Whitecaps take control of their own destiny with landmark 2-0 win over Seattle

Photo RosieTulips/Flickr

Photo RosieTulips/Flickr

There are few experiences so helpless for a fan as watching a lead slip away.

But on Saturday, the Vancouver Whitecaps did not meekly let a victory slip away or even sheepishly escape with points they did not deserve. They improved at half-time, pushed hard in the attack and scored at the very beginning and the very end to finally pick up a 2-0 victory against the Seattle Sounders.

Seattle, of course, has made Vancouver feel helpless before. Despite a respectable record against the Sounders in the second division — 5 wins, 7 defeats and 9 draws from 2004 to 2010 — Seattle has made Vancouver miserable in MLS, with the Whitecaps losing six times, drawing four and winning precisely never.

This especially hurts because it is Seattle. With the great success Seattle had entering the league, both in terms of results and community engagement, the Whitecaps made noise about copying their approach when they made the same jump. But of course, the 2011 season didn’t go nearly as well. For Vancouver, the results against Seattle (and Portland), coupled with the image of crowds over 40,000 uniformly standing and singing, scarves aloft, is enough to make the Whitecaps fan despair that perhaps they are miles behind their Cascadia rivals as they watch tourists in green dance up Robson Street after the final whistle.

At least three times, the Whitecaps have given up leads against Seattle. 2011 brought a 3-1 home loss, the last game played in Empire Field, which started so brightly with a goal from Camilo. Last season’s rollicking 2-2 draw at BC Place was going to be a win until Fredy Montero scored in the 90th minute. And of course, there was the defeat in Seattle last month, when the other shoe dropped in the form of a 2-1 road win flipping to loss late, again.

Surrendering points from a winning position has become The New Problem for the Whitecaps after the demoralizing loss to Montreal in the final of the Canadian Championship, a thread that runs through the Seattle game and to the last game against Kansas City. I mean, we will take a point from an out-of-conference road game and four from six points on the trip, thank you, but it’s been worrying.

So when Kenny Miller cut through with an early goal at BC Place on 4 minutes, the first feeling was elation. The goal came from nothing, a great ball that Corey Hertzog arced from the halfway line without looking speculative. Miller bamboozled Hurtado with a cut to the right and slapped the ball with the side of his foot, leaving it to run past two sprawling Sounders. The effect Miller’s return has had on this team has been tremendous; his technique and experience has now wholly eclipsed his disappointing first season.

However, the next feeling was fear. The Whitecaps were defensively terrifying in the first half. All the defenders produced decent plays, but Seattle, especially the tandem of Obafemi Martins and Lamar Neagle, found it just too easy to slice through. For the fan bruised often and recently by collapses from early leads, it seemed saner to prepare for disappointment again.

Brad Knighton’s performance in this half was one of the most important of his career. Despite winning the starting role mid-season two consecutive years there remains, as Ben Massey recorded, a feeling that perhaps neither Knighton nor Joe Cannon are good enough.

Just as the club’s move to bring in David Ousted from Denmark validated that sentiment, Knighton has been fighting like hell to retain his grip on the spot in the two weeks between the signing and when Ousted is eligible to suit up. A save on Martins as he drifted over on 22′ and two quick saves in procession after a Neagle corner were crucial in keeping the Caps level by halftime. Ousted is active now, and will play in the reserves tomorrow. Knighton’s seven-save clean sheet was a fierce effort to ensure he stays there.

Despite Knighton’s heroics, the outfielders did not inspire confidence in the first half. But something shifted in the second period.

Jun Marques Davidson, who had been invisible before the interval, stepped up and took control of the fulcrum at midfield, helping create a logjam in the Whitecaps area. (Most notably: Intercepting a dangerous Brad Evans pass from the goal line.) The midfield was a lot more challenging to pass through for the Sounders, and that’s because the Whitecaps were much better off the ball, depriving Seattle of time and options in possession.

