Tag Archives: Whitecaps

Loads of blues, but not much white

The Vancouver Whitecaps had an opportunity to solidify their playoff hopes on Saturday, but chose to soil the sheets instead. A middling first half was followed by a disastrous second; the forward corps showed little imagination, the back line stumbled and fell apart, and keeper David Ousted failed to make big saves for the team to rally around.

Coach Carl Robinson keeps talking about the youth of this Whitecaps team. “We’re a young team,” he’s fond of saying. When young teams win, as Vancouver did 4-3 against this same Portland in June, it’s a wonder to behold. When young teams lose, however, it’s also a spectacle.

Darlington Nagbe shamed Matías Laba before knifing a lovely pass to Rodney Wallace, who embarrassed David Ousted. It was a perfect encapsulation of the second half. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Darlington Nagbe shamed Matías Laba before knifing a lovely pass to Rodney Wallace, who embarrassed David Ousted. It was a perfect encapsulation of the second half. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The Whitecaps generated a total of four legitimate chances in a game against one of the worst defensive teams in the Western Conference this season. Pedro Morales and Kendall Waston put headers over the bar early in the game, and Mauro Rosales sailed a right-footed strike two yards wide from ten yards out. Only Darren Mattocks forced Timbers keeper Donovan Ricketts to make a save of note, in a game that would have put Vancouver four points clear in the playoff race with nine games remaining.

Putting up bagels is getting to be a bit of a habit — they’ve been kept off the score sheet three games running and four games out of five; the Caps have just eight goals for in their last twelve games— but this is the first time in recent memory such a drought has been accompanied by the defensive lapses of a high school rep squad playing two leagues above their age group.

New Whitecap Mauro Rosales was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing 3-0 loss to the Portland Timbers. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
New Whitecap Mauro Rosales was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing 3-0 loss to the Portland Timbers. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

After a spiritless 0-0 draw against the hapless Chivas USA squad, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC have now been outscored by a combined five goals to nil in back-to-back losses against the LA Galaxy and Portland Timbers.

The loss against the Galaxy was disheartening but expected — Vancouver has never had much success at StubHub. Saturday’s second half collapse against a team below them in the standings, however, was unforgivable.

The first Portland goal, a deft whisper of a header by Alvas Powell five minutes into the second half, was made possible by a trio of defensive mixups; Waston made a weak challenge on Fenendo Adi, who calmly moved the ball wide to Diego Valeri. Unchecked, Valeri had a simple task to cross the ball in at chest height. Powell, unmarked as well — see a pattern here? — kissed the ball past a startled Ousted.

Fanendo Adi kept Matías Laba and Jordan Harvey in fits most of the night. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Fanendo Adi kept Matías Laba and Jordan Harvey in fits most of the night. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The Timbers scored again in the 75th minute when Waston tripped over his own feet in the 18-yard box. (The newcomer hit the deck on a number of occasions in his first start as a Whitecap, calling to question his experience on artificial turf.) He blocked Andy O’Brien from moving forward, allowing Maximilliano Urruti to unload a rocket crossbar down from 15 yards out.

Just four minutes later, Darlington Nagbe shamed Matías Laba before knifing a lovely pass into the area; Rodney Wallace one-timed a left-footed shot under Ousted. The third goal made this the worst home loss since a 4-0 drubbing against the league champion LA Galaxy in 2011.

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David Ousted had a lot of soul searching to do after allowing three against the Portland Timbers. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The Caps keeper might not be at fault for any of the three goals he allowed this night — nay, the defense in front of him was sloppy at best — but David Ousted has rarely come up with the big saves necessary to bind a fragile team together this season. If he gets a finger on Urruti’s high flyer, the Caps sit at 1-0 and still have 15 minutes to gain an equalizing goal. If he goes full starfish to get a shinpad on Wallace’s strike, the team is saved the disgrace of an embarrassing result, and merely suffers a loss.

To paraphrase Coach Robbo, it matters not if you lose 1-0 or 3-0; Ousted can’t be blamed if his team can’t score. If they do start to hit the back of the net once in a while, however, at some point the keeper is going to have to stop the ball.

Whitecaps Wednesday

California Drought

After back-to-back, less-than-stellar outings in the City of Angels, questions abound regarding the Vancouver Whitecaps’ futility in the great state of California. Too much Disneyland? Too much Rodeo Drive shopping? Whatever it may be, Cap struggles in the golden state have become familiar, and farcically legendary.

Landon Donovan's LA Galaxy team has caused fits for the Whitecaps at the StubHub Center. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Landon Donovan’s LA Galaxy team has caused fits for the Whitecaps at the StubHub Center.  Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

With the loss this past weekend, they’ve now compiled a 0-7-0 (W-L-T) record versus the Galaxy in LA since joining MLS in 2011. That’s not entirely surprising considering the various assemblies of talent that the Galaxy has been able to trot out year after year, but to be unable to muster a single point in seven games may be considered, ehrm, disheartening.

Unfortunately for the boys from Vancouver, the point drought in California extends beyond the Galaxy.

