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.

Upstart Thunderbirds brought down to earth after red card in Provincial Cup

Vancouver Thunderbird Niall Cousens takes a walk. God my cellphone camera is awful. Photo Andrew Bates/Little Rubber Pellets

Vancouver Thunderbird Niall Cousens takes a walk. God my cellphone camera is awful. Photo Andrew Bates/Little Rubber Pellets

The Thunderbirds hadn’t seen a loss in over eight months until last night, but they hadn’t seen a red card in a year and a half either.

After punching above their weight in the BC Provincial Cup, the Vancouver Thunderbirds lost 1-0 last night to Surrey United Firefighters in the Men’s A semifinal. The Vancouver Thunderbirds, reigning Pacific Coast Soccer League (div 4) champions, are the daylight alter egos of the UBC men’s soccer team, who won the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national championship last year after an undefeated season and even turned away the Whitecaps Reserves without giving them so much as a sniff.

The Thunderbirds have a powerful system based on possession and counterattack that crushed university opposition and has held fairly pat against senior players. They sunk the Reserves 3-0, held FC Edmonton’s first team to a 1-1 draw and shocked Vancouver Metro Soccer League champions Columbus FC in the quarterfinals of the Provincial Cup last weekend. The Thunderbirds are also a comparatively clean team, having gone the whole CIS season without a red card. (You’d have to go back to the 2011 Canada West semifinal to find their last red.)

When T-Bird Niall Cousens picked up a second yellow card just before the end of the first half, the system started to wilt. The Thunderbirds weren’t able to hold the ball quite as well and without counterattacks, they found themselves on the perimeter, trying to squeeze their way in. Gagandeep Dosanjh, wearing the armband, ran himself silly with a number of eyewatering runs around defenders, but never managing a final product that could beat Surrey keeper Andrew Fink.

And on offense, the defending Provincial Cup champions wore down the Thunderbirds with crosses and corners. Former Vancouver Whitecap Jeff Clarke ended up heading past Luke O’Shea early in the second half, which burst the brave faces the ten-men T-Birds were trying to present. O’Shea was excellent for the duration and kept the game close the rest of the way, but no goal came; right up to the last gasp, the Thunderbirds tried to get an equalizer and saw only efforts sail past the football uprights behind the net.

It was the Thunderbirds’ first loss since a 1-0 away defeat to Bellingham FC in the PCSL on August 24th, 2012. Surrey go on to face the winner of tomorrow’s semifinal between Cowichan and West Van.