Category Archives: Articles

King Kah climbs the Space Needle

This was a dominant performance. The Vancouver Whitecaps took vengeance down the I-5 and spanked the Seattle Sounders 3-0 this weekend, and in doing so moved back atop the Western Conference standings.

Pa Modou Kah, he of a single goal during his respectably long MLS career, put a brace into the back of the Seattle net, and stirred up considerable ire among Flounders fans, players and scribes with his post-game giggles on the Century Link pitch. Kah earned a spot on the MLS Team of the Week for his efforts. Not bad for an ageing defender more famous for big gaffes than big goals.

Pa Modou Kah tripled his career MLS goal total with a brace against the Seattle Flounders. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Pa Modou Kah tripled his career MLS goal total with a brace against the Seattle Flounders. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

It was a text book, solid performance by the visitors. David Ousted got the clean sheet by wasn’t really tested, if we’re being honest. Kendall Waston earned his obligatory yellow card for little more than being a large man. Pedro Morales scored a beauty of an insurance goal on a free kick from distance.

Over 53,000 fans took in the spectacle. It marks seven losses in eight games for a Seattle team that has all the parts to do damage. This Sounders squad doesn’t know what to do with itself right now. Defence? Atrocious. Passing? Loose and irresponsible.

Vancouver is happy to take advantage — these three points mean another Cascadia Cup is just a draw away. Before that, look for heated challenges and not-so-gentle tackles to rule the day when these two teams square off on Wednesday at BC Place in Champions League play. And don’t be surprised if Kah is even more trash-talky than usual after this two-goal performance.

Highlights, even if the preceding ad’s depiction of a Vancouver fan practising in deep snow is particularly galling. Have any of the MLS staffers even been north of 49 before? This is a league where 15% of franchises exist in Canada, but they only play the Star-Spangled Banner before the All-Star Game. Vancouver has snow on the ground occasionally — about as often as MLS brass makes sense, but we would never suggest logic as being one of their defining traits.

Commence the countdown to hockey season

If July 1 brings talk of trades, arbitration and free agent contracts, then August 1 is when hockey fans get down to the serious business of being impatient pricks on Twitter.

Goodbye, Bonino Phone

Brandon Sutter is the newest Canuck, and the latest victim of attacks from Vancouver hockey fans. Gregory Shamus photo cribbed from a Bing image search.
Brandon Sutter is the newest Canuck, and the latest victim of attacks from Vancouver hockey fans. Gregory Shamus photo cribbed from a Bing image search.

The Canucks sent Nick Bonino and prospect Adam Clendening to Pittsburgh for career third-liner Brandon Sutter. On the whole, people in Vancouver were not happy. Imagine the sadness emanating from the Raffi household, for example. There just wasn’t time to record that Boninophone track that dammit should have happened no matter what you say, and BOOM, the Canucks essentially traded Ryan Kesler to the Ducks for Brandon Sutter’s 3rd line minutes.

Of course, once Bob McKenzie confirmed the trade, hand-wringing, hair-pulling and all-around whinging ramped up in seconds.

YVR haters don’t even stop when a player leaves the Vancouver roster. Ex-Canuck and Scrabble aficionado Tanner Glass takes one on the jaw in chart form: the Glass-to-Crosby scale, based on production vs possession, favours the Penguins. Fancy stats people tend to dislike Sutter, generally speaking.

Cooler heads made an appearance, too. (Jeez, I can’t believe I’m on the same side as Tony Gallagher on this one. The difference? I make more hockey-related supporting arguments in 121 characters than ol’ Radio Face does in 500 words.)

As always, the jury is out until we see results on the ice. But let’s be honest: the Vancouver Canucks are not going to play an entertaining, up-tempo brand of firewagon hockey, a la 2011. Brandon Sutter gives them some consistent sandpaper, however, to compete against a never-say-die Flames squad and those dirty, rotten, stinkin’ bastards who call themselves the Anaheim Ducks.

