickr

By the end of the first half, the air in BC Place was nasty with hate.

It wasn’t just anger or a regular expression of rivalry, it was a fermented mix of helplessness and outrage. The score was 1-0 to the visitors, Dallas were playing like sneering villains and Vancouver were playing awfully. Vancouver manager Martin Rennie argued that his players weren’t mad, but the rest of the stadium might have been.

You could feel it in the rueful head shakes of two ground staff waiting for the elevator at half-time. In the the social media staffer who accused Dallas of playing like Bambi from the Whitecaps main account while the match was in play. In the short, staccato four rounds of “FUCK YOU DALLAS” from the Southsiders late in the first, fully aware they weren’t supposed to sing it but too furious to stop.

It’s the sort of hate that isn’t productive, not in soccer. Joe Cannon looked up and waved frantically after the second goal went in on 47 minutes in disbelief. Even though there probably wasn’t contact, something had to be wrong with it. Could he have closed in any more without mashing his face into Matt Hedges’ boot? There had to be something wrong. I wanted there to be something wrong, because that would explain how Vancouver was down 2-0; how they had 57 per cent of possession but only two shots on target.

But that can poison you in soccer. Search for their foul or their dive and you never find the through ball that’s coming for you. No amount of roaring or taunting Dallas can change the fact that you’re down 2-0 in the second half.

And then the game turned. Passes started connecting. Jun Marques Davidson and Daigo Kobayashi, both having tough seasons, came out, replaced by youngsters Kekuta Manneh and Tommy Heinemann. Camilo, who had not taken a shot, lit up.

The first goal was a combination of those three forces. When Camilo’s shot riocheted off Raul Fernandez, Heinemann used a crazy diving header to try and keep the ball in play; it ended up being an assist when Kekuta Manneh, who had showed promise with no result, slid the ball inside the near post and brought the spark of life to the Whitecaps.

Three minutes later, it was Manneh again, sliding the ball through the box and finding Camilo, whose first touch slipped coolly into the goal. Just a week after a FC Dallas video mocked the Whitecaps for players lying on the ground, head in hands, in sorrow over missed chances or botched goals, three of their players collapsed in disbelief.

It was now Dallas who couldn’t believe how they found themselves level. Trying to shake off Alain Rochat, Brazilian midfielder Jackson whipped back and thwacked him in the previously-broken nose with a right hand. He saw red, and the Dallas attack slowed to a crawl. The goalie, Fernandez, got rattled. The crowd roared with excitement now, instead of rage.

Vancouver couldn’t, unfortunately, turn the comeback into a win. Even though they managed anger well, there’s still an element of fear that has persisted throughout the current streak of six games without an MLS win, especially the away loss last week to Dallas. You can see it nowhere stronger than than Darren Mattocks. Mattocks, who remains athletic and fast, had serious problems being in position for through balls in the first half. And while Joe Cannon saved the game in the 94th minute with a point-blank save, his decision-making is being questioned for his role in the two goals.

But on the night, the good guys won, because they started clicking and they paid attention to what mattered: their own play.

Dallas’ manager, Schellas Hyndman, for their part, was furious. He addressed the reporters like they were the team themselves, blamed the stadium for playing Dallas fouls on the screen and called a journalist embarassing for asking about diving. He hated that his team didn’t win.

But it didn’t win him the three points.

Stats and quotes after the jump.

Continue reading