When Corey Hertzog, admirably filling in up front for the absent Russell Teibert, was taken off on 63′ with a left-ankle sprain, the TSN commentators wondered aloud: defense or attack? Should manager Martin Rennie bring in a pacy young forward like Kekuta Manneh to cause problems or act conservatively, perhaps bringing on a midfielder to folding the 4-3-3 into a more defensive formation to grind out a 1-0 result?

The way the Whitecaps handled this question can tell you everything about how they did not simply avoid defeat but seize victory. Before Daigo Kobayashi’s introduction, the ‘Caps had a total of four shots, only two on goal. But Daigo helped reinvigorate the attack, pushing the play up the pitch so that Seattle had to make up ground to try and mount any kind of assault of their own.

The next sub sealed the attack-is-defense approach: Darren Mattocks. So quiet lately, appearing only once in the last six games, Mattocks exploded onto the pitch, matching the intensity of the crowd with a rapid five shots and quick runs, terrorizing poor Djimi Traore.

The decision to play attacking players like Kobayashi and Mattocks is what sealed victory. And when a Knighton goal kick — clean sheet and an assist! — was flicked on at the centre circle by Gershon Koffie, Mattocks did the rest himself, chesting the ball down, cutting through Traore and batting a half-volley up and over.

2-0. With 11 minutes left, that was something like certainty. Knighton stayed strong. Mattocks kept coming out of nowhere to terrorize Seattle on the break. There would be no capitulation. The fear of lingering oblivion that was thick and black after the Canadian championship vanished into thin air. The Whitecaps are on top of the Cascadia Cup standings.

It was a good night to walk down Robson after a Seattle game for the fans in blue, for once.

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

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

Effort isn’t enough to get goals as Whitecaps draw with RSL

Camilo lines up for his penalty kick against RSL's Nick Rimando. Photo Andrew Bates/Little Rubber Pellets

Camilo lines up for his penalty kick against RSL’s Nick Rimando. Photo Andrew Bates/Little Rubber Pellets

Enthusiasm can get you places, but not the whole way.

Ahead of Saturday’s game against Real Salt Lake, the Whitecaps pushed hard on the notion of the advantage it has at home. That is because they want you to believe this will be like last year, when strong home performances pulled out low-percentage wins against challenging opposition, and not like 2011, where the season fell apart after a strong start and they couldn’t defend for the life of them on the road.

From the first half, it seemed to be working. Outside of Joao Plata’s goal, called off for offside, Real Salt Lake got precisely zero shots on target, despite outpossessing the Caps 59 per cent to 41 per cent. It is, to be honest, astounding that the ‘Caps did not pick something up in the first frame. But while the midfield was strong and moved with purpose, the attack seemed a bit more improvisational. The first half’s finest move came from Y.P. Lee, curving it in but just tipped over by RSL’s Nick Rimando, who played well.

The group of talented speedsters that made up the Whitecaps attack — Camilo, Corey Hertzog, Darren Mattocks — are bright at making the run, generating chances and creating. But in the box, the passes in the box weren’t crisp and Vancouver wasn’t quite fast enough at the crucial process of making decisions and then executing them. The contested play where Y.P. Lee was brought down in the penalty area with no call might have been contact, but the fact was that Lee was off-balance from pivoting two, three times looking for an option.

It seemed they were going to be punished for it on 66 minutes when Olmes Garcia pulled off the opposite: firing a beautiful, floating ball into the top corner off a Javier Morales cutback. It was the same ball Lee had been trying at all night, and mainly worked because Garcia had acres of space, and it was one of the only great things Salt Lake did all night. The Whitecaps looked deflated.

Darren Mattocks, subbed on for an impressive-and-improving Corey Hertzog minutes earlier, helped improve things. He fits into a spray-and-pray offense a lot better, and there were a couple of heartbreaking headers he just couldn’t get high enough for, including an attempt to recreate the famous Toronto goal that redirected straight down.

