Category Archives: Soccer

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Whitecaps Wednesday – Yet More MLS Expansion

Let me tell you a story about soccer, greed and spending outside your means.

Once upon a time, there was a league of soccer teams in North America called the North American Soccer League. (Nobody in 1968 had an imagination, more’s the pity. ) Despite a rocky start, the NASL accomplished quite a bit in a short time. In 1969, the league had only five teams, and an average attendance under 3,000. Only a decade later, the league’s heyday saw 24 teams compete before an average attendance of over 14,000. Vancouver fans saw a championship team in the midst of that heyday, as the Whitecaps won the NASL SoccerBowl in 1979 over the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Five seasons after that, however, in 1985, the league was dead.

Carl Valentine was one of the darlings of NASL soccer in its heyday, helping the Vancouver Whitecaps to its only SoccerBowl trophy in 1979. Today he works as an ambassador for the MLS incarnation of the club. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Carl Valentine was one of the darlings of NASL soccer in its heyday, helping the Vancouver Whitecaps to its only SoccerBowl trophy in 1979. Today he works as an ambassador for the MLS incarnation of the club. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

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Gershon Koffie assisted on two Whitecaps FC goals in their only defeat of the LA Galaxy: a 3-1 win last season at BC Place. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Preview: Whitecaps at Galaxy

Ah, the home-and-home. Beloved institution of NHL schedule-makers, now being adopted by the demented spider monkeys that determine the Major League Soccer schedule by, one assumes, flinging their faeces at team logos on the wall and seeing what sticks. The Vancouver Whitecaps take to the road this coming Saturday to face the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Stubhub Center before returning home next weekend for a rematch at BC Place.

Gershon Koffie assisted on two Whitecaps FC goals in their only defeat of the LA Galaxy: a 3-1 win last season at BC Place. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Gershon Koffie assisted on two Whitecaps FC goals in their only defeat of the LA Galaxy: a 3-1 win last season at BC Place. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The Caps have a tall order this weekend. They have yet to manage a single point against the Galaxy on the road, being outscored by a dismal 12-2 in their five losses. This club, at full strength, could likely compete well with the Galaxy, but alas they will not be at full strength.

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Darren Mattocks celebrates his first goal of the season. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Whitecaps Wednesday – Just A Moment(s)

Whitecaps WednesdayA while ago, Lexus came out with an ad campaign focusing on “moments.” It’s actually rather well done as far as car commercials go. I’m sure you remember it…images of smiling faces, forlorn looks and miraculous events flash by while some guy reads a sweetly written poem about how we all experience these moments.

The Whitecaps happened to experience a few of those this past week versus the Colorado Rapids. High moments, low moments, hopeful moments and desperate moments all made appearances as the Caps saw their unbeaten streak to start the 2014 MLS season come to an end.

Miller: "You know, you got away with one there." Irwin: "Yeah, yeah." Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Kenny Miller and Clint Irwin take a moment to discuss dubious officiating. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

In the interest of delivering the good news first, let’s start with the high moments.

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Gershon Koffie dribbling against a Colorado Rapids defender. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Photo Gallery: Whitecaps 1, Colorado Rapids 2

The Vancouver Whitecaps looked to continue their string of unbeaten play in the 2014 season, up 1-0 in the 77th minute and coming hard at the injury-depleted back line of the Colorado Rapids. Then Matías Laba, pushed roughly to the turf by Rapids midfielder Nick LaBrocca, corralled the ball with his right hand as he appealed to the referee for a foul. Unfortunately for the Caps, the man in yellow whistled at Laba, not LaBrocca, and the intentional handball garnered the Whitecaps midfielder an automatic yellow card. Double alas, it was Laba’s second yellow of the match, meaning that card had to be traded in for a red card.

Miller: "You know, you got away with one there." Irwin: "Yeah, yeah." Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Miller: “You know, you got away with one there.” Irwin: “Yeah, yeah.” Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Within three minutes of Laba’s ejection, the Rapids had not only erased the Whitecaps goal advantage, but scored a second time to take a 2-1 lead themselves.

“If you miss the first call, you don’t penalise the second player with a yellow,” said Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson after the loss, lamenting the official’s role in deciding the outcome. “Unfortunately the 20,000 fans leaving here today won’t be talking about the football that was played here today — and it was a good, tough game played between two very good teams.”

While it’s true LaBrocca could easily have been called for his takedown of Laba, it’s a fact that the Whitecaps haven’t capitalized on long stretches of 11-on-10 play — most notably against Chivas USA in their second game of the year. That Vancouver so quickly capsized after going down a man to Colorado doesn’t speak well to their ability to adapt to unpredictable situations.

Kenny Miller is probably right when he says it should have been 2-0 by the time Laba got his red card anyway. Pedro Morales missed a glorious opportunity just minutes after Mattocks had made it 1-0 in the 65th minute; his shot glanced off Colorado keeper Clint Irwin’s right leg and trickled wide of the far post. Long before that, in the first half, Miller himself was tripped up by Irwin in the box. The referee waved off appeals for a penalty kick, despite clear replays showing the keeper interfering with Miller as he ran for the ball. Let’s not even get into the half-dozen quality scoring chances lost to a poor final touch on this day. Russell Teibert alone wasted four free kicks in dangerous territory and at least two corners by alternately skying the ball well over every attacking Whitecaps player and toeing short passes directly into the shins of Rapids defenders.

