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Earthquakes Shake Up Whitecaps Offence

Sebastian Fernandez kicked a soccer ball into Victor Bernardez’ nuts to earn a corner kick, and the Vancouver Whitecaps proceeded to score off that corner kick en route to a 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Now, there’s a whole lot of awesome going on in that lede, so let’s break it down, shall we?

Seba Fernandez buzzed the San Jose Earthquakes defense all night, as the Whitecaps took a 2-nil decision at BC Place. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Seba Fernandez buzzed the San Jose Earthquakes defense all night, as the Whitecaps took a 2-nil decision at BC Place. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

“…the Vancouver Whitecaps proceeded to score…”
Mired in the longest goal-scoring drought of their MLS existence, forced to listen to boos, heckles and songs declaiming their utter lack of prowess in front of goal from their own supporters, the Whitecaps did the recently unthinkable and potted not one, but TWO GOALS! They even scored both of them themselves.

Pedro Morales was a one-man wrecking crew for the Whitecaps, at times taking on the entire Earthquakes back line to get the ball into position. Later he would score the club's first goal in 450 minutes of MLS play. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Pedro Morales was a one-man wrecking crew for the Whitecaps, at times taking on the entire Earthquakes back line to get the ball into position. Later he would score the club’s first goal in 450 minutes of MLS play. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

“Sebastian Fernandez kicked a soccer ball into Victor Bernardez’ nuts…”

This is what Victor Bernardez looks like when kicked in the junk. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
This is what Victor Bernardez looks like when kicked in the junk. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

It was not a good day for the Honduran defender, whose aged testicles received two solid blows — one literal, one figurative — both of which led to goals. Referee Jose Carlos Rivero delivered the first in the 39th minute, when he figuratively kicked the seasoned defender in the nuts by awarding a dubious penalty kick to the Whitecaps. Bernardez’ contact with Kendall Waston on a Morales free kick seemed  minimal, and I’m not entirely convinced Waston could have got anything on the header even if he’d been unimpeded. (Hey, it bumped the slump, we’ll take it.) The second was a literal shot to the cojones from Fernandez, who broke down the left wing, cut to the inside, and attempted to deliver a cross that was intercepted by the Bernardez family jewels.

“…proceeded to score off a corner kick…”
Well. That was refreshing.

Kendall Waston celebrates his first MLS goal, a gloriously aggressive header off a corner kick. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Kendall Waston celebrates his first MLS goal, a gloriously aggressive header off a corner kick. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

(Editor’s note: it was just the second Whitecaps goal off a corner kick this season, and Carl Robinson looked positively teary-eyed when he saw his dream of Kendall Waston heading home this set piece.)

“…a 2-0 win…”
For only the second time in their last 11 games, the Whitecaps won! The win puts the blue and white two points clear of Portland for the final playoff spot, with seven games each to play, and gives them a four-point cushion over Toronto FC for a place in the 2015 CONCACAF Champions League.

Mauro Rosales was less of a factor this game, but still put a few dangerous-looking crosses into play from the flank. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Mauro Rosales was less of a factor this game, but still put a few dangerous-looking crosses into play from the flank. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

“…a 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.”
As much fun as it was to get a win and see some goals for, we should probably not get too high. Erik Hurtado and Sebastian Fernandez couldn’t score on gilt-edged chances, making it more than five games since the Caps got a goal from a forward. The Earthquakes — let’s face it — are also pretty terrible: sub-par in every category but the little-known stat, Ugly-ass Black Capris Owned By Goalkeepers, San Jose look like a team playing out the string. Or possibly a team playing their second game in four days, a fate that awaits the Whitecaps as they travel to Dallas on Saturday for what should be a much sterner test.

The legendary first touch of Erik Hurtado is back in full form, as he managed to fluff several chances in glorious field position. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
The legendary first touch of Erik Hurtado is back in full form, as he managed to fluff several chances in glorious field position. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
WhitecapsLogo

Hold Your Applause, Not Your Breath

On most other nights, the effort put forth on Saturday evening at BC Place by the Vancouver Whitecaps would have been viewed as positive. But with their current run of form, it was enough to ignite a spattering of boos as the referee blew the final whistle.

Jordan Harvey's fiancee Kim Caldwell gained a new fan (shown right) while performing the national anthems at BC Place. Photo for Pucked in the Head by Russell Arbuthnot
Jordan Harvey’s fiancee, Kim Caldwell, gained a new fan (shown right) while performing the national anthems at BC Place. Photo for Pucked in the Head by Russell Arbuthnot

The Caps, currently mired in a streak that sees them with just two wins in their last fourteen matches, aren’t used to such a reaction from their hometown faithful. As much as it may hurt, a little tough love could be just the cure for this dismal stretch of games.