Current crop of Canucks lacking personality

Vancouver fans are still stinging from the dump of Eddie Lack’s meagre salary.  Do I think he’s a number one goalie? No. Should he have been given away for meaningless late draft picks? No way, Jose. There goes our boy Ed showing off his new pads, which alas feature the Carolina Toilet Flush:

For those who don’t like to gram the insta (did I do that right?), those pads look like this:

Eddie Lack introduced his new Carolina Hurricanes pads via Twitter and Instagram.
Eddie Lack introduced his new Carolina Hurricanes pads via Twitter and Instagram.

How many goalies will paint the Great Wall on their masks?

The 2022 Winter Olympiad will be held in Beijing, which means the NHL will be under more pressure to extend its agreement to allow players to play for Olympic gold. There’s so much money involved in China, both above board and under the table, that not even Gary Bettman can let ego get in the way of a deal.

If you thought Puck Daddy’s Jersey Fouls posts were entertaining before, wait until you see a generation of new fans wearing counterfeit Team USA Crosby sweaters.

I only hope Dave Bidini, he of the wonderful book Tropic of Hockey, gets a piece of the action somehow. Outside of ex-pat teachers lacing up the skates in backwater rinks of Mongolia, ol’ Dave was the first person to give hockey in Asia any serious attention.

The 2022 Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing, China. I hope Dave Bidini gets a piece of the action. Photo cribbed from a Sports Illustrated article.
The 2022 Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing, China. I hope Dave Bidini gets a piece of the action. Photo cribbed from a Sports Illustrated article.

Real Girl Power

We are not going to talk about the Lions game on Friday.  Ideally, I’d like to pretend it didn’t happen.  We’re not going to mention losing a three-touchdown lead, or the moderately INSANE decision to go for it on 3rd and 4, or the grabbing of facemasks by defencemen who have NO BUSINESS GRABBING FACEMASKS!

We’re also not going to talk about this most recent loss last night. It’s just salt in the wound.

What we WERE going to talk about was the Felions. Specifically…WTF (or What the Felion?)

However, while I was hammering away on my keyboard about the ludicrousness of the Felions and how they are indicative of the outdated assumption that the only people who attend or appreciate football games are horny straight males who couldn’t recognize good dancing if it hit them on the head with an arabesque, I heard the news that the Arizona Cardinals had hired the first ever woman to coach on an NFL team.

Well now….

Dr Jen Welter has been named the pre-season linebacker coach for the Arizona Falcons, and becomes the first woman to join an NFL coaching staff. Image borrowed from notable.ca
Dr Jen Welter has been named the pre-season linebacker coach for the Arizona Falcons, and becomes the first woman to join an NFL coaching staff. Image borrowed from notable.ca

This proves one of my points way better than anything I was going to say. (Although, I’m sure I’ll be spouting off on the Felions at a later date… because SERIOUSLY?)

The trend that was started by Becky Hammon as assistant coach of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs is continuing with Dr. Jen Welter, and I say it’s about bloody time.

This post on Time.com has a lot to say about why getting women into the coaching pool is going to make for better games.

Giving women access to leadership positions expands the talent pool available to organizations. And a wider talent pool improves the quality of candidates a firm can hire.

The history of sports clearly illustrates this point. For example, prior to racial integration in baseball, which began with Jackie Robinson in 1947, the sport had a competitive balance problem. It was not uncommon for a team to win (or lose) more than 65% of their games. This disparity was made possible because the league, which only employed white males from the U.S., could not find enough talent. When it expanded its talent base, the number of talented pitchers and hitters expanded, too. A team has not won more than 65% of its games since 2001.

This rule applies to any organization: The wider your search for talent, the better the talent you are ultimately likely to employ.

Is the male dominated sports world ready for this shift? Yes, I think it is.  I see it when I coach my son’s team.  Admittedly, I’m coaching six- and seven-year-olds, but misogyny starts early, my friends.  Most of these kids have dads. Most of these kids are boys. One of my fellow coaches (another woman), used to play tackle on the very same team we are coaching (GO HYACKS).

I was asked to be a head coach of one of the teams because I know the game. I’m asked for advice by men on the field. I’m given respect by the kids, their fathers and the other coaches.  The fact that I’m a woman doesn’t enter into any discussions. What matters is that I know and love football and I want the kids to love it too.

