In mid-July, the Whitecaps hosted some jokers from a place called London, England — seriously, what kind of name for a football squad is Crystal Palace? Anyway, they tied the friendly 2-2, in a game that wasn’t particularly exciting sport but gave locals a chance to see some Premier League footballers up close and personal.
Here’s a gallery of my best pics from the match. Enjoy.
Darren Mattocks has been as divisive a figure as they come in Whitecaps MLS history. Okay, not Donald Chump divisive — maybe not even as controversial as Camilo — but darn it, Mattocks is up there. With every midfield giveaway, ol’ Darren takes lumps like a mook in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. With every missed net, Southsiders scream at this guy with the relish usually reserved for casual fans who leave before the final whistle.
Mattocks has been linked to trade rumours and transfer talks ever since the 2013 off-season, when he announced on Jamaican TV that he would score 20 goals per season in the MLS, and that “every team in MLS wants me”. My favourite quote: “Vancouver don’t want Darren to leave as yet.”
Well, buddy has scored all of 12 goals since then — he’s never beaten his career high of seven, which he scored in his rookie season — and just about every Caps fan has begged Darren to get the hell outta Dodge at some point. He’s been collecting close to $300K every season to underperform, sulk about less playing time and miss golden chances when he is on the pitch. So, uh, yeah. Today’s rumour piece on VanCity Buzz is ripping up social media round these parts.
The only downside to Mattocks moving as per this rumour? We’ll still have to see him moping on the bench a couple of times a season with the Timbers-heavy schedule MLS gives the Caps every year. Worst case scenario, Mattocks finally finds the form he displays for the Jamaican national side, and lights it up against Vancouver whenever Portland comes to town.
This deal hasn’t been completed yet, but whoa Nellie, will there ever be some beer-flavoured sighs of relief in supporters groups if and when it gets done.
Say what you will, but you can’t complain that the Whitecaps have been idle this off-season. After acquiring Japanese striker Masato Kudo and Costa Rican midfielder Christian Bolaños, the Caps went out and landed… Blas Pérez?!?!?
The man people love to hate is on his way to Tuscon to suit up for the blue and white in some early pre-season matches. In case you don’t remember, this is the guy who elbowed Jordan Harvey in the head, drew fouls on Kendall Waston with blatant dives, and got under the skin of Pa Madou Kah. Still not convinced? His twitter handle is @superraton7, for crying out loud — that’s just Spanish for, you guessed it, Super Rat 7.
The fact is, Blas Pérez has scored at a respectable clip during his MLS tenure, netting 37 goals in 103 appearances for FC Dallas. Yes, he is renowned for diving, and for no shortage of dirty play in tight against defenders, but advantages threefold exist in having him in Whitecaps colours:
1) If he’s not scoring against the Whitecaps, which he has been known to do, maybe, just maybe he’ll be scoring for them. David Ousted, for one, will be mighty happy to hear that.
2) Carl Robinson doesn’t go in for simulation, and no doubt will do his best to limit the bullshit.
3) Who’s to say the Whitecaps might just need a little side of nasty on the roster now and again. Waston can’t get all the yellow cards, can he?
Love him or hate him — and there are plenty of people who do the latter round these parts — the addition of Blas Pérez makes the Whitecaps a better team. Who knows, if we see the goat horns ten or fifteen times this season, maybe even the Southsiders might come around and like Super Rat.
In closing, let me quote soccer poet Russell Arbuthnot:
“If nothing else, [the addition of] Pérez signifies the end of the Darren Mattocks experiment, which is a good enough return for me.”
The Whitecaps began their third MLS playoff campaign on Sunday afternoon six hours down the I-5 in rainy Portland, Oregon. Hopes were high among Vancouver supporters. The club had just scored multiple goals in a game for the first time in nearly two months, some of their injured players were rumoured to be available, and they’d got the matchup that looked the best, on paper, after the Timbers eliminated Sporting Kansas City in one of the most entertaining penalty kick contests you will ever see. Then the game started, and the offence was once again maddeningly anemic. Continue reading Whitecaps Play For Nil-Nil, Get Their Wish→
As we count down the minutes to the Vancouver Whitecaps first-ever home playoff date — the back end of a home-and-home tie versus the dirty, rotten, stinkin’, bearded Portland Timbers that starts tomorrow — poet in residence Russell Arbuthnot offers up his quill to the soccer gods with the six stanzas below. We at Pucked in the Head wholly endorse the product of Russell’s sleepless enthusiasm, but claim no responsibility for questionable grammar, rhyme scheme or metre therein.
End of Season by Russell Arbuthnot
With the regular season laid down to rest
And with the playoffs drawing ever near
The Whitecaps found themselves among the league’s best
Reflecting on one helluva year
We waved goodbye to the Cascadia Cup
And welcomed in that of the Voyageurs
Coach Robbo patch-worked his CONCACAF lineups
Delicately navigating fixtures
Displaced in June by a Worldly tournament
Meant the men wearing Whitecaps blue and white
Lived in hotels for what seemed like permanent
But they fared quite well in the six-week fight
A rookie named Parker came out of the blue
And from Waston an MVP season
Ousted and Techera were essential too
Expectations mounting, with good reason
Injuries mounted, the infirmary filled
With bumbles and stumbles down the homestretch
Hope and belief grew increasingly chilled
The faithful grew restless, began to kvetch
The franchise regrouped, dispatched the Dynamo
Earned a bye straight to the semifinals
One more week to patch up Captain Pedro
And a chance to knock off their fiercest rivals
It was a disappointing day by many standards. The Vancouver Whitecaps, sitting atop the MLS standings, hosted the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ Seattle Sounders. A win would mean a third straight Cascadia Cup for the Caps, and put a dagger in Seattle’s attempt to revive a lacklustre season.
