The Whitecaps began their third MLS playoff campaign on Sunday afternoon six hours down the I-5 in rainy Portland, Oregon. Hopes were high among Vancouver supporters. The club had just scored multiple goals in a game for the first time in nearly two months, some of their injured players were rumoured to be available, and they’d got the matchup that looked the best, on paper, after the Timbers eliminated Sporting Kansas City in one of the most entertaining penalty kick contests you will ever see. Then the game started, and the offence was once again maddeningly anemic. Continue reading Whitecaps Play For Nil-Nil, Get Their Wish
If you’ve spent any amount of time around the Pacific Coliseum this season, you’ve heard someone or other mutter that Vancouver Giants GM Scott Bonner has some tough choices to make. With franchise poster boy Tyler Benson back from off-season surgery to remove a cyst from his low back, not to mention three viable WHL goaltenders crowding the crease, the Giants just had too many hands on deck. A good problem to have, you may say, but with just 10 points in the first 12 games, the G-Men needed a change.
Queue the Well-We’ve-Made-a-Bloody-Change music. Bonner has pulled the trigger on a five-player deal with the Calgary Hitmen., easing the strain on the bulging roster while bringing in two NHL draftees. Forwards Jackson Houck and Jakob Stukel head to Calgary, along with goaltender Cody Porter. Coming to Vancouver are defenseman Ben Thomas and right winger Chase Lang.
At 20 years of age, Houck is in his fifth WHL season, all of which have been spent in Vancouver. He has scored 91 goals and 108 assists for 199 points in 267 games, good for seventh spot on the franchise’s all-time scoring list. While Tyler Benson recovered from off-season surgery to remove a cyst from his low back, Houck wore the captain’s C. Houck was not offered a contract by the Edmonton Oilers, who drafted him 94th overall in 2013, and is now a free agent.
Left winger Jakob Stukel is probably looking forward to a change in scenery after scoring just 16 points in 49 games as a WHL rookie last season. Originally a blue-chip prospect, Stukel has struggled to find rhythm at the WHL level and isn’t listed on many scouts’ radar in this, his draft year. Cody Porter, for his part, likely welcomes a shift as well; he has made just two appearances in the Giants net this season after playing a full 40 games last year.
Coming to Vancouver are a pair of 19-year-old picks in the 2014 NHL Draft. Chosen 119th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ben Thomas offers some help to a Giants back end that has had difficulty closing out games in the third period so far this season. His challenge will be to fill the shoes vacated by Mason Geertsen, who anchored Vancouver defensively as well as quarterbacking the power play.
Chase Lang is a sixth-round pick of the Minnesota Wild (167th overall) who was just shy of a point a game with the high-flying Hitmen last season. Hopefully, he’ll appreciate being closer to his hometown of Nanaimo, and use that to put up some similar numbers at the Coliseum.
With Houck’s departure, the Giants are currently carrying only two overage (20-year-old) players; the WHL maximum is three, and it’s extremely unusual for teams to play a full season without taking advantage of those older bodies on the roster. Look for Scott Bonner to make at least one more deal in further efforts to shake up the lacklustre dressing room that has, frankly, lost too many games for too many seasons.
With the Top Prospects game mere weeks away, the full attention of the country’s best hockey minds will soon land on Vancouver; it’s in Bonner’s best interest to give Tyler Benson every opportunity to shine before then.
It was a disappointing day by many standards. The Vancouver Whitecaps, sitting atop the MLS standings, hosted the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ Seattle Sounders. A win would mean a third straight Cascadia Cup for the Caps, and put a dagger in Seattle’s attempt to revive a lacklustre season.
Instead, the boys in green and blue beat the Whitecaps at their own game: they sat back and let Vancouver come at them, and waited patiently for opportunities to come on the counterattack. At the end of the day, the Whitecaps are still the class of the Western Conference and sit tied for top spot in MLS — thank you, woeful Real Salt Lake for pummelling the LA Galaxy when we least expected it.
The season series between Seattle and Vancouver has seen home teams struggle. The Sounders won 2-0 here back in May, and the Caps put in one of their most complete games at Century Link with a 3-0 victory on August 1. The latter was a low point in the Sounders season, with coaches and players sniping at each other after the fact for poor preparation and effort levels, respectively.