This picture of Dr Jen Welter as the first woman to play a non-kicker position in a pro football league was given the respectful name "female-player.jpg" by the New York Daily News.
This picture of Dr Jen Welter as the first woman to play a non-kicker position in a pro football league was given the respectful name “female-player.jpg” by the New York Daily News.

So hooray for the Arizona Cardinals in continuing what I hope will become a trend in professional and high level competitive sports. While it may be a while before we see women on these teams, or an interest in legitimate professional women’s teams that aren’t wearing underwear as uniforms,  there is no reason why we shouldn’t be coaching.

Coaching is teaching.  It’s instructing.  Does the coach need to have a thorough understanding of the game they are coaching? Oh hells yes. Should they have played it at a high level at some point in their lives? Absolutely.  Do they need to have corresponding genitals to be able to guide the team to victory? Nope. Balls do not make the calls.

I think I’m going to get that put on a t shirt…

The Kids Are Alright

Because Jason only allows me to cover Vancouver-based sports teams that carry an above .500 winning percentage, I’ve been taken off the Lions’ beat. So here I be, back to spilling virtual ink on the lovely Whitecaps, who most recently took on the San Jose Earthquakes in MLS competition.

The Vancouver Whitecaps FC beat the pants off the visiting San Jose Earthquakes, 3-1. Photos by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Mauro Rosales celebrates the opening goal in a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday. Photos by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

After a positive result in Portland, Carl’s Boys came into the game with some confidence, some beer and some toast. Actually, come to think of it, I was the one that came into the game with some beer and some toast. An odd combination that somehow works well together, presuming the toast is homemade multi-grain sourdough and buttered exactly right. And it was. Oh, it was.

Continue reading The Kids Are Alright

Grouse Grind personal best, baby

Why else would you quite literally run yourself into the ground? Trinkets, naturally. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Why else would you quite literally run yourself into the ground? Trinkets, naturally. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

If you read the blog, and I hope you do, you know that I started running less than two years ago in an effort to not not run. I’ve had two injuries since then — one a serious ankle sprain that kept me off my feet for nigh on ten weeks, and the other a nagging owie of the hip that I’ve learned is altogether normal for folks who run long distances.

While I’ve completed six half marathons and a full marathon in the past 12 months, I’ve done less and less training as time goes on. I’m going to ease off the official races — I now have a war chest of tech shirts, each with event logos and sponsors plastered all over them — I plan to spend my energies on a more consistent routine of distance and elevation.

I know what you’re thinking:Jason, consistent routine? Jason Kurylo?!?!?!? Yeah, this is taking me by surprise, too.

Continue reading Grouse Grind personal best, baby

For the love of the game

Monday was a good day.

It started like any other. Running around the house like a crazed maniac, saying ‘It’s time to go, it’s time to go, it’s time to go’ about 800 times to get my six-year-old and his friend out the door to soccer camp. Doing volunteer work at the Arts Council of New Westminster, picking up my kid and his friend after soccer camp, watching them go all Lord of the Flies in the forest, running home, eating dinner, running out of the house, once again yelling ‘It’s time to go it’s time to go it’s time to go!’

It’s time to go to football practice.

Nick Hebeler, eat your heart out. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Nick Hebeler, eat your heart out. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Today I stood in front of 30+ six- and seven-year-old boys and two girls (YES) and talked to them about football and about bleeding orange (GO HYACKS! GO LIONS!). Today I got to start them on the road of a lifetime of passion for the greatest sport in the world.

Today I got to share this with my son.

Continue reading For the love of the game

EA nods at the women’s game

For the first time, women will be given some serious play in the world of sports gaming. In the wake of record viewing numbers for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan will grace the Canadian and American covers of EA’s flagship soccer title FIFA 16 alongside some guy named Lionel Messi. Not bad company to be in, even if they do call him La Pulga, which is Spanish talk for the Flea. 

This marks the first time that women have been included in the artwork of an Electronic Arts sports title. What’s more, the game will also include the opportunity for gamers to play as women — 12 different women’s national teams appear in the gameplay options, allowing customised FIFA Women’s World Cup scenarios.

Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan appear on the cover of EA's new soccer title, which bodes well for the 2015 Young Player Award recipient Kadeisha Buchanan. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan appear on the cover of EA’s new soccer title, which bodes well for the future of 2015 Young Player Award recipient Kadeisha Buchanan. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Sinclair has been the face of Canadian soccer for more than a decade. As the most decorated player of any gender in the country’s history, she’s a no-brainer to receive this honour. It’s only a matter of time, however, before up-and-coming players like impressive defender Kadeisha Buchanan take her place. Buchanan was flat out the best Canuck in the tournament, even if you include Canadian-born U.S. roster player Sydney “They’re Saying LeBoo” Leroux in the mix.

On that American side, Morgan is a good player, but make no mistake: she’s an aesthetic choice. Alex Morgan is as likely to sell to young males as females — she’s probably more popular among the swimsuit model folks as she is among soccer aficionados.

Sydney Leroux and Ngozi Ebere chase a ball during the women's world cup.
Sydney Leroux was born in Surrey, BC, but plays the beautiful game for the dirty rotten stinkin’ US.  Here she is chasing down a forward ball against Nigeria in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Then again, Christine Sinclair’s American counterpart Abby Wambach will almost certainly retire now that she has finally won a World Cup title. Keeper Hope Solo, thrust front and centre in the championship photos while ol’ Abby stood back to enjoy the view, is mired in a domestic abuse case that advertisers don’t want to touch. And so, as easy as it is to pooh-pooh EA’s choice of the comely visage of Alex Morgan, who else should be on the cover? Carli Lloyd turned in a performance for the ages in the final game against Japan, but frankly not enough people in the public at large know who she is.

Alex Morgan keeps tabs on a Japanese throw in during the final of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Alex Morgan keeps tabs on a Japanese throw in during the final of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Not surprisingly, U.S. media are by and large reporting only Morgan’s appearance on the brand. Ignoring Sinclair is nothing new for the Yanks, however — even when she scored a hat trick against them at the Olympics, they only had eyes for the Scandinavian referee and her mysterious pro-U.S. whistle.

If this Twitter user has his way, however, future editions of games north of 49 will be even heavier on the CanCon.

Elsewhere, the game will still allow players to select female teams, but the cover will be a boys’ club. In England, for example, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson appears next to Messi. [Editor’s Note: We’ve just been made aware that another EA FIFA 16 cover will also include a woman: Steph Catley of the Matildas will join Lionel Messi on the Aussie cover.]

All snark aside, this is a huge leap forward for the women’s game. The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup shattered viewing numbers, both at the turnstyles in Canada and on TVs around the world. The semis between the States and Germany drew more eyes than the NBA finals, and the atmosphere in BC Place for the seven games I attended was phenomenal.

Now, stepping outside the electronic game for a minute, where the hell are the Lady Whitecaps? Surely they would draw as many or more fans than the Whitecaps II are getting at Thunderbird Stadium?

Episode 071: The dirty rotten stinkin’ Americans totally deserved to win the Women’s World Cup

Russell and Jason discuss the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, warts and all. The States didn’t show up until it mattered, when they put beatdowns upon the Germans and Japanese. Do we have to like Wambach, Solo and Leroux? No. Do we have to live with the fact that they’re the class of the joint when it comes to women’s soccer? Sigh.

The United States won their third Women's World Cup title with a 5-2 thrashing of the defending champion Japanese at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
The United States won their third Women’s World Cup title with a 5-2 thrashing of the defending champion Japanese at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

 

Caps continue to shine on the road

The Whitecaps continue to shine on the road, taking a 1-1 draw out of Portland this weekend. They’ve taken five points off the Timbers in their three-game season series, notching a win at BC Place back in March and two draws at Providence Park in Portland.

Why is this a big deal? I’m glad you asked.

First, because the Caps just cannot freaking score. Between the Whitecaps, the Canadian national teams — both men’s and women’s, thank you very much — and recent editions of the Canucks and Giants, fans in Vancouver are becoming offended with the lack of offensive production.

Okay, besides that? The Caps took a point out of Portland three months back, you say. Well, the Timbers just don’t concede many points at home — in fact, they’ve won five straight since tying that May 2 match against Vancouver. So it’s pretty darned special for the effing dynamite boys in blue and white to scamper back up the I-5 with a couple of points in their back pocket.

