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.
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 →
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:
When David Ousted arrived in Vancouver a little over a year ago, it was difficult to surmise just what exactly the Whitecaps had acquired. Sure, he was a spruce young Dane with golden hair and sharply chiseled features, but would he be the solution in net?
The incumbent was an aging Joe Cannon who, while beloved by fans and teammates alike, was not what he once was. The club’s other option was Brad Knighton – a member of Martin Rennie’s Carolina RailHawks stable. The club questioned Knighton’s long-term viability as a starter and knew that Cannon could no longer provide them with the goaltending required to compete consistently in a tough Western Conference.
After Ousted’s successful stint in the Danish Superliga, and at the urging of goaltending coach Marius Rovde, management signed him to a two-year contract, with a club option for a third. The hope was he would solidify the team’s goalkeeping, help keep the club earn a playoff berth and compete with the top teams in MLS.
The Vancouver Whitecaps posted an impressive 2-0 victory over the best team in the Eastern Conference last weekend. No matter what the official stat lines say, the Whitecaps dominated both sides of the ball and severely limited the visitors to a handful of threatening moments in nearly 97 minutes of action. It marks the first time Vancouver has defeated Sporting KC in MLS play — the Caps have now beaten every team in this man’s league. (Bring on those expansion teams next season, I say! NYCFC and Orlando City FC, beware: this young team is out for blood.)
Here’s our Pucked in the Head photo gallery for your viewing pleasure:
Pedro Morales was once again the lynchpin of the Whitecaps attack. He controlled the field when the Caps had the ball, and numerous times forced KC to give up possession when they didn’t. His long ball forward turned a Sporting miscommunication into an own goal in the 17th minute, as defender Igor Juliao headed the cross over Gruenebaum’s outstretched arms. Just over 20 minutes later, Morales gifted Darren Mattocks a one-timer for the Jamaican’s sixth goal this year. Remarkably, with nine assists so far this season, Morales now shares the franchise record for MLS assists in a single season.
The Whitecaps were unlucky not to lead by three or four in the first half; there were two separate non-calls by referee David Gantar that could have sent Pedro to the penalty spot — whether it was travel, some sort of turf-related disorientation, or just plain speed on the the part of the home side, Sporting KC looked discombobulated for most of the match, and played a chippy, pull-that-jersey-at-all-costs kind of game.
It wasn’t until the 84th minute, however (and seemingly the gazillionth clear foul by a visitor), that Gantar pointed for a PK. By then, however, Morales had sat down in favour of Canadian Russell Teibert, and Mattocks stroked a lazy, stoppable shot at replacement keeper Jon Kempin instead of slamming home his seventh goal.
But let’s give young Mattocks a break, shall we? He may be overly proud, but he has scored in four of the last five games, and tends to pick himself up after tackles faster than in past years. And rather than sulk after an early missed chance in the first half, he kept up the pace and scored that counterattack beauty to make it 2-0 instead.
A resurgent Dustin Ackley is suddenly knocking balls over the fence with some regularity. Thursday the Mariners scored 13 runs. No, this is not a misprint. THIRTEEN RUNS! It really happened, I swear.
It’s been pretty obvious since early in the season that while the defense is good, and the bullpen is good, and the starting rotation is even better than we thought (Chris Young! Who knew?) the Mariner offense is… not good. Yes, Robinson Cano is a great player, and Kyle Seager is underrated, and man can Mike Zunino pound the ball when he gets a piece of one, but…
OK, you say, so the Mariners picked up Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia, and didn’t you write about that already? Why, yes, yes I did – but those two weren’t going to be enough. Kendrys Morales (yeah, I wrote about him too) wasn’t going to be enough, either. We really needed some other guys already on the roster to heat up at the plate for this playoff stretch run. Lo and behold, Dustin Ackley appears to be reading Pucked in the Head.
If you’ve been watching the Mariners for the last few years, you’re familiar with the seemingly endless string of players (Justin Smoak! Nick Franklin!) who were going to be the next big thing. Ackley came near the top of that list as a first-round draft pick in the 2009 amateur draft. The Mariners wanted Ackley at second base… and that didn’t work out real well. Then the Mariners put Ackley in the outfield… and while his defense has been improving, again not so much with the bats.
