Category Archives: Articles

The Turn Towards The Top

Mauro Rosales and his teammates are getting used to celebrating these days. Photos by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Mauro Rosales and his teammates are getting used to celebrating these days. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

There was a time when I wrote articles on this website that garnered reaction from the public (I still remember you 2014!), and most often of the negative variety. Perfect. In particular, I have authored two pieces that seemingly turned people off more than a pants-optional wet t-shirt competition featuring all three male Pucked In The Head contributors. And if you know us, you know that “pants optional” is just a politer way of saying “nudity mandatory.”

Anyhoo, the two pieces I’m referencing both kind of centre around the same subject – none other than the Whitecaps’ previous man in charge: Martin Rennie. The first was a scathing review of the Scotsman’s insistence on including Jun Marques Davidson in the Whitecaps lineup. The guy was horrible and I stand by that.

Could Jun Marques Davidson get a look in the midfield with Russell Teibert away on international duty? Only time, and Martin Rennie's pre-game press releases, will tell. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Jun Marques Davidson, pictured here, playing horribly.  Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The second, which now seems slightly contradictory, was a show of support to the former manager. In “A Rennie Saved is a Rennie Earned,” I extolled the virtues of the coach and attempted to coax the Whitecaps front office that the man was in a growing phase, much like the team itself. The Caps had improved under him each year and had some good pieces in place despite missing the MLS playoffs in 2013.

At that point in time, after going through coaches like weekdays, I felt the team’s best move was no move at all. Stable leadership had been elusive through their earliest MLS years and perhaps it was time to allow those in charge the opportunity to work and learn their way through the struggle. I suppose, with the promotion of Rennie’s assistant Carl Robinson, the Whitecaps did just that, albeit in a roundabout way.

Continue reading The Turn Towards The Top

Familiar faces rule at 2015 Van Open

The ads for the 2015 Odlum Brown Vancouver Open boldly touted the STRONGEST, FIELD, like, EVAR, but the winner’s circle was full of familiar faces on Sunday. British right-hander Johanna Konta won her second singles title in three years with a straight sets victory over the top seed, Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, 6-2, 6-4. It was a productive week for the 96th-ranked Konta, who also won the women’s doubles title with American partner Maria Sanchez.

Johanna Konta won her second Vancouver Open women's singles championship in straight sets. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the head.
Johanna Konta won her second Vancouver Open women’s singles championship in straight sets. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the head.

Dudi Sela won his fourth Van Open championship in straight sets over Australian John-Patrick Smith. Sela broke once in each set for a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Smith, who came into the tournament as defending men’s doubles champion with American Austin Krajicek.

Dudi Sela won his fourth Vancouver Open men's singles championship. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the head.
Dudi Sela won his fourth Vancouver Open men’s singles championship. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the head.

Sela accepted the inaugural Vancouver Open men’s trophy in 2005, then repeated in 2008 and 2010. The only other repeat winner on the men’s side is Marcos Baghdatis, who took the title twice, in 2009 and 2014.

Six players on the women’s side were ranked in the top 100 in the world, with quite a few offering impressive resumés. Most notably, Francesca Schiavone came in having won the 2007 French Open, as well as three Fed Cup titles playing for Italy. She lost in the first round, however, to 20-year-old Tunisian Ons Jabeur. A number of other high-profile players bowed out early, such as former number 4 in the world Kimiko Date-Krumm, who stepped aside in first-round qualifying with injury.

John-Patrick Smith of Australia was the runner-up in the 2015 Odlum Brown Vancouver Open men's singles tournament. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the head.
John-Patrick Smith of Australia was the runner-up in the 2015 Odlum Brown Vancouver Open men’s singles tournament. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the head.

Canadians Sharon Fichman and Carol Zhao made the women’s doubles semi-finals, when they lost to eventual champions Konta and Sanchez, 7-6(2), 6-2.

This ballboy took advantage of some open courts on the final day of the 2014 Vancouver Open tennis tournament. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
This ballboy took advantage of some open courts on the final day of the 2014 Vancouver Open tennis tournament. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Bedwetters no longer

After years of finding new and shocking ways to lose the Canadian Championship, the Vancouver Whitecaps played a statement game in the second leg of the 2015 final, and — finally — won the damned thing.

