Preamble: Please note that the title of this article has little to do with the actual contents found within. It was simply a title that needed using.
During the Whitecaps pre-game show on TSN1040, analyst Carlo Corazzin threw out a rather remarkable fact: the Whitecaps have not fielded the same starting XI in three consecutive games since entering MLS. That’s nearly four years of players rotating in and out of the lineup every match (or two).
Now, odds are that injuries and international duties have played a small part in this phenomenon, but seriously, not once in four seasons? It just goes to show you the constant state of flux this franchise has been in since joining Major League Soccer. And it extends beyond just the players on the pitch — the club’s well-documented coaching changes are no mystery to anyone that follows Whitecaps soccer with any sort of vigilance.
Perhaps, however, an era of stability is finally upon us, and just maybe it started this weekend versus FC Dallas.
If there’s one thing I hate about soccer, it’s diving. It’s rampant at pretty much all levels of the game, and the MLS is no different. Sadly, faking injury is not only a major part of the FC Dallas game plan, it seems to frickin’ work. Saturday’s referee crew bought into FC Dallas’s every whimper, whinge and writhe, handing the visitors free kicks and set pieces galore, and allowing lengthy delays in game play.
Dallas players went down like red-shirted ensigns on Star Trek. They stayed down like my two-year-old daughter, bawling because they fell down went boom. Come on, you wailing tart — you’re a professional freaking athlete, in prime physical condition. Are you seriously telling me your tummy wummy hurtsy wurtsies because the bad man in the brown jersey bumped into you? Get up, you whining sack of sheisse, and play the game.
On Saturday night at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, the hometown Heat used the ol’ shootout to decide the second half of a back-to-back against the Texas Stars. All-Star goaltender Barry Brust made 39 saves on 40 shots for the 2-1 win — like this one during a first period that saw the visitors gain a 17-9 advantage on the shot clock. Below you’ll find a plethora of pictures from the game, including a still from the winning shootout goal by Krys Kolanos.
One night after dropping a 3-1 decision against the visiting Texas Stars, the Abbotsford Heat looked to put a few more pucks in a few more nets. They failed to do so, winning a 2-1 shootout decision over those same Stars to maintain their advantage atop the Western Conference.
Abbotsford came out of the gates quickly, perhaps fueled by head coach Troy Ward’s decision to give his players the morning skate off. Three quality scoring chances were theirs in the first two and a half minutes. The Heat held most of the momentum, in fact, until Joe Piskula took a hooking penalty at 6:22. From then on, Texas controlled most of the play, though Abby did a good job of keeping the puck to the outside and limiting the Stars’ chances. The best opportunities for both teams came within seconds of each other following that Piskula penalty. The Stars’ Alex Chiasson tried unsuccessfully to stuff a puck past Barry Brust from about three feet. The rebound was cleared, and Lance Bouma ended up with a short-handed breakaway the other way. Only a last-second stick check prevented the Heat from taking the lead while a man down.
As entertaining as the first period was, with scoring chances aplenty and a scrap between Chris Breen and Francis Wathier, the second period proved quite dull. The teams did manage to get on the scoresheet, with Texas’ Matt Fraser opening the scoring on a 2-man advantage 5 minutes in. The Heat responded 3 minutes later on a powerplay of their own, Krys Kolanos tapping in a gorgeous cross-ice feed from Ben Street. Other than that brief flurry of activity, however, you could’ve taken the period off, and indeed it seemed many of the players did.
I had the good fortune of catching a game at Ranger Stadium in Arlington, TX this week, and it was one hell of a game. Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish started well, earning four strikeouts in the first two innings, then imploded. He gave up six runs in the third and another in the fourth before more than 42,000 hometown fans.
Interesting note for those of us who have experienced the phenomenon of Ichiro Suzuki in Seattle. While Darvish is a popular young pitcher amongst Ranger fans of all nationalities, there were a considerable number of Japanese fans in the crowd, almost all of them sporting Darvish jerseys. It’s a considerable market for MLB teams to tap into, and we’ve seen it with Dice-K, Godzilla and a few other import stars. For anyone who has heard entire sections of gleeful college-aged Asian girls squeeing for Ichiro, you’ll know what I’m talking about. As an ex-ESL teacher, I’m interested in things like this.