Dallas Dives Into BC Place To Meet Whitecaps on Saturday

After a much needed 2-week layoff, the Vancouver Whitecaps return to the pitch on Saturday to take on the infamous miscreants and divers of FC Dallas. The Caps have been on a bit of a roll in the league, winners of four of their last six matches, and unlucky (in one case hideously unlucky) not to have at least a point in all six. Can they keep the wave of success going against the Texans?

Dallas still sit third in the western conference, but have been in a bit of a slump since the end of April. In their last eight matches they have only two wins, both against lowly Real Salt Lake. (Though, in fairness, they beat the holy hell out of lowly Real Salt Lake on both occasions.) Outside of those wins, they’re managing less than a goal a game.

If we’re fortunate, we may get to see a battle of 16-year-old phenoms, as Alphonso Davies, fresh off his national team debut, may line up against Dallas’ Jesus  Ferreira. Ferreira, who recently bagged a goal in his debut, will be familiar to Caps fans via his father, David, who nearly single-handedly gave Dallas their reputation as cheating scumbags. Hopefully the lad picked up his dad’s talent without acquiring his love of playing against Vancouver or his tendency to be blown over by a calm easterly breeze.

Carl Robinson has settled on a starting eleven over the last month or two, but national team duty has taken its toll. Kendall Waston and Christian Bolanos both left Costa Rica’s matches with injuries and there is no word yet how long they’ll be out. With Bernie Ibini and Yordi Reyna still not quite ready, look for Brek Shea to get back into the starting lineup on the wing. Replacing Waston will be the more interesting decision. Russell Teibert impressed for Les Rouges on Tuesday, and could slot in beside Tony Tchani, freeing Andrew Jacobson up to move back to CB. Alternatively, Robinson could opt for a straight swap and hope Cole Seiler will be steady enough beside Tim Parker.

The key matchup will be on Vancouver’s left flank where Dallas’ Michael Barrios, who had three assists against RSL two weeks ago, will be looking for more. Much will depend on the ability of Jordan Harvey and Cristian Techera to shut him down. If he’s allowed too much space to operate, Vancouver is in for a bad time.

I tend to think that the two-week layoff, along with the teams’ respective form, will see Vancouver through, and I’m not alone. Sascha Paruk, editor and oddsmaker at Sports Betting Dime agrees, saying: “The home team has not lost in the last 11 matches between the two. Barring any major injuries, Vancouver should be about a 4/3 favorite with Dallas around 3/1 and the draw at 11/5.”

Whitecaps Don’t Disappoint Despite Loss – Vancouver 1-2 Tigres UANL (1-4 agg.)

Brek Shea scored early for Vancouver in the second leg of the CCL semi-final against Tigres, before coming off with an injury five minutes later. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head

I walked into BC Place Stadium last night with a curious sense of optimism and excitement. For one thing, there are almost no paths to disappointment when you enter the second leg of a series against one of the best teams in North America down 2-0. For another, I’m not cut out for big games. Even routine Cascadian derbies turn me into a bit of a wreck. I was basically useless at being a human for 48 hours before the Canucks’ 2011 game seven.  And finally, these are sensations that six plus years of Whitecaps FC fandom has mostly beaten out of me. Like most Whitecaps fans, I can’t help but imagine what fresh hell the team will concoct in their never ending quest to find creative new ways to lose cup competitions. So… I was puzzled at my optimism. Then Brek Shea engineered the dream start with a goal in the third minute, and suddenly, against my better judgement, I thought perhaps the optimism was warranted. Continue reading Whitecaps Don’t Disappoint Despite Loss – Vancouver 1-2 Tigres UANL (1-4 agg.)