Despite what management is saying in public in regards to looking for a striker, one has to believe that the urgency is mounting. And now, with their paying customers starting to voice their dissatisfaction with the current assembly of players, there can be no denying what the supporters want to see.

They want to see the playoffs, and they want to see success, and they want to see it now.

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Eric Hassli was an early fan favourite when the Whitecaps joined the MLS. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Goal of the Week #1 – The Cascadia Cracker

Whitecaps Wednesday

Over the last couple of weeks there hasn’t been much to cheer about in Whitecaps-land. Another defeat at the hands of the LA Galaxy, followed by what was simply the worst performance this season at home versus the Portland Timbers.

The consecutive losses push the Caps out of a playoff spot and leave the team and its supporters asking questions regarding the club’s resolve when it comes to performing during critical phases in the season.

But we here at PITH see no reason to dwell on the pessimism (we’ll let the other media outlets take care of that). So, instead, we simply look into the past to a moment in time where one savoured being a Whitecaps fan.

Carl says "Smile," so we do. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Carl says “Smile,” so we do. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

In this, our initial post of an on-going series, we take our first glimpse back at the history of the Whitecaps’ Goal of the Week winners.

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Darlington Nagbe shamed Matías Laba before knifing a lovely pass to Rodney Wallace, who embarrassed David Ousted. It was a perfect encapsulation of the second half. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Loads of blues, but not much white

The Vancouver Whitecaps had an opportunity to solidify their playoff hopes on Saturday, but chose to soil the sheets instead. A middling first half was followed by a disastrous second; the forward corps showed little imagination, the back line stumbled and fell apart, and keeper David Ousted failed to make big saves for the team to rally around.

Coach Carl Robinson keeps talking about the youth of this Whitecaps team. “We’re a young team,” he’s fond of saying. When young teams win, as Vancouver did 4-3 against this same Portland in June, it’s a wonder to behold. When young teams lose, however, it’s also a spectacle.

Darlington Nagbe shamed Matías Laba before knifing a lovely pass to Rodney Wallace, who embarrassed David Ousted. It was a perfect encapsulation of the second half. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Darlington Nagbe shamed Matías Laba before knifing a lovely pass to Rodney Wallace, who embarrassed David Ousted. It was a perfect encapsulation of the second half. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The Whitecaps generated a total of four legitimate chances in a game against one of the worst defensive teams in the Western Conference this season. Pedro Morales and Kendall Waston put headers over the bar early in the game, and Mauro Rosales sailed a right-footed strike two yards wide from ten yards out. Only Darren Mattocks forced Timbers keeper Donovan Ricketts to make a save of note, in a game that would have put Vancouver four points clear in the playoff race with nine games remaining.

Putting up bagels is getting to be a bit of a habit — they’ve been kept off the score sheet three games running and four games out of five; the Caps have just eight goals for in their last twelve games— but this is the first time in recent memory such a drought has been accompanied by the defensive lapses of a high school rep squad playing two leagues above their age group.

New Whitecap Mauro Rosales was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing 3-0 loss to the Portland Timbers. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
New Whitecap Mauro Rosales was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing 3-0 loss to the Portland Timbers. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

After a spiritless 0-0 draw against the hapless Chivas USA squad, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC have now been outscored by a combined five goals to nil in back-to-back losses against the LA Galaxy and Portland Timbers.

The loss against the Galaxy was disheartening but expected — Vancouver has never had much success at StubHub. Saturday’s second half collapse against a team below them in the standings, however, was unforgivable.

The first Portland goal, a deft whisper of a header by Alvas Powell five minutes into the second half, was made possible by a trio of defensive mixups; Waston made a weak challenge on Fenendo Adi, who calmly moved the ball wide to Diego Valeri. Unchecked, Valeri had a simple task to cross the ball in at chest height. Powell, unmarked as well — see a pattern here? — kissed the ball past a startled Ousted.

Fanendo Adi kept Matías Laba and Jordan Harvey in fits most of the night. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Fanendo Adi kept Matías Laba and Jordan Harvey in fits most of the night. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The Timbers scored again in the 75th minute when Waston tripped over his own feet in the 18-yard box. (The newcomer hit the deck on a number of occasions in his first start as a Whitecap, calling to question his experience on artificial turf.) He blocked Andy O’Brien from moving forward, allowing Maximilliano Urruti to unload a rocket crossbar down from 15 yards out.

Just four minutes later, Darlington Nagbe shamed Matías Laba before knifing a lovely pass into the area; Rodney Wallace one-timed a left-footed shot under Ousted. The third goal made this the worst home loss since a 4-0 drubbing against the league champion LA Galaxy in 2011.

