Tag Archives: Chris Withers

Earthquakes Shake Up Whitecaps Offence

Sebastian Fernandez kicked a soccer ball into Victor Bernardez’ nuts to earn a corner kick, and the Vancouver Whitecaps proceeded to score off that corner kick en route to a 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Now, there’s a whole lot of awesome going on in that lede, so let’s break it down, shall we?

Seba Fernandez buzzed the San Jose Earthquakes defense all night, as the Whitecaps took a 2-nil decision at BC Place. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Seba Fernandez buzzed the San Jose Earthquakes defense all night, as the Whitecaps took a 2-nil decision at BC Place. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

“…the Vancouver Whitecaps proceeded to score…”
Mired in the longest goal-scoring drought of their MLS existence, forced to listen to boos, heckles and songs declaiming their utter lack of prowess in front of goal from their own supporters, the Whitecaps did the recently unthinkable and potted not one, but TWO GOALS! They even scored both of them themselves.

Pedro Morales was a one-man wrecking crew for the Whitecaps, at times taking on the entire Earthquakes back line to get the ball into position. Later he would score the club's first goal in 450 minutes of MLS play. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Pedro Morales was a one-man wrecking crew for the Whitecaps, at times taking on the entire Earthquakes back line to get the ball into position. Later he would score the club’s first goal in 450 minutes of MLS play. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

“Sebastian Fernandez kicked a soccer ball into Victor Bernardez’ nuts…”

This is what Victor Bernardez looks like when kicked in the junk. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
This is what Victor Bernardez looks like when kicked in the junk. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

It was not a good day for the Honduran defender, whose aged testicles received two solid blows — one literal, one figurative — both of which led to goals. Referee Jose Carlos Rivero delivered the first in the 39th minute, when he figuratively kicked the seasoned defender in the nuts by awarding a dubious penalty kick to the Whitecaps. Bernardez’ contact with Kendall Waston on a Morales free kick seemed  minimal, and I’m not entirely convinced Waston could have got anything on the header even if he’d been unimpeded. (Hey, it bumped the slump, we’ll take it.) The second was a literal shot to the cojones from Fernandez, who broke down the left wing, cut to the inside, and attempted to deliver a cross that was intercepted by the Bernardez family jewels.

“…proceeded to score off a corner kick…”
Well. That was refreshing.

Kendall Waston celebrates his first MLS goal, a gloriously aggressive header off a corner kick. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Kendall Waston celebrates his first MLS goal, a gloriously aggressive header off a corner kick. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

(Editor’s note: it was just the second Whitecaps goal off a corner kick this season, and Carl Robinson looked positively teary-eyed when he saw his dream of Kendall Waston heading home this set piece.)

“…a 2-0 win…”
For only the second time in their last 11 games, the Whitecaps won! The win puts the blue and white two points clear of Portland for the final playoff spot, with seven games each to play, and gives them a four-point cushion over Toronto FC for a place in the 2015 CONCACAF Champions League.

Mauro Rosales was less of a factor this game, but still put a few dangerous-looking crosses into play from the flank. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Mauro Rosales was less of a factor this game, but still put a few dangerous-looking crosses into play from the flank. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

“…a 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.”
As much fun as it was to get a win and see some goals for, we should probably not get too high. Erik Hurtado and Sebastian Fernandez couldn’t score on gilt-edged chances, making it more than five games since the Caps got a goal from a forward. The Earthquakes — let’s face it — are also pretty terrible: sub-par in every category but the little-known stat, Ugly-ass Black Capris Owned By Goalkeepers, San Jose look like a team playing out the string. Or possibly a team playing their second game in four days, a fate that awaits the Whitecaps as they travel to Dallas on Saturday for what should be a much sterner test.

The legendary first touch of Erik Hurtado is back in full form, as he managed to fluff several chances in glorious field position. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
The legendary first touch of Erik Hurtado is back in full form, as he managed to fluff several chances in glorious field position. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Matías Laba blocks a clearing attempt during a 2-2 draw between the Whitecaps and LA Galaxy. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Whitecaps Look Lost In Space Against Galaxy

If there remained any doubt about who the Vancouver Whitecaps’ most valuable player is in 2014, tonight’s match removed it. The Caps returned to the Stubhub Center on Saturday evening without standout defensive midfielder Matias Laba, who served his one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation. The difference was stunning.