Saturday offered a much more balanced game, but it was Seattle who took advantage of their chances. Octavio Rivero had several opportunities early in the first half, including a glorious clean shot at goal from ten metres, but put the ball high and wide every time. Every other shot toward Stefan Frei was pretty much a gift to the Swiss-born keeper. (I can think of perhaps two saves that required him to actually move.)
Then, seconds before the halftime whistle, Obafemi Martins dribbled away from four white jerseys and put a perfect aerial pass on the foot of striker Andreas Ivanschitz, who had snuck in behind rookie defender Jordan Smith. The German with rather predictable sophomoric nicknames slotted the ball neatly behind David Ousted to open the Sounders account on the evening.
The Caps pushed for the equalizer throughout the second half, but that opened them up to yet more fast breaks the other way. The Sounders waited for their chances, then buried them. Love him or hate him, Clint Dempsey is one hell of a player when he keeps his head about him. Yes, he spends an inordinate amount of time whining to referees — more on these antics below — but he also spent this entire game feathering one-touch balls and delicate passes to his mates, giving the Whitecaps midfield fits at times and directly resulting in two of the Sounders goals. He fed Gonzalo Pineda with a lovely pass at the lip of the box, and Pineda put a perfect shot off the post and in to double the lead in the 71st minute. Sixteen minutes later, Dempsey outhustled Cristian Techera — yes, you read that right, he outran the Bug — before sliding a gimme to Martins for the 3-nil scoreline.
For many, however, the biggest disappointment didn’t happen on the field of play at all. Longtime season ticket holder Christy Clark created quite a stir on our local corner of the interweb, as she tried to poke fun at the Flounders’ proclivity for lying on the BC Place turf nursing non-existent injuries. Sadly, her old-timey insistence upon using girly references to insult male athletes kinda backfired.
Did the Sounders spend a lot of time with their butts glued to the turf? Yeah, sure they did. Were fans rankled and riled about it? You bet your Southsiders scarf they were. Does that make it okay to throw sexist jabs around in a public forum, when you’re an elected official, and to boot a role model to women interested in entering politics? Absolutely fricking not.
The BC Premier is no stranger to social media firestorms. She has nearly 51,000 followers on Twitter, and she upsets a great number of them with even the blandest of posts. In this case, however, folks really ought to get their hackles up. Clark is a self-professed champion of the anti-bullying movement — she helped to spearhead BC’s involvement in Pink Shirt Day a few years ago, and continues to make public comments that pooh-pooh language, actions and systems that belittle or exclude portions of the populace.
— Christy Clark (@christyclarkbc) January 29, 2014
Members of the Southsiders, Rain City Brigade and Curva Collective supporters groups all actively dissuade neanderthal members of their groups who denigrate women. Even five years ago, chants of “SHE FELL OVER” were commonplace when an opposing player hit the pitch. These days, references to gender and/or sexual orientation just aren’t accepted any longer by BC Place supporter groups. (Note: Sadly, sexism is still rampant in the football world. The comments screamed at Chelsea medical staffer Eva Carneiro by opposing clubs have been atrocious. The Vancouver Canucks, and women’s rights groups for that matter, have put up with dolts calling Henrik and Daniel “the Sedin sisters” from day one. Hell, the NHL even made an ad that featured Hank & Dank showing up for a fan’s stag party as twin Swedish dancers
. Ice girls at men’s games are the embarrassing norm, when teams should be putting resources into setting up a serious women’s pro league. The sad fact is, loads of sports fans turn their noses up at the prospect of watching professional women’s sports — the Women’s World Cup drew fans, but YVR is still without a women’s Whitecaps team. At least in Vancouver, widespread homophobic or misogynistic jeers aren’t the norm. Clark’s tweet is harmless on the face of it, but flies in the face of very anti-bullying campaign she claims to honour.)
I’ve always liked basketball. Back in high school, I spent many an afternoon accruing my mandatory 30 hours (and then some) of volunteer experience running the scoreboard or the shot clock in the McRoberts Secondary gymnasium. Go Strikers. That volunteer work was, I like to think, one of the reasons that my best friend’s dad, when he hired his kid, hired me as well to work on the Vancouver Grizzlies’ stats crew.