Caps Make April Fools Out Of Galaxy: Vancouver 4-2 Los Angeles

The great April Fools Joke is an art form. Perhaps a lost one. It strikes a neat balance between the believable and the absurd, or else it is Onion-esque in its humourous ridiculousness. Recent years have seen some truly terrible attempts. No, you can’t just say “we’re pregnant,” or “we’re getting married,” and expect people to chortle when you reveal that you were only toying with their emotions. Too believable, not absurd enough. Similarly, you can’t just  throw anything out there. David Beckham, to cite one example, is not coming out of retirement, least of all to play for the Galaxy again. Too absurd, not believable enough. The Caps, it must be said, were leaning towards the latter when, shortly before 9pm, they tried to convince the 25,083 BC Place faithful that they had just beaten the LA Galaxy 4-2 on the strength of a Matías Laba brace. Continue reading Caps Make April Fools Out Of Galaxy: Vancouver 4-2 Los Angeles

Caps Completely Fail To Catch Tigres By The Tail – Tigres UANL 0-2 Vancouver

I recently reread William Gibson’s seminal 1984 cyberpunk novel Neuromancer. The book tells the tale of Case, a drug-addled hacker who succeeds in bringing down an artificial intelligence of vastly superior capability owned by a company of vastly superior wealth. Needless to say, that plot is unlikely to compare to our heroes in blue and white as they trail 2-0 to Tigres after the first leg of CONCACAF Champions League semifinal action. Rather, I’m reminded of a line from the foreword of my copy, penned by Jack Womack. Womack, an accomplished sci-fi author in his own right, relates the time he first read Gibson’s work. “It quickly became apparent that, while we were kicking the same groin, we were shod in variant footwear.” That’s more like it. Continue reading Caps Completely Fail To Catch Tigres By The Tail – Tigres UANL 0-2 Vancouver

Robinson Lets Caps Be Toppled By Earthquakes – San Jose 3-2 Vancouver

Saturday in San Jose was the type of game in which a manager can earn his salary. As the Whitecaps rolled into Avaya Stadium, Carl Robinson faced a tough decision: to focus on the league, with a daunting challenge against one of the top teams in North America only three days away, or to play some reserves against the Earthquakes in hopes of taking his shot against Tigres. Robinson opted for the latter, and looked brilliant for twenty-two minutes. Then he faced his second challenge: how to react to an in-game disaster, and abruptly his managerial aptitude was once again being questioned by the Vancouver faithful as Vancouver coughed up a 2-0 lead to fall 3-2 to the San Jose Earthquakes. Continue reading Robinson Lets Caps Be Toppled By Earthquakes – San Jose 3-2 Vancouver

Union Lock Out Caps: Vancouver 0-0 Philadelphia

I know, I know. It’s the employer that locks out the Union, not the other way around, but Sunday’s result was better for the visitors. On a night when the greatest scare the Vancouver Whitecaps had came from seeing Alphonso Davies go down awkwardly a few minutes from time, the home side played the Philadelphia Union to a nil-nil draw Sunday evening at BC Place.

Alfonso Davies moves the ball upfield.
Alphonso Davies, with no hyperbole, just may be the most exciting player to hit Vancouver since Pavel Bure. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Sunday started much the same way that Thursday ended, with Vancouver content mostly to sit back, letting Philadelphia have as much of the ball as they wanted, so long as they did nothing with it. Unfortunately for the 19,083 announced attendance, Philly had much the same idea. Continue reading Union Lock Out Caps: Vancouver 0-0 Philadelphia

Red Bulls Give ‘Caps Wings: Vancouver 2-0 New York (3-1 agg.)

It seems both not that long and an eternity ago that the Whitecaps were contenders. As recently as the second half of 2015, Vancouver had a realistic shot at the Supporters Shield before faltering down the stretch. Think back to that time. Glorious, wasn’t it? David Bowie and Carrie Fisher were still alive. The President of the United States had big boy-sized hands that weren’t hovering over the nuclear launch button. None of our Cascadian rivals had stars on their kits. The Caps had qualified for their second straight Champions League by winning their first Voyageurs Cup. Then 2016 happened. And happened. And continued to happen. Jesus, it just kept happening. Then on Thursday evening, Vancouver returned to form, defeating the New York Red Bulls 2-0 to become only the seventh MLS team to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.

Men run after an inflated rubber thing on plastic grass.
Derrick Etienne of the New York Red Bulls chases Jake Nerwinski of the Vancouver Whitecaps during CONCACAF Champions League action. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Continue reading Red Bulls Give ‘Caps Wings: Vancouver 2-0 New York (3-1 agg.)

The Vancouver Whitecaps Confused Me, volume I

The Vancouver Whitecaps, as you may have gathered from the title of this article, confused me today, when out of nowhere they traded Giles Barnes, a member of their injury-depleted attacking corps, to Orlando City SC for Brek Shea, a player who the traditional wisdom says the Whitecaps don’t have a current need for.