Matías Laba was forced to wear his training gear, as he served a one-game suspension for accumulation of yellow cards. Sadly, the Caps didn't seem to get out of practice mode themselves, dropping a 2-0 decision to the far superior LA Galaxy. Photo courtesy of Christopher Vose at the Vancouver Herald.
Matías Laba was forced to wear his training gear as he served a one-game suspension for accumulation of yellow cards. Sadly, the Caps didn’t seem to get out of practice mode themselves, dropping a 2-0 decision to the far superior LA Galaxy. Photo of early season training at UBC courtesy of Christopher Vose at the Vancouver Herald.

Without Laba, and with Gershon Koffie still nursing an ankle injury, the Whitecaps resorted to a defensive midfield pairing of Russell Teibert and Mehdi Ballouchy. The result was an underwhelming, listless performance in a 2-0 defeat to the LA Galaxy. It was arguably Vancouver’s worst performance of the 2014 campaign.

Laba’s absence seemed to affect the Whitecaps in a way no other player’s absence has so far this year. They missed his timely interventions, and the way he so casually turns the ball up field without immediately conceding possession.

Without him, Los Angeles roamed through Vancouver’s half with impunity, the Caps utterly unable to dispossess them. Even when the ball miraculously ended up on the foot of a player in blue, the clearances were uninspring. Ballouchy and Teibert often resorted to farting the ball in the general direction of Darren Mattocks, hoping he would be able to win an aerial duel. I am unable to recall him doing so.

The highlight of the game was getting a look at both of the club’s latest acquisitions, with Kendall Waston and Mauro Rosales both making second-half appearances. Though neither was able to make a difference on the scoreboard, both showed glimpses of why Carl Robinson brought them in. Waston set up Vancouver’s best scoring chance of the night, with a nice little touch to Mattocks, while Rosales had some promising possession on the right.

The lowlight was a ridiculously bad tackle from behind late in the game by Johnny Leveron that drew a straight red. Though it certainly didn’t affect the outcome of the game, Vancouver having rolled over long since, the mistake could be exceptionally costly for Leveron, as it opens the door for Waston to start in his natural centre back position next week. It would not surprise in the least if the big Costa Rican took the spot and did not relinquish it.

Up next for the Whitecaps is a potentially Cascadia Cup-clinching derby at home against the Portland Timbers. Fans should keep their fingers crossed that the return of the young Argentine turns around the dreadful form the team was on tonight.

CFL-CSL

A League Of Our Own?

It’s been twenty-two years since Canadians have had a domestic soccer league to call their own. In 1992, the semi-professional Canadian Soccer League folded after only six seasons. Since then, the Canadian soccer landscape has been dotted with mostly short-lived teams trying to make their way as part of dodgy American leagues. Yesterday, news broke on Canadian Soccer News that the long winter of domestic soccer in this country may finally be drawing to a close.

The report, somewhat limited in details, says that the Canadian Soccer Association is in talks with the Canadian Football League and the North American Soccer League (current home of FC Edmonton and the Ottawa Fury) to bring domestic soccer to Canada as early as 2016.

If accurate, this could be the most important moment in Canadian soccer since the men’s national team qualified for the ’86 World Cup. Canada is one of an incredibly small number of countries to have qualified for a World Cup without a domestic league, and a Canadian league is seen by many as an important step towards getting back to that stage. The establishment of a stable league would be a massive coup for the oft-maligned CSA.

The viability of a Canadian league is certainly not a given. Historically low soccer attendance figures in many major markets, combined with the huge distances teams necessarily need to travel in this country, make the financial prospects far from rosy. That’s why it’s encouraging to hear that the CSA may be enlisting the aid of the CFL.