Until… well, until July, really. Dustin Ackley had a great July. Here are his slash lines before and after the All-Star Break:
(Editor’s note: that slugging percentage is in-freaking-sane.)
Now, Ackley’s had good months before, and baseball is nothing if not a game of adjustments. It’s possible the pitchers figure him out over the rest of August and September and he falls apart. It’s also possible he continues hitting at something close to his current clip. Obviously Mariners fans would prefer the latter option.
With the White Sox at Safeco over the weekend and Felix starting on Monday, and the good guys coming off taking two from the Braves earlier in the week, now would be a great time for Ackley (and the rest of the Mariners offense) to keep hitting. As crazy as it sounds in these glorious Northwest summer days, we’re only 48 games from the end of the season. A few more baker’s dozens will go a long way to providing Seattle baseball this October.
The Vancouver Open got a blast from the past this weekend, as Marcos Baghdatis won his second title at Hollyburn Country Club; the Cyprus native was previously the 2009 VanOpen champion. Currently ranked #105 in the world, Baghdatis came into this week’s play as the top seed and made the most of it, outlasting fourth seed Farrukh Dustov of Uzbekistan to win the 2014 Odlum Brown Vancouver Open, 7-6, 6-3.
Despite being the tournament’s top-ranked player, Baghdatis didn’t make things easy for himself. After needing a late third-set break to get through the first round, he went to tiebreaks in his remaining four matches. Through the first part of Sunday’s final, Baghdatis looked slightly off-balance; he made some remarkable shots under pressure from Dustov’s attack, but during some rallies he seemed lucky just to stay on his feet. He gained momentum once the first-set tiebreak fell his way, jumping out to a 5–2 lead in the second before serving out for the match.
“When you’ve never played the other guy before, he always seems to be more relaxed. He can just come at you, because the pressure’s off,” said Baghdatis after his straight sets victory. “[Dustov] hits the ball very hard, so I just tried to weather the storm, especially at the start.”
Neither man was particularly dominant on serve; each was broken twice in the first set, and Baghdatis offered up just seven aces to Dustov’s five. Coming in at just under two hours, the men’s final finished with most of Centre Court in shadow. It was a welcome relief for the crowd filling the bleachers, as the afternoon had been full of tie-breaks, direct sun and temperatures as high as 30° Celsius.
Baghdatis, whose career best ranking was #8 in the world in 2006, is the second man to win two Vancouver Open singles championships. Dudi Sela of Israel won in 2008 and 2010. On the women’s side, American Ansley Cargill won back-to-back VanOpens in 2005 and 2006.
The Odlum Brown Vancouver Open is an ATP Challenger tournament, offering 100 ranking points to the champion and 60 to the runner-up. For Baghdatis, this probably means jumping back into the top-100 for a while, after several years of injuries and uneven play. For Dustov, it will certainly mean a tick up from his current world ranking of 144.
Earlier on Centre Court, Australian Jarmila Gajdosova overpowered Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine with a come-from-behind women’s final win: 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(3). The pair were fairly close in many statistics by match end; both ladies recorded seven breaks, winning roughly 50% of their service points. Where Tsurenko seemed to — ahem — falter was on her second serve. She double faulted 11 times during the match, compared to just five for the eventual champion Gajdosova.
In the first match of the day, Austin Krajicek (USA) and John-Patrick Smith (Australia) took home the men’s doubles trophy when opponent Marcus Daniell (NZL) double-faulted on match point during the third-set tiebreak, 6-3, 4-6, 10-8.
No, the Mariners did not get David Price from Tampa Bay. He went to the Tigers.
Instead, the Mariners got Austin Jackson, who is a legitimate center fielder, from the Tigers. And I am happy.
Does this move by itself mean the Mariners make the playoffs? Of course not. But if you had told me in April that we’d have Austin Jackson for the stretch run, I’d have been thrilled, and I’m (still?) thrilled today.