Whitecaps - David Ousted 1036
David Ousted had a lot of soul searching to do after allowing three against the Portland Timbers. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The Caps keeper might not be at fault for any of the three goals he allowed this night — nay, the defense in front of him was sloppy at best — but David Ousted has rarely come up with the big saves necessary to bind a fragile team together this season. If he gets a finger on Urruti’s high flyer, the Caps sit at 1-0 and still have 15 minutes to gain an equalizing goal. If he goes full starfish to get a shinpad on Wallace’s strike, the team is saved the disgrace of an embarrassing result, and merely suffers a loss.

To paraphrase Coach Robbo, it matters not if you lose 1-0 or 3-0; Ousted can’t be blamed if his team can’t score. If they do start to hit the back of the net once in a while, however, at some point the keeper is going to have to stop the ball.

Whitecaps Wednesday

California Drought

After back-to-back, less-than-stellar outings in the City of Angels, questions abound regarding the Vancouver Whitecaps’ futility in the great state of California. Too much Disneyland? Too much Rodeo Drive shopping? Whatever it may be, Cap struggles in the golden state have become familiar, and farcically legendary.

Landon Donovan's LA Galaxy team has caused fits for the Whitecaps at the StubHub Center. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Landon Donovan’s LA Galaxy team has caused fits for the Whitecaps at the StubHub Center.  Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

With the loss this past weekend, they’ve now compiled a 0-7-0 (W-L-T) record versus the Galaxy in LA since joining MLS in 2011. That’s not entirely surprising considering the various assemblies of talent that the Galaxy has been able to trot out year after year, but to be unable to muster a single point in seven games may be considered, ehrm, disheartening.

Unfortunately for the boys from Vancouver, the point drought in California extends beyond the Galaxy.

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Will there be another moment like this for Seattle Mariners fans?

Are the 2014 Mariners the 1995 Mariners All Over Again?

Yes, boys and girls, this is what we call a ‘clickbait’ headline. You’ll get over it.

Manager Lou Pinella became the eighth member of the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame this month. Photo cribbed from the interweb.
Manager Lou Piniella became the eighth member of the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame this month. Photo cribbed from the interweb.

After watching the one and only Lou Piniella get inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame, in a ceremony that brought tears to the eyes of even grizzled Mariners fans like yours truly, it’s hard not to get all nostalgic for the ’95 Mariners.

After playing all summer without star outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. (aka “Junior”), who had been badly injured in late May, the Ms didn’t inspire much hope for post-season play. The rest of the team fought through the adversity and kept things interesting, but as August began, they were just another bunch of boys of summer playing out the string. Then, somehow, some way, they started winning. The “Refuse to Lose” Mariners had arrived, and suddenly everyone in Seattle and around the Northwest remembered that we had a baseball team.

The ’95 team started August thirteen games back of the Angels. After two of the most amazing months in recent memory — you could not walk down a street in Seattle during a Mariners game without finding someone listening to Dave Niehaus calling the game on the radio — the team finished tied for the division lead with the Angels. That led to a one-game playoff: the Angels had not made the playoffs since ’86, and the Mariners had never been (before 1995 Seattle had only two seasons with a winning record in their 18-year history).

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515km

Halfway there

Back in March, nearly 300km ago, I wrote that my goal of running a thousand kilometres this calendar was going more smoothly than expected. I also admitted that I’d probably just doomed myself to suffer some serious physical ailment — which turned out to be completely true. Just as the weather started to warm up this spring, I stepped awkwardly in a divot while walking to work, and gave myself a grade three ankle sprain.

It meant nearly 10 weeks of a somewhat sedentary lifestyle. Crutches and a plaster cast, then a walking boot, then a tensor bandage. Very little motion for the left foot. Loads of elevation, icing and compression translated into loads of television, reading and — well, I can’t in all honesty say ‘depression’, but ask my wife, I was mopey and difficult more days than I care to admit.

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Matías Laba blocks a clearing attempt during a 2-2 draw between the Whitecaps and LA Galaxy. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Whitecaps Look Lost In Space Against Galaxy

If there remained any doubt about who the Vancouver Whitecaps’ most valuable player is in 2014, tonight’s match removed it. The Caps returned to the Stubhub Center on Saturday evening without standout defensive midfielder Matias Laba, who served his one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation. The difference was stunning.

Matías Laba was forced to wear his training gear, as he served a one-game suspension for accumulation of yellow cards. Sadly, the Caps didn't seem to get out of practice mode themselves, dropping a 2-0 decision to the far superior LA Galaxy. Photo courtesy of Christopher Vose at the Vancouver Herald.
Matías Laba was forced to wear his training gear as he served a one-game suspension for accumulation of yellow cards. Sadly, the Caps didn’t seem to get out of practice mode themselves, dropping a 2-0 decision to the far superior LA Galaxy. Photo of early season training at UBC courtesy of Christopher Vose at the Vancouver Herald.