I loved that club. I sat court-side for four wonderful, terrible seasons. I watched Stockton and Malone run their pick and roll to perfection right in front of me, I saw Michael Jordan play, and I passed Larry Bird in the hallway. I also exchanged pleasantries with Bryant Reeves, who for all his shortcomings as a basketball player is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.
I watched Sam Mack rain three-pointers, Blue Edwards hit clutch shots, and I nearly punched a hole in the wall when a terrible decision erased a Vancouver win against the Lakers in L.A. Regular readers of this blog will be unsurprised to know that I once owned the original teal blue Grizzlies road jersey, with who else but Shareef Abdur-Rahim on the back. To the best of my memory, that is the only jersey I have ever purchased that I have later consigned to a donation bin. The Grizzlies, now and forever, can fuck right off. Continue reading Canucks to Celebrate Grizzlies In Cheap Marketing Ploy
Hockey season is here, yo.
The Vancouver Giants are just two days away from their first pre-season game. Puck drops Saturday vs the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ scoundrels that are the Kamloops Blazers at 7pm at the Ladner Leisure Centre.
Here’s a bit of Throwback Thursday for you: Tyler Benson wheeling into the offensive zone during WHL action at the Pacific Coliseum. Benson is largely predicted to go in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft, assuming the mysterious, undisclosed injury that’s kept him out of contact drills and scrimmages through training camp is as minor as team officials are claiming.
After years of finding new and shocking ways to lose the Canadian Championship, the Vancouver Whitecaps played a statement game in the second leg of the 2015 final, and — finally — won the damned thing.
No penalty kicks, no extra time, no aggregate gaffes, no games halted for bad weather. Just solid play from first and second squad players alike.
Octavio Rivero opened the scoring midway through the first half when he got his foot on a ball that Cristian Techera had already rolled to the very goal line. It was his first goal from the run of play since Middle Earth was a relevant pop culture reference, and turned out to be the tournament-winning goal. It seems only fair; if Techera hadn’t back heeled that wonderful ball from Kekuta Manneh against FC Dallas just four days ago, it would have landed at Rivero’s feet in that exact same spot. Tit for tat, I always say.
— Jason Kurylo (@PuckedInTheHead) August 27, 2015
Tim Parker headed home a Pedro Morales corner in the second half to double the lead. Given the team’s collapse in Montreal a fortnight earlier — when a late 2-nil scoreline became a 2-2 draw in mere minutes — many of the 19,000-plus fans at BC Place were more nervous up by a brace than they had been when the lead was just one. However, between Parker and Kendall Waston, backed up by a committed David Ousted, two goals was more than enough to seal the deal this time round.
The fact is, the Whitecaps have now shrugged off just about every minor monkey that’s been riding their shoulders since joining MLS. First it was earning points against stronger teams — the LA Galaxy, Sporting KC, DC United. Then it was getting some individual hardware, like a Golden Boot and a Newcomer of the Year award. Then it was winning against those powerhouses on the road. They’ve won back-to-back Cascadia Cups, and are a win away from making it a threepeat. With the Canadian Championship in their pocket, this year’s somewhat backwards entry into the CONCACAF Champions League no longer needs an asterisk.
Each of these accomplishments are huge steps for a franchise to take. None of them should be sneezed at, nor belittled. Every single one of these players deserves to cherish that medal, and kiss that Canadian Championship trophy as long as they care to pucker.
But now that these smaller firsts have been taken care of, the Whitecaps can set their sights on bigger fish.
These Whitecaps aren’t just the best in Canada this season. They’re among the best in the league. A Supporters’ Shield is no pipe dream — it’s a distinct possibility. With eight games remaining, the Caps have the number one points-per-game ratio in MLS. Playoff success isn’t just a pipe dream; it’s expected.
David Ousted should win Goalkeeper of the Year, if the June Player of the Month award and four Save of the Week honours mean anything. Kendall Waston ought to be in the conversation for Defender of the Year, if for no other reason than because he’s too big to ignore. And if Carl Robinson isn’t nominated for Coach of the Year, there’s something downright fishy going on.
Dare we say it, even the MLS Cup is a distinct possibility. Okay, that’s perhaps reaching, and the LA Galaxy will make life in the playoffs more difficult than a Silviu Petrescu disciplinary hearing. But hey, the Caps have beaten the Galaxy outright twice this season, once here and once in LA. Handily.
