Category Archives: Soccer

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

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

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.

Champions League Preview – Round 1 vs. Seattle

Tonight, the Vancouver Whitecaps kick off their first continental campaign when the Seattle Sounders come – somewhat reluctantly, as we’ll see later – to town for the first of four CONCACAF Champions League group stage matches.

The Whitecaps got something of a mixed bag in their first CCL draw. On the one hand, they avoided a Mexican club. On the other, they drew a very strong MLS side in Seattle and a 2015 quarterfinalist in Honduras’ CD Olimpia. This presents Carl Robinson with an interesting dilemma. Does he count his lucky stars that the likes of Club America and Cruz Azul were drawn into other groups, and go for the win, testing his squad depth and potentially risking results in the Voyageurs Cup and the league, or does he trust a young squad to try and nick a result? Province reporter Marc Weber provided this quote, which seems to indicate the latter: “It will be the best lineup I think can go out and win this game, with an eye on Saturday, with an eye on next Wednesday.”

With that in mind, a few predictions, all of them sure to be wrong because what the hell do I know?

Robert Earnshaw thanks the heavens for his first goal as a Vancouver Whitecap — he should be thanking Pedro Morales for that sick pass, I'd say. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the head.
Robert Earnshaw thanks the heavens for his first goal as a Vancouver Whitecap — he should be thanking Pedro Morales for that sick pass, I’d say. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the head.

Continue reading Champions League Preview – Round 1 vs. Seattle

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.

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