Without Laba, and with Gershon Koffie still nursing an ankle injury, the Whitecaps resorted to a defensive midfield pairing of Russell Teibert and Mehdi Ballouchy. The result was an underwhelming, listless performance in a 2-0 defeat to the LA Galaxy. It was arguably Vancouver’s worst performance of the 2014 campaign.

Laba’s absence seemed to affect the Whitecaps in a way no other player’s absence has so far this year. They missed his timely interventions, and the way he so casually turns the ball up field without immediately conceding possession.

Without him, Los Angeles roamed through Vancouver’s half with impunity, the Caps utterly unable to dispossess them. Even when the ball miraculously ended up on the foot of a player in blue, the clearances were uninspring. Ballouchy and Teibert often resorted to farting the ball in the general direction of Darren Mattocks, hoping he would be able to win an aerial duel. I am unable to recall him doing so.

The highlight of the game was getting a look at both of the club’s latest acquisitions, with Kendall Waston and Mauro Rosales both making second-half appearances. Though neither was able to make a difference on the scoreboard, both showed glimpses of why Carl Robinson brought them in. Waston set up Vancouver’s best scoring chance of the night, with a nice little touch to Mattocks, while Rosales had some promising possession on the right.

The lowlight was a ridiculously bad tackle from behind late in the game by Johnny Leveron that drew a straight red. Though it certainly didn’t affect the outcome of the game, Vancouver having rolled over long since, the mistake could be exceptionally costly for Leveron, as it opens the door for Waston to start in his natural centre back position next week. It would not surprise in the least if the big Costa Rican took the spot and did not relinquish it.

Up next for the Whitecaps is a potentially Cascadia Cup-clinching derby at home against the Portland Timbers. Fans should keep their fingers crossed that the return of the young Argentine turns around the dreadful form the team was on tonight.

Nigel Reo-Coker played his best game a year ago in a 2-nil win over the San Jose Earthquakes. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Reo-Coker makes way for Rosales

Nigel Reo-Coker is a Whitecap no longer. After an odd injury or two, some uneven play and a whole lot of being stapled to the bench, NRC has been traded to Chivas USA for renowned playmaker Mauro Rosales.

Nigel Reo-Coker played his best game a year ago in a 2-nil win over the San Jose Earthquakes. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Nigel Reo-Coker played his best game a year ago in a 2-nil win over the San Jose Earthquakes. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

A year ago, Reo-Coker was playing his best soccer in a Whitecaps kit, barrelling over defenders, yellow cards bedamned. When he had the ball, he was  saucering up tasty passes at the lip of the 18-yard box for Darren Mattocks, Gershon Koffie and the Golden Boot-wearing traitor-to-be Camilo. When he didn’t have the ball, he was directing traffic in the midfield, at times seemingly for both teams. Continue reading

Greenway

Running Playlist Song #2 — William Tell Overture Finale

As a new runner, I need all the help I can get. Here, I’ll talk about the songs on my running playlist and what makes them — and me — tick.

Playlist Song #2
Gioacchino Rossini — William Tell Overture; Finale

One of the most recognizable snippets of classical music, the Finale of the William Tell Overture has most famously been used as the theme for the Lone Ranger since its days as a radio serial during the Great Depression.

Despite its official title (March of the Swiss Soldiers), the piece utilizes successive triplets that mimic horses at a full gallop rather than the tromp tromp tromp of a traditional march on foot. Rossini’s original 1829 opera doesn’t include any horseplay, but instead nods to the galoppades, or country folk dances, that were popular in Paris, Vienna in that decade. The footloose melody makes the Finale’s pairing with the famous cowboy lawman a natural fit; it has come to define Rossini’s final overture in the modern era as symbolic of the Wild West.

In truth, the full Overture is 12 minutes long, and includes four movements — that prancing pony part that you know from popular culture is just the last three and a half minutes — so I snipped the Finale in GarageBand for running purposes. My running version starts with a trio of trumpets heralding the galop, and ends with about 90 seconds of increasingly dramatic false endings before the final TA-DA.

Usually when random order hits up this track, I bump up the pace by about 30 seconds a klick. Those false endings are like Rossini coaching from beyond the grave — “keep pushing, you soft git… No, you’re not done yet! There will be no stopping!”

Queue it up, and it’s hi ho silver away, indeed.

Album: Great Rossini Overtures; the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Piero Gamba
Release date:
1988 CD remaster of 1950s recordings
Beats per minute: 138
Subject: War / History / Classical
Content warning: None
Video: