Tag Archives: Vancouver

Darren Mattocks celebrates setting an MLS record for missing the net from less than six yards out. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The Summertime Slide

The Whitecaps AD (After DeMerit) found themselves in familiar territory prior to their game versus FC Dallas. Some strong performances in the first half of the season had led to all sorts of good feels and warm and fuzzy insides for the team and its supporters.

But as the temperature rises outside, it seems as though this club cools down and the results have been calamitous.

Darren Mattocks managed to score versus Dallas FC but couldn't finish on numerous quality opportunities. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Darren Mattocks managed to score versus Dallas FC but couldn’t finish on numerous quality opportunities. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

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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.

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.

Ups & Downs & Smiles & Frowns

A 1-0 result over the Seattle Sounders this weekend was just what the good doctor ordered for the Whitecaps. Perhaps more importantly, the game had moments that were actually entertaining. It remains to be seen if this was simply a byproduct of the Cascadia rivalry or an authentic outcome.

Nigel Reo-Coker battles for the ball versus the Seattle Sounders.
Nigel Reo-Coker battles for the ball versus the Seattle Sounders. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked In The Head.

It has been a bit of struggle for the Whitecaps since returning from their World Cup break. An uninspired effort versus a sub-par Montreal Impact squad, followed by a horrific performance at Colorado, raised some concern surrounding the club’s ability to develop and maintain an attack.

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Ah, a nooner at the Nat. What better way to celebrate summer? Photo cribbed from the interweb.

Bring on the boys of summer

Update: Thursday night’s Vancouver Canadians contest vs the Spokane Indians was suspended in the top of the 2nd inning due to rain; the teams hit Nat Bailey for a Friday afternoon double header to make up the game.

It’s a good time to be a baseball fan in Vancouver. If you’re all about Canadian content, look east — the Toronto Blue Jays are doing what they should have done last year. They’re ten games over .500, and sit 3.5 games up on the hated New York Yankees in the American League East. Want something closer to home? Just down the road in Seattle, the Mariners are riding Felix Hernandez’s pitching and Robinson Cano’s superstar play to a damned fine seasons themselves.

Ah, a nooner at the Nat. What better way to celebrate summer? Photo cribbed from the interweb.
Ah, a nooner at the Nat. What better way to celebrate summer? Photo cribbed from the interweb.

But who says you can’t have CanCon and a short drive to the ball park? Nat Bailey Stadium opens business on the Vancouver Canadians 2014 summer season this week, as the three-time defending Single A champion hosts the Spokane Indians. Opening night (Wednesday) is sold out, but $12.50 grandstand seats remain for both Thursday evening and the Friday nooner in this series.

Want box seats? You’ll have to wait another week, when the Tri-City Dust Devils come to town for three games, quickly followed by a five-game set against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. Of special note is the July 2 appearance by Steve Garvey, who despite not making Cooperstown, has a gaudy list of Golden Gloves, Silver Slugger awards, National League and All-Star MVP nods, and impressive statistical achievements.

The Canadians started the season impressively, outscoring Salem-Keizer 20–4 in three straight road wins. The Volcanoes found their bats in the next two games, however, edging Vancouver 10–9 in 12 innings before taking the last game of the series 4–3. In the first loss, it was the bullpen that let the C’s down, but fielding errors were to blame for dropping the second.

Follow the Vancouver Canadians on Twitter here.

blackjersey14And if any of you have a few bucks to spare, feel free to get me one of these new Mounty the Mountie jerseys. They’re purty.

I’ll squeeze into a medium, or lounge in a large. Your choice.

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Officially Embarrassing

Whitecaps Wednesday

The Whitecaps put together one heck of a performance over the weekend. They were the better team over the course of the game and even dominated for long stretches. It was a wonderful display over the league leading Seattle Sounders in a rivalrous Cascadia Cup fixture.

It’s a shame that referee Ismail Elfath’s performance overshadowed all of this.

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Whitecaps’ anthem singer Marie Hui looked stunning in a scarfed colour spectrum pregame. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked In The Head.

The unfortunate truth is the type of officiating he displayed provides the feed and the fodder for fans to question the integrity of MLS officials. And it’s disappointing that this even warrants discussion.

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Kristjan Aug leads Southsiders in chant, cheer and song during a 2-2 draw between the Whitecaps and LA Galaxy. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Whitecaps, Morales Celebrace Good Times

Whitecaps WednesdayThe Whitecaps came away with a valuable trifecta of points this weekend but it was far from a perfect performance. After a remarkable first half, Carl Robinson’s squad continued searching for that elusive 90-minute effort.

There was plenty of pomp and circumstance pregame as the Caps were celebrating their 40th anniversary. Members of the original Whitecaps team from 1974 were introduced to a sellout crowd, who cheered while adorned in their finest 70’s attire.

Kristjan Aug leads Southsiders in chant, cheer and song during a 2-2 draw between the Whitecaps and LA Galaxy. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Kristjan Aug, seen not wearing his 70′s attire as this photo was taken weeks ago, was likely cheering on Saturday nonetheless.. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Steve Nash was also in attendance and helped welcome Bob Lenarduzzi to the Whitecaps Ring of Honour. The blue and white kept the good times rolling with an electric first half that saw them jump out to a 3-0 lead.

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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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Darren Mattocks celebrates his first goal of the season. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Whitecaps Wednesday – Just A Moment(s)

Whitecaps WednesdayA while ago, Lexus came out with an ad campaign focusing on “moments.” It’s actually rather well done as far as car commercials go. I’m sure you remember it…images of smiling faces, forlorn looks and miraculous events flash by while some guy reads a sweetly written poem about how we all experience these moments.

The Whitecaps happened to experience a few of those this past week versus the Colorado Rapids. High moments, low moments, hopeful moments and desperate moments all made appearances as the Caps saw their unbeaten streak to start the 2014 MLS season come to an end.

Miller: "You know, you got away with one there." Irwin: "Yeah, yeah." Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Kenny Miller and Clint Irwin take a moment to discuss dubious officiating. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

In the interest of delivering the good news first, let’s start with the high moments.

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Gershon Koffie dribbling against a Colorado Rapids defender. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Photo Gallery: Whitecaps 1, Colorado Rapids 2

The Vancouver Whitecaps looked to continue their string of unbeaten play in the 2014 season, up 1-0 in the 77th minute and coming hard at the injury-depleted back line of the Colorado Rapids. Then Matías Laba, pushed roughly to the turf by Rapids midfielder Nick LaBrocca, corralled the ball with his right hand as he appealed to the referee for a foul. Unfortunately for the Caps, the man in yellow whistled at Laba, not LaBrocca, and the intentional handball garnered the Whitecaps midfielder an automatic yellow card. Double alas, it was Laba’s second yellow of the match, meaning that card had to be traded in for a red card.

Miller: "You know, you got away with one there." Irwin: "Yeah, yeah." Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Miller: “You know, you got away with one there.” Irwin: “Yeah, yeah.” Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Within three minutes of Laba’s ejection, the Rapids had not only erased the Whitecaps goal advantage, but scored a second time to take a 2-1 lead themselves.

“If you miss the first call, you don’t penalise the second player with a yellow,” said Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson after the loss, lamenting the official’s role in deciding the outcome. “Unfortunately the 20,000 fans leaving here today won’t be talking about the football that was played here today — and it was a good, tough game played between two very good teams.”

While it’s true LaBrocca could easily have been called for his takedown of Laba, it’s a fact that the Whitecaps haven’t capitalized on long stretches of 11-on-10 play — most notably against Chivas USA in their second game of the year. That Vancouver so quickly capsized after going down a man to Colorado doesn’t speak well to their ability to adapt to unpredictable situations.

Kenny Miller is probably right when he says it should have been 2-0 by the time Laba got his red card anyway. Pedro Morales missed a glorious opportunity just minutes after Mattocks had made it 1-0 in the 65th minute; his shot glanced off Colorado keeper Clint Irwin’s right leg and trickled wide of the far post. Long before that, in the first half, Miller himself was tripped up by Irwin in the box. The referee waved off appeals for a penalty kick, despite clear replays showing the keeper interfering with Miller as he ran for the ball. Let’s not even get into the half-dozen quality scoring chances lost to a poor final touch on this day. Russell Teibert alone wasted four free kicks in dangerous territory and at least two corners by alternately skying the ball well over every attacking Whitecaps player and toeing short passes directly into the shins of Rapids defenders.

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Highlights:
Carl Robinson post-match press conference:

Kenny Miller post-match media scrum:

WHL playoffs

Vancouver has a Giant hill to climb

After finishing dead last with a dismal 44 points just a year ago, the Vancouver Giants made massive strides, improved by 31 points and nabbed the seventh seed in the WHL Western Conference. The season featured a brutal 1-9 start, a remarkable run through the middle of the schedule that saw the G-Men threaten the top four for home ice advantage in the first round, and a home stretch full of injuries and inconsistent play.

Such is the way of the world in junior hockey during a rebuilding phase.

So what does a seventh place finish get you? A dance card full of scoring leaders, defensive stalwarts and Team Canada representatives, that’s what. The Portland Winterhawks are the defending WHL champions, and despite losing stud blueliner Seth Jones to the Nashville Predators, they’re an absolute juggernaut when they’re firing on all cylinders.

WHL playoffs

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