As we creep ever closer to the opening of the 2016 MLS season (you can take a look at the Whitecaps full schedule here), PITHites are being subjected to a peek back at what I deem to be the top five Caps games of 2015. It’s kind of like one of those cobbled-together “Year in Review” we see frequently and repeatedly throughout the holiday season, except this isn’t nearly as long and contains less upper-management-sanctioned “witty banter.” This is week two of our little experiment here so, naturally, that means that up for review this week is entry number four on our list of five.
I should clarify that the criterion for games being on this list extends beyond good feels and positivity, as evidenced by this selection. We’re going to travel back to August 15, 2015 and look at a game that, to me, imitated the Whitecaps’ entire season in a thorough 90-minute display of hope, potential, success, decline and ultimately, failure.
There’s nothing like an extended break to emphasize just how vital our journalisming is to people the World over. Countless emails, telegrams and letters flooded the PITH offices, pleading for our glorificous return to the keyboards and demanding more content. I replied to a couple of them, asking them to remain patient while I worked on developing a whole new lexicon of words like “journalisming” and “glorificous” and only upon its completion would we be able to rebegin to unleash our brand of ridiculous bullshit in written form to the masses.
I’m pleased to report that that time has arrived. The first (soccer-related) post of 2016 belongs to me and, although it be brief, it is time to take a look at the Whitecaps’ top 5 games (as decided by me) from the 2015 season. We’ll kick off this new endeavour by rehashing the happenings of August 1, 2015 when the Whitecaps dispatched the ol’ Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field in dominating fashion thanks to an unlikely hero.
The Whitecaps handed out their club-sanctioned end of season awards on October 22, and it was pretty much what you’d expect. The suspense of just who exactly would go home with the Domenic Mobilio Golden Boot award (presented to the club’s leading goal-scorer) was undoubtedly the highlight of the afternoon. The anticipation was palpable until everyone realized that numerous stats pages across the internet had been keeping track of that information all season long. Buncha wet blankets.
Anyways, as I’m sure you have heard, we here at Pucked in the Head have our own end of season awards. Many deem these to in fact be the most prestigious of all awards available to professional soccer players annually based in Vancouver, BC from March until November.
Now that you’re all on the edge of your seats, I present to you the 2014 Whitecaps End of Season Awards Presented By A Blog With a Hockey-centric Title Yet Unabashedly Contains Content On a Wide Variety Of Sporting Endeavours. We’re still working on the name and hoping to have a slightly less verbose title for 2015.
Since joining Major League Soccer four years ago, the Vancouver Whitecaps haven’t been much for rising to occasions. Sure, they’ve started strong out of the gate the past few years, and they’ve rarely been run out of the park, especially at home. They even put a scare into the mighty LA Galaxy in the one playoff game they’ve played as an MLS side. But let’s call a spade a bloody shovel: the Whitecaps have stunk down the stretch.
Last year, the Caps tumbled so far, so fast, Bobby Lenarduzzi was forced to send bench boss Martin Rennie packing. This despite scoring a club-record number of goals, stealing attention from a hockey-weary public, and winning the Cascadia Cup for the fourth time. This year, the team opened like gangbusters, but has seen several popular players depart, playoff hopes dwindle and this core of exciting young strikers put together the longest scoreless drought in franchise history.
It was a relief, then, to see David Ousted make several diving saves against Real Salt Lake, a team that scores in bunches — take their 5–1 drubbing of Colorado just last week, for example. It was even more heartening to see Pedro Morales bury a brace of goals in the second half to earn a much-needed three points and keep the playoff dream alive.
It was an uninspiring first half, with RSL seemingly content to play for the single point, as that’s all they need to lock up a playoff spot. The Caps were unable to create much to inspire the crowd until a questionable fall by Kendall Waston drew a PK in stoppage time. Alas, Jeff Attinella guessed correctly; El Capitan drove a hard low ball into the RSL keeper’s hands, and pretty much everyone in the stadium thought, “Here we go again.”