The report says that the league will initially comprise seven teams, each associated to a CFL team. A CFL partnership makes sense for a few reasons. First, if anyone knows how to run a nationwide league without going broke, it’s these guys. Second, having respected institutions like CFL teams (well, CFL teams not nicknamed Argonauts) using their marketing muscle to support a fledgling league would be just what the doctor ordered. Third, there is the very real possibility that they can bring TSN — a network that almost single-handedly saved the CFL in the not-too-distant past — along for the ride.

TSN is in an odd place right now, having recently announced that they’re expanding their channel lineup while also being outbid for National Hockey League rights by Rogers Sportsnet. They already have easily the best soccer production crew in the country, so it makes some sense that they might look to the most popular game on the planet to give their subscribers something to watch.

If I have one major concern about the report, it’s the tidbit that teams will be playing in CFL venues. This seems like an awful idea at first glance. Even the smaller stadia like Ottawa’s TD Place Stadium and Hamilton’s not-yet-completed Tim Horton’s Field seat upwards of 20,000 people, when division two soccer in this country has always hovered around 3,000-5,000. The biggest task for the league will be to find a way to get attendance high enough that the atmosphere doesn’t suffer.

Fans at Commercial Drive's Caffé Roma were thrilled by their opening game win over England. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

World Cup Power Rankings: Volume 1

Now that we’ve had a look at all 32 teams competing in Brazil, let’s take a look at where they stand. Please note: like all power rankings ever created, these are complete bullshit. These particular rankings do not necessarily reflect how good the teams actually are, or how they are playing. Rather, these rankings give us a chance to crack jokes and make snide comments.
CW — Chris Withers; JK — Jason Kurylo

32) Uruguay
New rule: lose to a CONCACAF team, and you get dropped to the bottom of the rankings. I’m not sure why I’m surprised. This is a team that managed a scoreless draw against Jordan at home in their final qualification game. Jordan. CW

31) Ghana
Sorry guys, but rules are rules. Look, you outplayed the USA and deserved better than a 2-1 loss, but you’ve got all the polish and finish of (somewhat ironically) a 400 lb American redneck in a barbecue sauce-stained tank top cruising up to the McDonald’s drive through in an 84 Dodge pickup at 3 in the morning. CW

Never Ghana give you up.
Never Ghana give you up.

30) Honduras
Fuck these guys and the bullet-ridden, thrice-carjacked bus they rode in on. The slaughter at the hands of the French is the first step in what’s sure to be an early exit for these assholes. You’d think they’d be more motivated to stay, given that the alternative is returning to Honduras where the largest export is stray bullets. (PS: CBC, I’m sure you must have footage of Honduras scoring goals against countries other than Canada. Please use some of it.) Spend a few weeks watching international football with fans of Canada’s men’s squad, and you’ll understand my unvarnished rage. CW

29) Australia
Australia is a terrifying place. Poisonous jellyfish, Vegemite, giant poisonous centipedes, Vegemite, and something called the Australian Paralysis Tick (!!?). The fates didn’t really need to add yet another way to go, yet here they are in a group with Chile, the Netherlands and Spain. Still, I can’t feel too bad for them. If you’re going to walk around with a name like the Socceroos, trouble will follow. CW

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Erik Hurtado dances and deals prior to Darren Mattocks' goal during a 2-2 draw between the Whitecaps and LA Galaxy. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

A Million Ways To Lose The Voyageurs Cup

Add another one to the list. Last night, the Vancouver Whitecaps’ improbable streak of failing to win the Voyageurs Cup stretched to 13 years when Joe Bendik made the only save of a penalty shootout to send Toronto FC through to the finals against the Montreal Impact.