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Highlights:
Carl Robinson post-match press conference:

Kenny Miller post-match media scrum:

Jordan Harvey opens the scoring against the Houston Dynamo at BC Place. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Photo Gallery: Whitecaps 2, Dynamo 1

Vancouver Whitecaps FC is undefeated after four matches, and have played damned entertaining soccer in exactly half of those games. Sure, the draw against Chivas USA on the road was disappointing, but let’s be honest — if we asked you if you’d be happy with eight of a possible twelve points to start the season, you’d have salivated all over us. And while we don’t have a drool fetish, exactly, let’s just say we’re damned happy with the start to the 2014 MLS season.

Jordan Harvey and Kenny Miller scored for the homeside, putting home the first two goals Houston has conceded this season.

Darren Mattocks continued his tradition of coming this close. Methinks he spent too much of the off-season watching Canucks games. He had one glorious chance on a short cross in the first half; he got the ball in perfect position, at the top of the six-yard box just shy of the left post. He one-timed his volley, his eyes on the back of the net, his form perfect as he levelled his foot at the incoming pass. The result? So high over the crossbar the ball hasn’t come down four days later. Mattocks is working hard, at least — goals will come, one assumes — but so far he’s had to settle for close calls and a sweet assist on Kekuta Manneh’s goal against those goats in Los Angeles.

Below, thar be pictures. (I’ll add more as I get round to the editing.)

By the way, David Horst, a Houston defender who features in this photo gallery, at one point during the game, wiped out a Whitecaps forward two metres from the right sideline, then took umbrage when the whistle blew. He stood inches away from the linesman, screaming over and over, “WHAT IS THE FUCKING CALL!” That’s right, ladies. He’s a charmer.

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Nigel Reo-Coker makes a strong move to the edge of the box before feeding Pedro Morales for some late-second half insurance. The Caps won 4-1 over the defending Supporters Shield champ New York Red Bulls. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Whitecaps Wednesday – Musings On The State Of The League

As many of you know, I’m a member of the Vancouver Southsiders’ Board of Directors. As Director of External Communications, I’m responsible for responding to media requests we receive. Last week, I got an email from a young, aspiring journalist who was looking for a supporter’s perspective on the current state of the league.  Continue reading

Goats ‘N’ Prose – Whitecaps FC VS Chivas USA

After an impressive season opener last Saturday, the Whitecaps will look to continue their strong play in California tomorrow. They’ll take on a Chivas USA team that also turned some heads in their 3-2 victory last weekend. In fact, these two teams have a little more in common than simply opening the season with wins.WhitecapsLogo300

The USA Goats, much like the Caps, have undergone an off-season of change. Both clubs promoted MLS assistant coaches to manage their teams – Chivas found their man in former Colorado Rapids assistant Wilmer Cabrera. Vancouver’s hire of Carl Robinson has already been well documented in this town.

Carl Robinson focused on retooling the Caps midfield to encourage forward movement from the middle of the park. Chivas recruited playmaker Mauro Rosales, formerly of the Seattle Sounders, to solidify their midfield.

The Whitecaps newcomers, Seba Fernandez and Pedro Morales (amongst others) both had stunning debuts for their club, as did Rosales. He assisted on Chivas’ second and third goals versus the Chicago Fire to secure the win. You say Morales, I say Rosales, let’s call the whole thing off. Continue reading

Photo Gallery – Vancouver Whitecaps 4, New York Red Bulls 1

The Vancouver Whitecaps FC defeated the New York Red Bulls 4–1 on opening day of the 2014 MLS season, marking the 13th consecutive year — and fourth MLS season — that Vancouver has won their home opener.

Kenny Miller scored twice wearing the captain’s armband, while newcomers Pedro Morales and Sebastián Fernández hit the back of the net in spectacular fashion.

The Red Bulls’ only marker came in stoppage time at the end of the match, as keeper David Ousted was left alone to fend for a long cross — he misjudged his punch, and late substitution Bradley Wright-Phillips took full advantage with a cagey header.

Here are my pics from the match — please forgive what Russell The Soccer Poet Arbuthnot calls “slim pickings”. I have to admit, I’m a little rusty at pitch side after a long off-season!

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Whitecaps FC – First Kick 2014

Phew. That was exciting, wasn’t it? If Saturday was any indication, Carl Robinson’s version WhitecapsLogo300of the Whitecaps will be something to keep your eyes on. The team knocked out a 4-1 win over the Henry-less New York Red Bulls in what seemed like somewhat of a cakewalk.

Granted, the Red Bulls were not playing with their full complement of personnel, but I’m not convinced the outcome would have been any different regardless of rosters. Almost everything went right for the Whitecaps, who have now won all four season openers since entering MLS in 2011.

It was a dream start for the new head coach, who watched his squad outplay their opponents in all aspects of the match. The real story though, was how the Whitecaps’ overhauled midfield controlled the game from the opening kick-off. New recruits Matias Laba, Sebastian Fernandez and Pedro Morales (in limited minutes) looked positively brilliant.

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Kickoff 2014 – Whitecaps VS Red Bulls

The dawn of a new MLS season is upon us and the anticipation surrounding Vancouver’s squad is positively palpable. A new look Whitecaps team, featuring a handful of new arrivals and a new manager, opens their season this Saturday at BC Place stadium against the New York Red Bulls.

In response to Kenny Miller's brace of goals, Hervé (@1stLineCentre) leads the Southsiders in a stirring rendition of Ludvig van Beethoven's adaptation of Freidrich Schiller's poem, Ode to Joy. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The Southsiders will be back at BC Place stadium when the Whitecaps 2014 season kicks off Saturday, March 7. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The defending Supporter’s Shield winners from New York, largely unchanged from 2013, feature a stable of talented forwards and a steady backline. Although, it appears that Thierry Henry may once again sit this one out as his tender French footsies cannot handle the tough turf at BC Place. He has yet to play a game in Vancouver. Shameful.

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