Some of those people actually left the stadium in the 57th minute, when Nat Borchers steered a corner past Ousted with his facial hair. It marked the first goal of the year for Borchers, one assumes because previous balls to come near him had been sucked into the gravitational pull of his beard and were unable to escape. (Can we talk about this hillbilly look for a minute? I overheat if the weave on my t-shirt is too heavy; how the hell can you engage in professional sport with a koala stapled to your jaw? Brett Keisel, Brian Wilson, James Harden, Hugh O’Neill — all y’all — I’m talking to you. Seriously. This dwarves of Middle Earth cosplay thing you’ve got going on is getting old.)
As the Whitecaps lined up for the ensuing kickoff, Mauro Rosales looked into the stands and decided to take action. Morales may be called the Maestro, but it was Rosales who raised his arms and conducted a symphony of encouraging cheers. Four minutes later, Vancouver was swarming. Not one, but two Caps were taken down in the box, and Allen Chapman was forced to award the home side a second penalty kick in minute 62.
Morales made no mistake this time, tying the game with a confident strike just inside the left post. A couple Ousted saves and two substitutions later, Kekuta Manneh made a blistering run down the left flank. He cut a pass behind Matias Laba, but it found Steven Beitashour just outside the 18-yard line. With a 20-yard run-up, Beitashour could have gone for goal, but instead he rifled a pass to Morales, who was standing onside about four yards out. El Capitan tapped the ball into the mesh, securing Vancouver their first win over Real Salt Lake since 27 October 2012.
With the win, the Whitecaps move a point up on the Portland Timbers, who collapsed in the second half Saturday against a miserable Toronto FC team. The Timbers lost All-Star midfielder Will Johnson to a season-ending leg injury, and despite being up 2–0 at half time, lost the game 3–2. No one wants to see a guy break his tibia and fibula, but let’s be selfish for a minute: despite losing consecutive, uninspired 3–0 games to this very same Portland team — both of which were billed as must-win games prior to kickoff — the Whitecaps still control their own destiny with four games remaining in the 2014 season.
Their MLS history hasn’t contained many happy endings, but with Portland battling injuries, who knows? Perhaps between Rosales the Conductor and Morales the Maestro, the Caps will give Carl Robinson something to take away from his first year behind the bench after all.
The next must-win game goes at 4pm next Saturday, October 4 as the Whitecaps host the notorious divers of FC Dallas.
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.
Phew. That was exciting, wasn’t it? If Saturday was any indication, Carl Robinson’s version of the Whitecaps will be something to keep your eyes on. The team knocked out a 4-1 win over the Henry-less New York Red Bulls in what seemed like somewhat of a cakewalk.
Granted, the Red Bulls were not playing with their full complement of personnel, but I’m not convinced the outcome would have been any different regardless of rosters. Almost everything went right for the Whitecaps, who have now won all four season openers since entering MLS in 2011.
It was a dream start for the new head coach, who watched his squad outplay their opponents in all aspects of the match. The real story though, was how the Whitecaps’ overhauled midfield controlled the game from the opening kick-off. New recruits Matias Laba, Sebastian Fernandez and Pedro Morales (in limited minutes) looked positively brilliant.
Vancouver, B.C. – The boys in white and blue were back in the friendly confines of BC Place stadium after earning a draw versus the Portland TImbers last weekend. With only a single blemish on the Caps home record (8-1-3), the Bell pitch has been an important ally. This week the visitors were the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ San Jose Earthquakes, who trailed our boys by just three points in the Western Conference standings.
Professional sport can be a cruel business. The Whitecaps have been rolling recently. They’ve lost only one of their last twelve games — winning five of their last six — and a big part of that streak has been the play of goalkeeper Brad Knighton. Yet despite that stellar recent play — two clean sheets in the last four games, another that slipped away on the last kick of the game and an MLS Player of the Week award — Knighton is in very real danger of losing his starting job to incoming Danish goalkeeper David Ousted. It might not be fair, on recent form, but will it make Vancouver a better team? Read on after the jump to find out. Continue reading Whitecaps Wednesday – Is It Time To Oust Brad Knighton?→