It’s not surprising that the workman-like approach is what ended up working. Mattocks’ penalty kick eventually came when he tried to ping it through and Nat Borchers fell on the ball with his hand. Camilo, who took the kick successfully, was rewarded with a goal for his five shots on target, but it came through working the ball towards the goal, not crisp execution.

Watching the confidence coming from outside of the area in the form of armband-sporting Nigel Reo-Coker and Y.P. Lee, it’s possible that this is what the attack misses without Miller. Not that he’s any better with improvisation, but a veteran presence could have helped Hertzog, Mattocks and Kekuta Manneh (who also served a great ball) from as much stress and guesswork.

The ‘Caps worked hard with a generous five minutes of added time to try and pull something off, and despite a late scare on the game’s last move where Joe Cannon saved the point, they held deservedly.

With the attack like it was today, an energy-based system that runs on effort and gumption, running the ball in and creating terror, is it any wonder that this works better at home? Comfortable and in front of lively fans, it’s a lot easier to pull off high energy. But they need to have some better answers and better finish to be able to turn chances into goals, and draws into wins.

Stats and quotes after the jump.

Continue reading

Whitecaps playoff loss asks you to buy into the grand bargain


The Whitecaps’ season ending graphic.

The storyline heading into last night’s Whitecaps playoffs game tried to reference, in whispers that did not actually invoke it by name, giant-killing in the English FA Cup.

Small teams beat big teams in knockout games all the time, the argument went, using examples from MLS history but calling to mind “the magic of the Cup” used as the selling point in England.

As we know now, that did not happen. Despite a third-minute goal so good it couldn’t be real from Darren Mattocks, the LA Galaxy scored twice in four minutes and took their place in the Western Conference quarterfinal. The Whitecaps were left with the knowledge that they came close, but now only have next year to plan for, and fans now have to wonder what this means in the context of the season.

The self-doubt-defying hope that maybe the ‘Caps could get something out of the fixture was run-of-the mill. But the elation of going up early—and staying ahead ten minutes later, and at half time, and with a half hour left—was glorious. Conceding the lead was like taking a punch, but it didn’t force the same loss of hope that a rout would have done. The reality set in, but the long-term vision seemed promising: maybe we can stop this from happening next year.

That, of course, is the other reality of the FA Cup. In that competition, fortunes vary year to year. One year, you might make a deep run or topple a Champion’s League club or lose in the first game to Cheltenham. Any year you don’t win it, you live with elimination and dive into the challenge next year, feeling the dare that you have a path to the title.

This perspective can be hard for expansion teams. Each year—especially in North America—gets measured in terms of impact or progress; We proved we could make the playoffs, we proved people would come, etcetra. We proved we belonged.

But what this result asks from you is the grand bargain every sports team wants to make with its fans: to get them to stay along for the long haul, not to just come out and see a game, but stick around.

The defeat was a punch in the gut. The whole last end of the season was a punch in the gut. Come back next year, maybe we’ll make the finals, or win the Cup or miss the whole thing altogether. Sometime you’ll get your satisfaction. Come along for the ride.

The match itself was kind of dull, but okay: It’s a shame Jay DeMerit got injured, but Martin Bonjour acquitted himself fine. Darren Mattocks showed his quality. Brad Knighton saved the Whitecaps over and over, and proved the decision to start him was correct. In the climatic miss that broke the Whitecaps’ concentration for just a crucial moment, Barry Robson and Kenny Miller both intensified the scrutiny over their midseason acquisitions.

LA were firmly in command, with 69 per cent of possession and nine corners to Vancouver’s zero, but the Whitecaps didn’t get blown out; they proved both they can make the playoffs and look not too far out of place. So progress as the goal is over; now the franchise is getting into the year-on-year fight. Maybe they can get a little bit farther next year.

I’ll stick around to find out.

Stats after the jump.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading