All posts by Chris Withers

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

Why is Willie Ducking Criticism?

Last week, the Vancouver Canucks held a couple of town hall meetings with season ticket holders, in which President Trevor Linden and GM Jim Benning outlined the direction of the team, such as it is, and defended themselves against accusations of general incompetence.

Willie Desjardins, Trevor Linden & Jim Benning
Willie Desjardins, Trevor Linden and Jim Benning appeared together in pre-season pressers, but ol’ Willie has been absent from recent town halls. Photo cribbed from an admittedly poorly-written Reddit subthread.

Notably absent from accounts of this meeting was any discussion of head coach Willie Desjardins. The Canucks bench boss seems to me to be coasting along in the wake of terribleness left by the front office. Lost amid the annoyance of the stupid money given to Derek Dorsett is the fact that Dorsett is getting more ice time than youngster Jake Virtanen, with no benefit to the club at all. Sven Baertschi is only barely ahead of Brandon Prust.  Jared McCann is dead even with Adam Cracknell. For an organization that’s prioritizing youth development at the moment, these decisions are incredibly odd, but with Benning flushing assets down the toilet on the waiver wire every week and blundering through trade after trade, nobody seems to pay attention to the coach.

Desjardins is not a tactically strong coach. He was roundly out-coached in last year’s playoffs by Bob Hartley. His stubborn refusal to deploy the Sedins for offensive zone faceoffs to maximize their output, as Alain Vigneault did during his tenure, has cost the club countless scoring opportunities this season.

Desjardins was this regime’s guy. He was the anti-Torts. The one to nurture the kids after a year of neglect. It’s no surprise, then, that odds-makers don’t favour him to be shown the door any time soon. If, though, the Canucks are really serious about making the playoffs every year during this rebuild, he’ll need to be replaced sooner rather than later.

Whitecaps 2016 Season Preview

The Vancouver Whitecaps 2015 season was a great story that never quite materialized. If it wasn’t for them goals that never came, they coulda been contenders. Instead of a bunch of bums, which is what they were, let’s face it.

That’s harsh. I know that’s harsh, but I always liked that Brando line, and it was painful to watch a club who was odds-on for the Supporters’ Shield in September sink out of the race and get bounced without so much as a whimper in their first home MLS playoff game. By the hated Portland Timbers, no less. A stellar defence undone by a lack of any consistent offence, and a plague of injuries. Oh, what could have been. Anyways, they’ve fixed all that now, and they’re totally going to win all the trophies this season. End of preview. Continue reading Whitecaps 2016 Season Preview

Fare Thee Well Gershon Koffie

As the Vancouver Whitecaps arrive at the midpoint of their preseason, fans were once again brought face to face with the realities of a salary capped league on Thursday when fan favourite midfielder Gershon Koffie was shipped off to the New England Revolution for an undisclosed sum.

It was a somewhat muted reaction from Caps supporters, perhaps tempered by persistent rumours over the off-season that the Ghanaian was on his way overseas. He’s certainly made no secret over the years of his desire to test himself in Europe. There was also a sense that something had to give with Vancouver’s roster. The math didn’t appear to add up, and the club looked to be transitioning to a more attacking mentality that would, depending on the formation, leave Koffie struggling to find minutes alongside Russell Teibert, Ben McKendry and Deybi Flores. Continue reading Fare Thee Well Gershon Koffie

Whitecaps Play For Nil-Nil, Get Their Wish

The Whitecaps began their third MLS playoff campaign on Sunday afternoon six hours down the I-5 in rainy Portland, Oregon. Hopes were high among Vancouver supporters. The club had just scored multiple goals in a game for the first time in nearly two months, some of their injured players were rumoured to be available, and they’d got the matchup that looked the best, on paper, after the Timbers eliminated Sporting Kansas City in one of the most entertaining penalty kick contests you will ever see.  Then the game started, and the offence was once again maddeningly anemic. Continue reading Whitecaps Play For Nil-Nil, Get Their Wish