Jackson instantly gives the Mariners a competent outfielder – and while I was thrilled with James Jones at the beginning of his time with the team, the reality is his numbers have been going the wrong direction for a while now. And that’s both offense and defense. And, the addition of Chris Denorfia in a separate deal gives another competent outfield piece to a team that, let’s face it, really didn’t have a Major League outfield when the season began.
Defensively, Jackson is an immediate win over our current outfield. I would expect to see Endy Chavez out of the mix quite quickly. Once Michael Saunders gets back, I would also expect to see a lot less of Stefen Romero as well. Don’t be surprised to see a Dustin Ackley/Denorfia platoon.
Offensively, Jackson started the season slow but heated up in July. The hope is that reuniting him with Mariners Manager Lloyd McClendon, who was his hitting coach with the Tigers, will help. Even if Jackson is relatively neutral offensively, this is still a win for the team. McClendon has already said Jackson will be the new leadoff hitter.
I think the key takeaway from this trade is what did *not* happen – the Mariners did not give up any of their top talent. They didn’t mortgage the farm, as has been done in years past, in a misguided effort to win it all now. I want to see the Mariners make the playoffs as much as anyone, but if there’s one thing we learned in the Bavasi years, it’s that you can’t jump the queue in baseball. You have to take your time and work with what you have and fill the holes with trades – or you have to be the Yankees or Dodgers. This deal sends a player I personally like, Nick Franklin, whose best position (2nd base) is going to be filled by Robinson Cano for quite a few years to come. In return, it brings back an outfielder who we’ll have this year and next. This means that in the offseason, Jack Zduriencik will not have to worry about center field. And this is a good thing. And the Denorfia trade gives you another outfield piece, albeit not as valuable a one as Jackson, for almost nothing of value.
I don’t know what the next two months hold for the Mariners. But you gotta like their chances more with these two moves than you did this morning, and that’s a good thing. Go Mariners.
It was another gorgeous day as qualifying matches wrapped up and the first round began at the 2014 Odlum Brown Vancouver Open. If you have even a passing interest in passing shots, you ought to pony up a few bucks and go enjoy some damned fine tennis at the Hollyburn Country Club in West Vancouver. How fine, you ask? Last year’s men’s singles champ, Vasek Pospisil, went on to win the doubles title at this year’s Wimbledon, for goodness sake.
In first round action on Tuesday, American Asia Muhummad rallied to oust the eighth seed Urszula Radwanska of Poland, 6–7, 6–4, 6–3. Muhammad is ranked #363 in the world, and earned her way into the tournament as a wild card entry, but she used her height advantage and a strong first service game to outlast the heavily favoured Radwanska.
Muhammad now goes on to play the diminutive firebrand from Kazakhstan, Yulia Putintseva, in the second round. Putintseva dispatched Canadian WC Gloria Liang in straight sets on Tuesday, 7-5, 6-3.
The Whitecaps AD (After DeMerit) found themselves in familiar territory prior to their game versus FC Dallas. Some strong performances in the first half of the season had led to all sorts of good feels and warm and fuzzy insides for the team and its supporters.
But as the temperature rises outside, it seems as though this club cools down and the results have been calamitous.
My wife and kids watched two Mariners games this weekend. Both went into extra innings. Both ended as Mariners losses.
I only sat through one, Sunday’s 10-inning 3-2 affair. The Ms put up ten hits but could not bring a man across the plate when it really, really counted. Kendrys Morales (and yes, it’s only a small sample size) is 1-for-10 in his return to Mariners blue. Twice Sunday afternoon he came up with runners on, and did absolutely nothing productive. Unfortunately he was not alone in this predicament.
Talking with an old friend earlier today, I realized that part of me just wants the team to tank, go on a 15-game losing streak and erase any possible hope at the playoffs. The certainty of suckitude, in some ways, is better than the ping-pong teasing of having a wild card slot and then losing it. Yes, there is still a chance the Ms can take that wild card slot back – but this weekend did not help that chance.