Let’s not forget to look at the Western Conference standings. Vancouver sits just two points back of the dirty, rotten, stinkin’, divin’ dogs from FC Dallas, sure, but only three points separate top spot from the sixth place Timbers. Not only did the Caps steal two points out of Providence Park, but they prevented Portland from getting their muddy mitts on the full six points up for grabs, too.

This draw wasn’t a moral victory, either. It wasn’t the lucky 0-0 draw they got back in May. In that match, Darlington Nagbe put a penalty kick off the post and out of play in the 30th minute. Portland carried most of the possession, and probably deserved better for their efforts. Saturday’s match was a different story. Kekuta Manneh could have scored twice himself, but was stopped by keeper Adam Kwarasey on a breakway and, later, by hirsute defender Nat Borchers on a goal-line slide.

Check out the highlights below, I dare ya.

Portland Timbers defender Nat Borchers and Vancouver Whitecaps striker Octavio Rivero. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Octavio Rivero gets his foot on a loose ball which had fallen out of Nat Borchers’ beard. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

While they’ve been fair to middling at home, the Caps have been bloody road warriors this season. They’ve won away against the Chicago Fire, Orlando FC, Real Salt Lake, Los Angeles Galaxy, New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution, matching a franchise record of six wins away from BC Place in a single season. This, with five away games left in the MLS schedule. Despite scoring just 24 goals in 21 matches overall — an abysmal 1.14 goals per game — Vancouver is the only team in the Major League Soccer with a positive goal differential away from home.

There is a host of theories about Vancouver’s success on the road, most of which discuss the team’s speedy core of strikers being custom built for the counter attack. At BC Place, they just haven’t shown a consistent ability to parse visitors who sit back and defend — they’re much more comfortable letting other teams come at them, then turning the ball over in the midfield and sending their dynamic forwards, well, forward. Are they good at stopping the ball themselves? Sure. Kendall Waston has shut down opposition strikers game in and game out. Tim Parker has shown surprising dexterity and poise on the back line, and Christian Dean in limited play this year has looked solid. David Ousted? Well, he’s been superb this year. Oustanding, you might say.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC Man of the Match David Ousted. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
David Ousted has been deservedly named as a last-minute addition to the MLS All-Star roster. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

With the summer transfer window open, fans are hoping Carl Robinson can find another Octavio Rivero to jumpstart some offense. If this team could score with any regularity, they’d in all likelihood be in strong contention for the Supporters’ Shield. As it is, even with an anemic finish, they’re still in the conversation.

Vancouver’s next game is at home on July 26 against the atrocious San Jose Earthquakes. It’s a game they should win, against a non-playoff team. Therefore, expect the Whitecaps to play an uninspired 90 minutes that produces little or no results. What better way to limp into August, a month that sees Vancouver play eight matches in three competitions in just 29 days.

More Cheers, Fewer Beers

Hi, I’m Russell Arbuthnot. You may remember me from such blog postings as “A Rennie Saved is a Rennie Earned” and “Band-Aids and Berber.” Typically, my audience (thanks to both my mom and my editor) is used to reading my cogitations on football, but like, the European kind. Here in North America, the colloquial term for the sport is “soccer”, yet our local “soccer” team denotes itself as a “football club” despite playing in Major League Soccer.

It just so happens that we also have another football club in town, which actually plays what is commonly referred to as football in this here continent. The BC Lions F.C. kicked off the 2015 season this past Friday night, providing the first opportunity for the team and fans alike to experience the purported new and improved atmosphere at BC Place.

These dudes weren't in the conference room — they're available for sale at the front counter, though. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
A general feeling of over-crowding is exactly what the Lions are looking for this season after closing off the upper deck at BC Place.  Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Now, fair reader, you may be asking yourself, “Why is this dolt writing about CFL football?” Good question. Jason asked me to produce a preview for the Whitecaps game versus Kansas City in a limited time frame. Me, being the social butterfly that I am, had committed to a variety of good times the likes of which you would never be invited to, so I just couldn’t make it work. One of these events was the aforementioned Lions home opener, hence the revised assignment request. I was there. I got a free hat. Bonus.

Continue reading More Cheers, Fewer Beers