The Vancouver Whitecaps FC won their first-ever Amway Canadian Championship with a 2-nil victory over the Montreal Impact at BC Place. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
The Vancouver Whitecaps FC won their first-ever Amway Canadian Championship with a 2-nil victory over the Montreal Impact at BC Place. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

No penalty kicks, no extra time, no aggregate gaffes, no games halted for bad weather. Just solid play from first and second squad players alike.

Octavio Rivero opened the scoring midway through the first half when he got his foot on a ball that Cristian Techera had already rolled to the very goal line. It was his first goal from the run of play since Middle Earth was a relevant pop culture reference, and turned out to be the tournament-winning goal. It seems only fair; if Techera hadn’t back heeled that wonderful ball from Kekuta Manneh against FC Dallas just four days ago, it would have landed at Rivero’s feet in that exact same spot. Tit for tat, I always say.

Tim Parker headed home a Pedro Morales corner in the second half to double the lead. Given the team’s collapse in Montreal a fortnight earlier — when a late 2-nil scoreline became a 2-2 draw in mere minutes — many of the 19,000-plus fans at BC Place were more nervous up by a brace than they had been when the lead was just one. However, between Parker and Kendall Waston, backed up by a committed David Ousted, two goals was more than enough to seal the deal this time round.

Tim Parker celebrates with Pedro Morales after scoring an insurance goal. The Vancouver Whitecaps FC won their first-ever Amway Canadian Championship with a 2-nil victory over the Montreal Impact at BC Place. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Tim Parker celebrates with Pedro Morales after scoring an insurance goal. The Vancouver Whitecaps FC won their first-ever Amway Canadian Championship with a 2-nil victory over the Montreal Impact at BC Place. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The fact is, the Whitecaps have now shrugged off just about every minor monkey that’s been riding their shoulders since joining MLS. First it was earning points against stronger teams — the LA Galaxy, Sporting KC, DC United. Then it was getting some individual hardware, like a Golden Boot and a Newcomer of the Year award. Then it was winning against those powerhouses on the road. They’ve won back-to-back Cascadia Cups, and are a win away from making it a threepeat. With the Canadian Championship in their pocket, this year’s somewhat backwards entry into the CONCACAF Champions League no longer needs an asterisk.

Each of these accomplishments are huge steps for a franchise to take. None of them should be sneezed at, nor belittled. Every single one of these players deserves to cherish that medal, and kiss that Canadian Championship trophy as long as they care to pucker.

But now that these smaller firsts have been taken care of, the Whitecaps can set their sights on bigger fish.

These Whitecaps aren’t just the best in Canada this season. They’re among the best in the league. A Supporters’ Shield is no pipe dream — it’s a distinct possibility. With eight games remaining, the Caps have the number one points-per-game ratio in MLS. Playoff success isn’t just a pipe dream; it’s expected.

David Ousted should win Goalkeeper of the Year, if the June Player of the Month award and four Save of the Week honours mean anything. Kendall Waston ought to be in the conversation for Defender of the Year, if for no other reason than because he’s too big to ignore. And if Carl Robinson isn’t nominated for Coach of the Year, there’s something downright fishy going on.

Dare we say it, even the MLS Cup is a distinct possibility. Okay, that’s perhaps reaching, and the LA Galaxy will make life in the playoffs more difficult than a Silviu Petrescu disciplinary hearing. But hey, the Caps have beaten the Galaxy outright twice this season, once here and once in LA. Handily.

The rest of the season is going to be verrrrrry interesting. Pick your dance partners, folks, because this party is just getting started.