The rest of the season is going to be verrrrrry interesting. Pick your dance partners, folks, because this party is just getting started.
*Heavy, world-weary sigh.*
Well, here we go again. The clock has ticked over to August 26th, and the Vancouver Whitecaps will play the Montreal Impact tonight at BC Place in the final match of the Canadian Championship. The forums, message boards and social media outlets have all filled up with the prognostications of the supporters. Most are dire, a Pavlovian response to the words “Voyageurs Cup Final” borne of 13 years of failure. Yet there is a feeling of hope, too. A dangerous feeling, that. The hope exists because — for at least the fifth consecutive year — the Whitecaps have their best-ever chance to finally capture this trophy. Continue reading Voyageurs Cup 2015 – Final Leg Preview
The Whitecaps’ goal parade continued on Saturday as they poured in four against Western Conference foes Real Salt Lake. The four-spot gives them ten goals for over their last three games while only surrendering a single goal against in the same time frame.
It was another victory in a game that would have likely offered up a serving of humble pie in years past – Caps fans have become accustomed to never taking “guaranteed win night” for granted much like Dennis Skulsky and the BC Lions – bringing about the notion (for me anyways) that this team is exceeding expectations.
For certain this team has suffered some authentic disappointment season (see June 3, May 23), but on the whole, the squad has taken steps towards becoming the “professional team” all franchises aspire to be. That is, winning games you should and managing to earn results in many that you shouldn’t.
But is this what we had envisioned for the 2015 Whitecaps coming into the MLS season? Let us spew a few words about that.
Tonight, the Vancouver Whitecaps kick off their first continental campaign when the Seattle Sounders come – somewhat reluctantly, as we’ll see later – to town for the first of four CONCACAF Champions League group stage matches.
The Whitecaps got something of a mixed bag in their first CCL draw. On the one hand, they avoided a Mexican club. On the other, they drew a very strong MLS side in Seattle and a 2015 quarterfinalist in Honduras’ CD Olimpia. This presents Carl Robinson with an interesting dilemma. Does he count his lucky stars that the likes of Club America and Cruz Azul were drawn into other groups, and go for the win, testing his squad depth and potentially risking results in the Voyageurs Cup and the league, or does he trust a young squad to try and nick a result? Province reporter Marc Weber provided this quote, which seems to indicate the latter: “It will be the best lineup I think can go out and win this game, with an eye on Saturday, with an eye on next Wednesday.”
With that in mind, a few predictions, all of them sure to be wrong because what the hell do I know?
This was a dominant performance. The Vancouver Whitecaps took vengeance down the I-5 and spanked the Seattle Sounders 3-0 this weekend, and in doing so moved back atop the Western Conference standings.
Pa Modou Kah, he of a single goal during his respectably long MLS career, put a brace into the back of the Seattle net, and stirred up considerable ire among Flounders fans, players and scribes with his post-game giggles on the Century Link pitch. Kah earned a spot on the MLS Team of the Week for his efforts. Not bad for an ageing defender more famous for big gaffes than big goals.
It was a text book, solid performance by the visitors. David Ousted got the clean sheet by wasn’t really tested, if we’re being honest. Kendall Waston earned his obligatory yellow card for little more than being a large man. Pedro Morales scored a beauty of an insurance goal on a free kick from distance.
Over 53,000 fans took in the spectacle. It marks seven losses in eight games for a Seattle team that has all the parts to do damage. This Sounders squad doesn’t know what to do with itself right now. Defence? Atrocious. Passing? Loose and irresponsible.
Vancouver is happy to take advantage — these three points mean another Cascadia Cup is just a draw away. Before that, look for heated challenges and not-so-gentle tackles to rule the day when these two teams square off on Wednesday at BC Place in Champions League play. And don’t be surprised if Kah is even more trash-talky than usual after this two-goal performance.
Highlights, even if the preceding ad’s depiction of a Vancouver fan practising in deep snow is particularly galling. Have any of the MLS staffers even been north of 49 before? This is a league where 15% of franchises exist in Canada, but they only play the Star-Spangled Banner before the All-Star Game. Vancouver has snow on the ground occasionally — about as often as MLS brass makes sense, but we would never suggest logic as being one of their defining traits.