Erik Hurtado dances and deals prior to Darren Mattocks' goal during a 2-2 draw between the Whitecaps and LA Galaxy. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Erik Hurtado is starting to shed his reputation as a speedster with no touch; he provided more than a few moments of excitement, including a gorgeous one-touch goal on a full run, during a home-and-home against TFC. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

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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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Nigel Reo-Coker played well in the season opener against the New York Red Bulls, but really fell flat after that. 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

The Cascadia Cup wears Whitecaps FC, Southsiders and Rain City Brigade scarves (and a Curva Collective shirt for good measure) as it looks over Vancouver, its home for the 2014 MLS season, from a piece of prime Stanley Park Seawall real estate. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

A Day With The Cup

The Cascadia Cup looks upon BC Place, its home for the 2014 MLS season, after Whitecaps FC won the trophy for consistent performance up and down the northwest corridor last season. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
The Cascadia Cup looks upon BC Place, its home for the 2014 MLS season, after Whitecaps FC won the trophy for consistent performance up and down the northwest corridor last season. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

One of the great traditions in all of sport is the NHL’s day with the Cup. After the Stanley Cup is won, each member of the winning team is granted one day to take Lord Stanley’s Mug wherever they choose. Want to have an ice cream party with the kids? Doug Weight did. Rather take it to a peeler bar with the lads? Messier beat you there. Here in Cascadia, we’re working on some traditions of our own surrounding the Cascadia Cup. This Cup, however, was created by fans, and it’s the fans that can request a day with it.

The Cascadia Cup is entering its eleventh season and currently makes its home right here in beautiful British Columbia. Contested by the three Cascadian clubs – the Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers – the Cup was purchased in 2004 by the supporters groups of those three teams and is awarded annually to the best team in the region. Vancouver’s nine points in Cascadia derbies (2W-1L-3D) was good enough to secure them their fourth Cascadia Cup victory. (Seattle and Portland, those suckers, are still stuck on three apiece.)

The Cascadia Cup wears Whitecaps FC, Southsiders and Rain City Brigade scarves (and a Curva Collective shirt for good measure) as it looks over Vancouver, its home for the 2014 MLS season, from a piece of prime Stanley Park Seawall real estate. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
The Cascadia Cup wears Whitecaps FC, Southsiders and Rain City Brigade scarves (and a Curva Collective shirt for good measure) as it looks over Vancouver, its home for the 2014 MLS season, from a piece of prime Stanley Park Seawall real estate. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Unlike most championship trophies, the fans are the keepers of the Cascadia Cup. If the Cup changes hands, representatives of the reigning champions’ supporters groups must turn it over to the winning team’s supporters, who then present the trophy to the team. After that, the supporter groups look after it, bringing it out for Cascadia games to rub in the faces of opposition supporters.

Pucked in the Head’s day with the Cup was a simple excursion through our fair city. We started at False Creek and wound our way through the downtown core to Stanley Park. It was a chance to get some great photos of the Cup, and show off some of the best of what Vancouver has to offer on a gorgeous winter day.

(A big thanks to the Curva Collective’s Zachary Meisenheimer, one of the Whitecaps FC supporters present for the handoff in Portland last season, for joining us, driving round the city, and tying those scarves & shirt so darned nicely for the pics!)

If you have an event that you want the Cup to be present for, get in touch with the Vancouver Southsiders at www.vancouversouthsiders.ca.

Between his amateurish YouTube video and this picture, Jason Kurylo has shed even the appearance of journalistic integrity. Oh well, what were you expecting from a fanboy blogger, anyway? Photo by Zach Meisenheimer for Pucked in the Head.
Between his amateurish YouTube video and this picture, Jason Kurylo has shed even the appearance of journalistic integrity. Oh well, what were you expecting from a fanboy blogger, anyway? Photo by Zach Meisenheimer for Pucked in the Head.
The Vancouver Whitecaps have seen an impressive run of play from young Canadian forward Russell Teibert. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Whitecaps Preseason Roundup

Hi. Remember me? I'm Chris Withers. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Hi. Remember me? I’m Chris Withers. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Hi, I’m Chris.

You may remember me as that guy who used to write things on this site from time to time before inexplicably going away for several months!

I’m back now, having dusted off the ol’ keyboard, and I have opinions about the Whitecaps that I will be relaying to you presently.

(Note: Mr Withers is not only a snazzy dresser and the co-founder of PitH — he’s also pretty active as the Director of External Communications of the single largest Whitecaps FC supporter group there is. So much so, in fact,  that he appeared on a recent episode of From the Backline podcast to discuss the Southside experience.) Continue reading