Countrymen Carl Robinson and Robert Earnshaw walk the length of the pitch draped in the Welsh flag after the Vancouver Whitecaps FC won their first-ever Amway Canadian Championship with a 2-nil victory over the Montreal Impact at BC Place. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Countrymen Carl Robinson and Robert Earnshaw walk the length of the pitch draped in the Welsh flag after the Vancouver Whitecaps FC won their first-ever Amway Canadian Championship with a 2-nil victory over the Montreal Impact at BC Place. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

 

Voyageurs Cup 2015 – Final Leg Preview

*Heavy, world-weary sigh.*

Well, here we go again. The clock has ticked over to August 26th, and the Vancouver Whitecaps will play the Montreal Impact tonight at BC Place in the final match of the Canadian Championship. The forums, message boards and social media outlets have all filled up with the prognostications of the supporters. Most are dire, a Pavlovian response to the words “Voyageurs Cup Final” borne of 13 years of failure. Yet there is a feeling of hope, too. A dangerous feeling, that. The hope exists because — for at least the fifth consecutive year — the Whitecaps have their best-ever chance to finally capture this trophy. Continue reading Voyageurs Cup 2015 – Final Leg Preview

10 Sports Films You Should Watch If You Have Actual Taste

Yesterday, my good friend Jason Kurylo demonstrated just how wrong he can be at times: he published a list of the ten sports movies that you really ought to re-watch. The post’s purpose was the same as all posts of that nature: to make people argue with the author. So argue with him I shall. Cool Runnings, Jason? COOL RUNNINGS?? Continue reading 10 Sports Films You Should Watch If You Have Actual Taste

Ten films you should watch again

I wanted to be up in North Vancouver this morning, checking out the view from Hollyburn Country Club and shooting media day pictures for the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open Tennis Tournament. Alas, I’m at home nursing a later summer cold and flicking my way through a variety of on demand movie listings.

So here’s my list of Ten sports films you should watch again. I invite your commentary, your judgement and your suggestions. I obviously haven’t given a definitive list here, but let’s be clear: I’ll be damned if anyone makes me sit through Slap Shot ever again. Why so many people like that load of unadulterated shite is just beyond me.

Continue reading Ten films you should watch again

Spaghetti, anyone?

In an age of hyper marketing, intense competition and tightly controlled PR, it’s amazing that truly horrible ideas can still make it past the brainstorming stage. Whether it’s the nightmare of design by committee or just a conflagration of mediocre talents pulling the wool over the eyes of out of touch rich CEOs, we occasionally see awful designs rolled out in an underwhelming explosion of anticlimax. We analyze the Canucks’ latest trip to the cash trough with today’s edition of Somebody Approved This.

The act of going retro is, like, so yesterday.

Still, the Vancouver Canucks will break out the ol’ spaghetti jerseys on February 13 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of no longer wearing these black and orange abominations the opening of Rogers Arena. It’s a great excuse to laugh at the Toronto Maple Leafs, who lost a five-game Conference Finals to those awfully dressed Vancouver Canucks back in 1994, but then again the Leafs will only have to see these damned things once. We of Lotusland will have to see a renewed population of black-and-gold fashion faux pas for years to freaking come.

Pavel Bure and Trevor Linden wore spaghetti well. That doesn't mean others should be subjected to it. Photos garnered from various interweb searches.
Pavel Bure and Trevor Linden wore spaghetti well. That doesn’t mean others should be subjected to it. Photos garnered from various interweb searches.

 
Continue reading Spaghetti, anyone?

Seasons of Loss (Or, How to Reference Broadway Theatre in a Football Piece)

Andrew Harris rushed for 118 yards and caught a few passes for 57 yards more, while Manny Arseneaux led the team with 75 yards reception. They combined for three TDs in a 26-23 comeback win over the Edmonton Eskimos. CP photo lifted from the Province Sports website.
Andrew Harris rushed for 118 yards and caught a few passes for 57 yards more, while Manny Arceneaux led the team with 75 yards reception. They combined for three TDs in a 26-23 comeback win over the Edmonton Eskimos, and did so seven minutes after Erin Jeffery & Kid left the building. CP photo lifted from the Province Sports website.

This past Friday I was at the Lions game with the kid. As games go, it wasn’t our best. The defence was kind of sleepy and the offence seemed to be hurling themselves at the Eskimos like lemmings over a cliff.  There were moments of brilliance, but sadly more moments of ‘arrrrrgh’. Sure, Arceneaux scored a spectacular TD, but Jennings got hammered with his short yardage attempt. Harris was dependable, but Lulay just wasn’t finding his receivers. So with seven minutes left, Lions down by five, I looked at my 5 11/12-year-old, our 35-minute ride home, and his 7am wake up the next day and thought, “Well… This game is over… Crazy P has sung… It’s time to head”. The kid was sad, because he wanted to see the Lions win.  His Lions win.  But I made a choice.