Me, waking up for a night shift and being greeted by the news of the Barnes-Shea swap.

Lest you doubt my sincerity when I say this move confused me, I attach this reaction shot documenting my reaction to waking up for a night shift to the news of the swap. My level of puzzlement has varied somewhat in the subsequent hours, but I remain not entirely sure what the hell is going on here.

My initial thought when I saw the news was that Shea wasn’t a fit for the Whitecaps at all. Isn’t he some left back/left wing hybrid with a gun fetish and the fashion sense of a Sounders fan, I asked myself, brows afurrow. Surely Robinson doesn’t intend to use him there. With Manneh, Techera, de Jong, Harvey, and, when they return from injury and loan, Levis and Adekugbe all competing for minutes on the left side of the park, why add to the glut? And why isn’t the crime against clothing here pictured sufficient to disqualify him from the fashion-conscious gaffer’s plans?

The next thought was if Vancouver wanted to bring in another designated player from abroad – Atiba Hutchinson perhaps – they’d need to buy down one of their lower-paid DPs using allocation money. People on social media astutely pointed out that If Shea were on less money than Barnes, that might save the club some bucks when – if – they pull the trigger on that hypothetical deal. This sent me into another land of confusion that’s an article in itself regarding how the heck Matias Laba came to be paid so much more money than I remember him making. Anyways, good shout, people on social media. Perhaps this is a precursor to a larger move.

But that still leaves the question of what exactly to do with Shea now that he’s here. A player comfortable anywhere up and down the left side is really about the last thing the Whitecaps need this season after a true attacking midfielder, a box-to-box partner for Laba, all the Tiger Balm, discipline, and a kit that doesn’t look like a cheap tablecloth. Fortunately, Shea appears to be versatile enough to play elsewhere. A glance at the heat maps from the last half of Orlando City’s 2016 campaign shows that Shea was used and had success primarily on the right side of the park, but appeared to get quite a few touches in the left and middle. In other words, it looks as though Robinson may have found at least a stop-gap solution to the absence of Yordy Reyna, Christian Bolanos, and Nicolas Mezquida. A front four of Montero in front of the combination du jour of Manneh, Shea, Davies and Techera shouldn’t lack for speed and will hopefully be creative enough to see Vancouver through to the summer when, soccer gods and Tiger Balm willing, they’ll be fully healthy again.

A Series of Unfortunate Decisions – The Promising Prospect

Dear Canucks Fan,

You have no doubt become aware of this, yet I still feel it necessary to warn you that the hockey team you follow is terrible. Languishing low in the league, Vancouver, despite its stated intention of competing for a playoff spot, seems instead destined to once again offer its fans the cold consolation  of a lottery pick.

(My apologies for the Lemony Snicket-style alliteration, I’m just really excited for Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf.) Continue reading A Series of Unfortunate Decisions – The Promising Prospect

Remember Steve Bernier?

Longtime followers of Pucked in the Head might remember that we started out as a podcast called Bernier is a Turd. That was back when Steve Bernier was an overpaid roster spot holder for the Vancouver Canucks. We frequently complained that Mr Turd was a sorry excuse for a hockey forward, and accused him of being a garbage goalmonger of the very worst sort. “He can only score if he’s standing in the crease,” we lamented, “and only then, with no goaltender between him and the goal line.”

Theory: Steve Bernier can only score from here, just not when that guy with the pads is there.
Theory: Steve Bernier can only score from here, just not when that guy with the pads is there.

Turns out we were half wrong.

Bernier now plies his trade in the American Hockey League, for the New York Islanders affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers. As the Hartford Wolf Pack pressed to tie a 3-2 game late in the third period, our man Steve lay down, angling his shin pads just so, to block a point shot from Ryan Graves. The puck bounced, ricocheted, rebounded, even caromed the length of the ice into the Hartford net. There was indeed no goaltender, as the Pack had opted for an extra attacker. But we admit — Bernier can, indeed, hit the net from outside the crease.

You can’t say he didn’t do it on purpose.

If you liked this, check out our Weird Goals post. Oh, and its sequel, Weird Goals II.