Building a team within the confines of MLS isn’t a particularly easy task. By and large, the player pool is generally limited to in-betweeners (those who can’t quite make the cut in other leagues) and to players either in the dawn or twilight of their careers. It’s also limited to players who are willing to work and play on our vast continent and put up with the turf and the travel – there is minimal contrast between most when it comes to talent in a league driven by parity such as MLS.
The Designated Player rule is a means by which teams can bolster their roster – it is the most immediate mechanism clubs have to separate themselves from the pack. And when you’re hamstrung by the budget limitations enforced by the Whitecaps front office, it makes the necessity to utilize that mechanism all the more difficult – and crucial.
It is also a process that the Whitecaps have seemingly overlooked and/or underestimated repeatedly.
For nearly half an hour on Wednesday night it looked as though the Whitecaps would become back-to-back Canadian champions. Vancouver took advantage of a Bradley-less, Irwin-less Toronto FC squad to stake out to a 2-0 lead (2-1 on aggregate) and carried that lead well into stoppage time. A disinterested and detached Giovinco, seen moping around the pitch at BC Place for 90 minutes, didn’t help TFC’s cause much either.
Everything was seemingly coming up Whitecaps. After a rather pedestrian first 45, Carl Robinson subbed in firecracker Nicolás Mezquida at half-time in place of Russell Teibert. The move paid immediate dividends when the Uruguayan scored just two minutes later. Tim Parker pushed the Caps into the pole position after a nifty chest-to-foot volley in the 68th minute found the netting in behind replacement keeper Alex Bono.
Usually, Whitecaps Wednesday is a time of celebration and mirth and, given the recent results of this town’s MLS squads, one would tend to assume that this week would be no different. However, after an introduction like that, one would need be on their sixth pint not to grasp that this week will indeed be different. Ladies and gentlemen of this fine city: we have a thief in our midst.
News (officially) broke yesterday that a large number of boots had been pilfered from the Whitecaps training facility overnight Monday. Head coach Carl Robinson is none too pleased about it, as relayed to us in the tweet below by the gracious and assiduous @Harjournalist.
32. Thirty-two. THIRTY-TWO! PAIRS! 64 boots in total. You could dress a starting lineup three times over with a different pair of cleats each time, especially if you have that weird goalkeeper on your team who insists on wearing one boot. One could presumably use that number of cleats in place of sandbags in case of a flood.
It’s a testament to the talent within the Whitecaps’ roster that four integral pieces of their makeup will be unavailable for this evening’s matchup versus the Houston Dynamo. Blas Pérez, Kendall Waston, Cristian Bolaños and Tim Parker will all be on international duty for their respective countries, and as such, allow for the depth of the squad to be truly tested. I’m looking forward to it.
The absences represent a both a significant challenge and a significant opportunity for the club; Parker and Waston have formed into a top central-defensive pairing in MLS while Pérez’s influence on a game was noticeable during last week’s victory in Seattle. He appears to be the solution to the oft-quoted lone striker issue that has afflicted Octavio Rivero with frequency since his arrival to Vancouver last summer. Bolaños, for his part, has yet to fully adjust to the North American game but has shown flashes of brilliance, including the heady-run that drew Vancouver’s first PK against the Sounders. Nevertheless, he is another one of Robinson’s preferred starter and his absence represents an opportunity for someone else to accrue some quality minutes.
Sigi Schmid, the rotundiest of all MLS head coaches, disagrees with you, and me, and the 21,000 (now more) soccer fans that pack BC Place whenever we have the chance to swear at the Seattle Sounders. Sigi Schmid likes boring soccer. Or, at the very least, “easy” soccer. Those are the only reasons I can possibly fathom for him announcing his desire to “…not play the Whitecaps 100 times” this season.
Now, I’ve always been a selfish kinda guy. I mean, I’m nowhere near Trump levels of selfish and/or pigheadedness and I like to think I’m actually quite compassionate in my own way. But I’m a fellah who likes what I like, will do what I like and I’m gloriously unapologetic about that. That’s more or less why I don’t have money-burning and time-sucking children. And one thing I do like, is Sounders vs Whitecaps.
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.
Should they win many things? Probably. Manager Carl Robinson has done a masterful job of assembling a deep, talented roster. Will they? If they go on the attack as relentlessly as they did Sunday, quite possibly. This day, though, they died by the sword. The Caps, known for a deadly counterattack last year, carried much of the play on day one, but gave up multiple goals on the break to fall 3-2 to the dreaded Surrender Monkeys from Montreal.
As Carl Robinson said in the post-game presser, “We gifted Montreal these three points, if we’re to give an honest assessment.”
The Vancouver Whitecaps are in Tucson, Arizona as they continue their preparations for the 2016 MLS regular season. I, on the other hand, have decided to keep my mind firmly static in 2015 – the days when I had a job, a robust hairline and a life with purpose. You, dear reader, will have to drag me, whining and defecating, into the present. Or, just wait another week when I’m forced to produce a Whitecaps Wednesday piece not beginning with “The Top 5 of 2015”, as the following represents the final entry into said endeavour.
That’s right, we have officially reached the gold medal winner on this completely arbitrary list composed by myself in conjunction with nothing and no one. I recognize that this may not be the best method in which to compose a list, but somehow, I always manage to justify my writing and I’ll be damned if I don’t. So then, with that out of the way, I hereby present to you the top game of 2015 for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
With lots of Whitecaps rumours and news this week surrounding the acquisition of Blas Pérez and departure of Mauro Rosales, I briefly considered suspending the Top 5 of 2015 series for one week. But then my pal and yours, Jason, tossed up his own review of said happenings and generously added in my own take as a footnote to boot. Perfect. Perhaps, at a later date, I will expunge my feelings on that subject further, but for now, let us forge ahead with the Top 5 countdown and review the Silver medal match of 2015.
Entries five, four and three were certainly delicious, but the top two spots are rich in nutritional value and high in fibre while being even scrummier and more fulfilling than the previous three. On June 6, 2015, the Whitecaps sailed into the most hostile of territories and managed to achieve a remarkable feat on both a micro and macro level.