Don’t say it. Just. Don’t. Say. It.

Continue reading Seasons of Loss (Or, How to Reference Broadway Theatre in a Football Piece)

Summertime & The Winning’s Easy

Whitecaps Wednesday

The Whitecaps’ goal parade continued on Saturday as they poured in four against Western Conference foes Real Salt Lake. The four-spot gives them ten goals for over their last three games while only surrendering a single goal against in the same time frame.

It was another victory in a game that would have likely offered up a serving of humble pie in years past – Caps fans have become accustomed to never taking “guaranteed win night” for granted much like Dennis Skulsky and the BC Lions – bringing about the notion (for me anyways) that this team is exceeding expectations.

Coach Carl Robinson chants along with the Curva Collective,:"Four goals is not enough, four is not enough!" Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Coach Carl Robinson chants along with the Curva Collective: “Four goals is not enough, four is not enough!” Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

For certain this team has suffered some authentic disappointment season (see June 3, May 23), but on the whole, the squad has taken steps towards becoming the “professional team” all franchises aspire to be. That is, winning games you should and managing to earn results in many that you shouldn’t.

But is this what we had envisioned for the 2015 Whitecaps coming into the MLS season? Let us spew a few words about that.

Continue reading Summertime & The Winning’s Easy

Four goals is not enough, say four is not enough

The Vancouver Whitecaps steamrolled a third-string Real Salt Lake team 4-nil on Saturday in what can only be considered an apology for the mutt of a game they put forth in their first-ever Champions League match three days prior.

RSL midfielder John Stertzer says "Bring it on, Kekuta!". Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
RSL midfielder John Stertzer says “Bring it on, Kekuta!”. And bring it on, he did. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Ugh. Memories of that Wednesday Champions League match plague me like large, hulking plague-y things. Both the Caps and Sounders fielded third-string rosters who played uninspired, irresponsible football.

Having RSL field their USL affiliate against the Whitecaps first squad, then, was going to end one of two ways: a close match that had Vancouverites wringing their hands in horror, or a blowout. Thankfully for the local boys, it was the latter.

RSL starting 11 vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 8 August 2015
RSL keeper Jeff Attinella isn’t sure he even recognizes half the guys in this starting XI. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The biggest story isn’t that Octavio Rivero scored his ninth on yet another penalty kick. It’s not that Christian Techera put a brace into the back of the net for his third and fourth goals of the year. It’s not that Jordan Harvey is playing his best soccer just when Christian Dean is showing he’s got game and Sam Adekugbe is rounding into game shape to push him for minutes. It’s not that All-Star keeper David Ousted has the best goals against average in MLS, having allowed just two goals in the last four games and 22 overall this season. It’s not even that Pa Madou Kah scoring his third goal in two games — Pa Madou Frickin’ Kah, my friends, who had only scored once in his previous 58 MLS games.

Christian Techera keeps tabs on RSL defender Olmes Garcia. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Christian Techera keeps tabs on RSL defender Olmes Garcia. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

No, it’s the fact that all of these remarkable storylines are coming together at the same moment. When Rivero hasn’t scored from the run of play since May. With Pedro injured and/or playing so-so football for the majority of the year. When Manneh still hasn’t found a regular groove and Mattocks is still, well, Mattocks. In a season that features a loopy schedule because BC Place hosted the Women’s World Cup. The Vancouver Whitecaps have tied the franchise record of 13 wins this season, and there are 10 games remaining.

This is an exciting time to be a Whitecaps fan. Come on, you blue and white, indeed.

Coach Carl Robinson chants along with the Curva Collective,:"Four goals is not enough, four is not enough!" Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Coach Carl Robinson chants along with the Curva Collective,:”Four goals is not enough, no four is not enough!” Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

You want highlights? You got ’em.