Instead, the boys in green and blue beat the Whitecaps at their own game: they sat back and let Vancouver come at them, and waited patiently for opportunities to come on the counterattack. At the end of the day, the Whitecaps are still the class of the Western Conference and sit tied for top spot in MLS — thank you, woeful Real Salt Lake for pummelling the LA Galaxy when we least expected it.
The season series between Seattle and Vancouver has seen home teams struggle. The Sounders won 2-0 here back in May, and the Caps put in one of their most complete games at Century Link with a 3-0 victory on August 1. The latter was a low point in the Sounders season, with coaches and players sniping at each other after the fact for poor preparation and effort levels, respectively.
Saturday offered a much more balanced game, but it was Seattle who took advantage of their chances. Octavio Rivero had several opportunities early in the first half, including a glorious clean shot at goal from ten metres, but put the ball high and wide every time. Every other shot toward Stefan Frei was pretty much a gift to the Swiss-born keeper. (I can think of perhaps two saves that required him to actually move.)
Then, seconds before the halftime whistle, Obafemi Martins dribbled away from four white jerseys and put a perfect aerial pass on the foot of striker Andreas Ivanschitz, who had snuck in behind rookie defender Jordan Smith. The German with rather predictable sophomoric nicknames slotted the ball neatly behind David Ousted to open the Sounders account on the evening.
The Caps pushed for the equalizer throughout the second half, but that opened them up to yet more fast breaks the other way. The Sounders waited for their chances, then buried them. Love him or hate him, Clint Dempsey is one hell of a player when he keeps his head about him. Yes, he spends an inordinate amount of time whining to referees — more on these antics below — but he also spent this entire game feathering one-touch balls and delicate passes to his mates, giving the Whitecaps midfield fits at times and directly resulting in two of the Sounders goals. He fed Gonzalo Pineda with a lovely pass at the lip of the box, and Pineda put a perfect shot off the post and in to double the lead in the 71st minute. Sixteen minutes later, Dempsey outhustled Cristian Techera — yes, you read that right, he outran the Bug — before sliding a gimme to Martins for the 3-nil scoreline.
For many, however, the biggest disappointment didn’t happen on the field of play at all. Longtime season ticket holder Christy Clark created quite a stir on our local corner of the interweb, as she tried to poke fun at the Flounders’ proclivity for lying on the BC Place turf nursing non-existent injuries. Sadly, her old-timey insistence upon using girly references to insult male athletes kinda backfired.
Did the Sounders spend a lot of time with their butts glued to the turf? Yeah, sure they did. Were fans rankled and riled about it? You bet your Southsiders scarf they were. Does that make it okay to throw sexist jabs around in a public forum, when you’re an elected official, and to boot a role model to women interested in entering politics? Absolutely fricking not.
The BC Premier is no stranger to social media firestorms. She has nearly 51,000 followers on Twitter, and she upsets a great number of them with even the blandest of posts. In this case, however, folks really ought to get their hackles up. Clark is a self-professed champion of the anti-bullying movement — she helped to spearhead BC’s involvement in Pink Shirt Day a few years ago, and continues to make public comments that pooh-pooh language, actions and systems that belittle or exclude portions of the populace.
Members of the Southsiders, Rain City Brigade and Curva Collective supporters groups all actively dissuade neanderthal members of their groups who denigrate women. Even five years ago, chants of “SHE FELL OVER” were commonplace when an opposing player hit the pitch. These days, references to gender and/or sexual orientation just aren’t accepted any longer by BC Place supporter groups. (Note: Sadly, sexism is still rampant in the football world. The comments screamed at Chelsea medical staffer Eva Carneiro by opposing clubs have been atrocious. The Vancouver Canucks, and women’s rights groups for that matter, have put up with dolts calling Henrik and Daniel “the Sedin sisters” from day one. Hell, the NHL even made an ad that featured Hank & Dank showing up for a fan’s stag party as twin Swedish dancers
. Ice girls at men’s games are the embarrassing norm, when teams should be putting resources into setting up a serious women’s pro league. The sad fact is, loads of sports fans turn their noses up at the prospect of watching professional women’s sports — the Women’s World Cup drew fans, but YVR is still without a women’s Whitecaps team. At least in Vancouver, widespread homophobic or misogynistic jeers aren’t the norm. Clark’s tweet is harmless on the face of it, but flies in the face of very anti-bullying campaign she claims to honour.)
I always thought suspenders were used to hold your pants up, to provide you with a feeling of security while letting the world know that:
you have lost weight;
you don’t know how to purchase appropriately-sized pants for yourself;
you accessorize to appear unique.
Suspenders are a worthy yet unceremoniously goofy alternative to a belt that some, usually the over-80 demographic, still choose to employ, presumably because belts and sized waistbands hadn’t yet been invented when these people started dressing themselves. Suspenders are supposed to, you know, help.
In professional soccer, however, suspenders are quite different. They don’t protect you. They don’t offer you security. Their purpose is to expose you, to strip you bare and leave you hanging.
The MLS suspenders left Carl Robinson and his squad unsheathed after a pair of red cards sent Matías Laba and Kendall Waston to the showers early last weekend.
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.
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.
Rivero owes Techera a steak dinner after nicking his goal. #VWFC take a 1-nil lead in the 41st min. #CanChamp
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.