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.
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.”
After getting entries four and five out of the way, we’ve officially reached the podium positions in our Top 5 of 2015 game review series. It only seems fitting as anticipation for the 2016 season mounts with the Caps having arrived back in town for training camp. And what better way to celebrate than by sitting down with a frosty brew (might I suggest a Four Winds Pale Ale?*), taking a load off and wasting some time reading Pucked in the Head while those players bust their asses running laps and submitting themselves to arduous fitness testing? In case you need some more time to finish your drink, catch up on our previous installments – you can find entry 5 here, and entry 4 here.
Now, without further ado, in the Bronze medal spot we take a peek back to the happenings at BC place on April 4, 2015 – just the fifth game of the young season for the Whitecaps. The match was a significant one for the team because of the opponent, because of the result and because of the method in which they delivered that result.
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.
As we sat on Saturday night watching the Whitecaps piss another one away, Jason and I got to talking. He imparted upon me that he felt the Whitecaps recent string of poor performance was simply the manifestation of their historical tendency to eat shit through the summer. Only this time, a deeper roster and improved coaching had helped keep the swoon at bay, however the shit eating was nevertheless inevitable.
He may be right. But if this were a multiple choice exam curated by one of my current professors, he’d actually be wrong because there is no “correct” answer anymore, just the “best answer.” Hey, maybe we should try educating students, rather than deceiving them? Just a suggestion. Anyways, I digress. Read on as I fill in Jason’s holes. In his theory, I mean. You sicko.
If the Whitecaps have designs on banking a few points at home before heading out on a six-week road trip, it may be wise for them to reengineer their method of doing so. Mind you, for much of the season to date they have been incapable or unwilling to evolve their tactics when the occasion demands it, however now may be a better time than ever to get creative.
In a game that should have been interesting if not intense, the Sounders were far and away the better team in front of the fans at BC Place for the vast majority of the 90+ minutes. The loss comes on the heels of a disappointing draw against Edmonton in Canadian Championship play on Wednesday and did little to alleviate the mounting pressure to perform at home.
Maybe that upcoming lengthy road trip isn’t such a terrible thing after all.
After a disappointing loss to Toronto in their season opener, the Whitecaps have reeled off three straight wins and find themselves in good shape through the first month of play. Sure, they’ve had a flair for the dramatic, earning two of the three victories in stoppage time and the other just shortly before, but it’s tough to argue with nine points in four games – a win is a win after all.
And while the results have been by and large positive (more positive than I had predicted), the process certainly hasn’t been what Carl Robinson was expecting of his squad, which is both a testament to the talent he has brought in and an indictment on their efforts thus far. Yet, over the last three weeks, a rotating cast of players has provided just enough magic to allow the Whitecaps to come out victorious. Which is a far cry from where this team was last year.
Last season we saw a team that won and lost largely due to the performance of one man. As Pedro went, the Whitecaps went. And to start the 2015 campaign, it appears that perhaps Pedro has indeed went.
The Whitecaps started their 2015 season off with a bang. And ended their first game with a resounding thud. It was a tale of two halves, at least I think that’s how soccer games work, and on this day, the fans at BC Place saw two entirely different Whitecaps’ teams depending on which 45 you watched.
The first half looked like what we have had been told to expect this season from the blue and white – a fast-paced group, intent on spreading the ball around and utilizing their speed to overwhelm their opponents. The Whitecaps’ attack produced a number of quality chances, yet were only able to capitalize on one of them.
Coach Carl Robinson liked what he saw, but post-game he conceded that perhaps that type of phrenetic pace isn’t one that can be maintained over a full 90 minutes. That, coupled with a tactical change at the break by Toronto head coach Greg Vanney, turned the game upside down and what appeared to be a potent Whitecaps attack suddenly looked more like a woodpecker taking a steel pole to task. Not much progress and one helluva headache.
Toronto took control in the second half, watching the Whitecaps attempt the soccer-equivalent of the dump and chase time and time again. The TFC defenders took a few large steps backwards and simply watched the balls come, abandoning any semblance of chasing. Yet the Caps seemed content to fire away and perhaps oblivious to the fact that it simply wasn’t working.
Let’s take a look at the highlights, the lowlights, and the limelight in the Caps’ 3-1 loss on Saturday.
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.