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Matías Laba blocks a clearing attempt during a 2-2 draw between the Whitecaps and LA Galaxy. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Whitecaps Look Lost In Space Against Galaxy

If there remained any doubt about who the Vancouver Whitecaps’ most valuable player is in 2014, tonight’s match removed it. The Caps returned to the Stubhub Center on Saturday evening without standout defensive midfielder Matias Laba, who served his one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation. The difference was stunning.

Matías Laba was forced to wear his training gear, as he served a one-game suspension for accumulation of yellow cards. Sadly, the Caps didn't seem to get out of practice mode themselves, dropping a 2-0 decision to the far superior LA Galaxy. Photo courtesy of Christopher Vose at the Vancouver Herald.
Matías Laba was forced to wear his training gear as he served a one-game suspension for accumulation of yellow cards. Sadly, the Caps didn’t seem to get out of practice mode themselves, dropping a 2-0 decision to the far superior LA Galaxy. Photo of early season training at UBC courtesy of Christopher Vose at the Vancouver Herald.

Without Laba, and with Gershon Koffie still nursing an ankle injury, the Whitecaps resorted to a defensive midfield pairing of Russell Teibert and Mehdi Ballouchy. The result was an underwhelming, listless performance in a 2-0 defeat to the LA Galaxy. It was arguably Vancouver’s worst performance of the 2014 campaign.

Laba’s absence seemed to affect the Whitecaps in a way no other player’s absence has so far this year. They missed his timely interventions, and the way he so casually turns the ball up field without immediately conceding possession.

Without him, Los Angeles roamed through Vancouver’s half with impunity, the Caps utterly unable to dispossess them. Even when the ball miraculously ended up on the foot of a player in blue, the clearances were uninspring. Ballouchy and Teibert often resorted to farting the ball in the general direction of Darren Mattocks, hoping he would be able to win an aerial duel. I am unable to recall him doing so.

The highlight of the game was getting a look at both of the club’s latest acquisitions, with Kendall Waston and Mauro Rosales both making second-half appearances. Though neither was able to make a difference on the scoreboard, both showed glimpses of why Carl Robinson brought them in. Waston set up Vancouver’s best scoring chance of the night, with a nice little touch to Mattocks, while Rosales had some promising possession on the right.

The lowlight was a ridiculously bad tackle from behind late in the game by Johnny Leveron that drew a straight red. Though it certainly didn’t affect the outcome of the game, Vancouver having rolled over long since, the mistake could be exceptionally costly for Leveron, as it opens the door for Waston to start in his natural centre back position next week. It would not surprise in the least if the big Costa Rican took the spot and did not relinquish it.

Up next for the Whitecaps is a potentially Cascadia Cup-clinching derby at home against the Portland Timbers. Fans should keep their fingers crossed that the return of the young Argentine turns around the dreadful form the team was on tonight.

Nigel Reo-Coker played his best game a year ago in a 2-nil win over the San Jose Earthquakes. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Reo-Coker makes way for Rosales

Nigel Reo-Coker is a Whitecap no longer. After an odd injury or two, some uneven play and a whole lot of being stapled to the bench, NRC has been traded to Chivas USA for renowned playmaker Mauro Rosales.

Nigel Reo-Coker played his best game a year ago in a 2-nil win over the San Jose Earthquakes. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Nigel Reo-Coker played his best game a year ago in a 2-nil win over the San Jose Earthquakes. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

A year ago, Reo-Coker was playing his best soccer in a Whitecaps kit, barrelling over defenders, yellow cards bedamned. When he had the ball, he was  saucering up tasty passes at the lip of the 18-yard box for Darren Mattocks, Gershon Koffie and the Golden Boot-wearing traitor-to-be Camilo. When he didn’t have the ball, he was directing traffic in the midfield, at times seemingly for both teams. Continue reading

Whitecaps FC keeper David Ousted looks to move the ball upfield during a 4–1 win over the New York Red Bulls in the 2014 season opener. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Ousted Oh So Steady

Keeper David Ousted played his most confident match as a Vancouver Whitecaps during a 2-0 victory over Sporting KC, the top club in the MLS Eastern Conference. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Keeper David Ousted is playing his best football as a Vancouver Whitecap. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

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.

David Ousted arrived in Vancouver poised to take over starting duties in July, 2013 Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
David Ousted arrived in Vancouver poised to take over starting duties in July, 2013. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

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.

It wasn’t meant to be.

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He didn't score, but Erik Hurtado gave defender Seth Sinovic fits all game during a 2-0 Vancouver Whitecaps victory over Sporting KC, the top club in the MLS Eastern Conference. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Photo Gallery: Whitecaps vs Sporting KC

The Vancouver Whitecaps posted an impressive 2-0 victory over the best team in the Eastern Conference last weekend. No matter what the official stat lines say, the Whitecaps dominated both sides of the ball and severely limited the visitors to a handful of threatening moments in nearly 97 minutes of action. It marks the first time Vancouver has defeated Sporting KC in MLS play — the Caps have now beaten every team in this man’s league. (Bring on those expansion teams next season, I say! NYCFC and Orlando City FC, beware: this young team is out for blood.)

Here’s our Pucked in the Head photo gallery for your viewing pleasure:

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Pedro Morales was once again the lynchpin of the Whitecaps attack. He controlled the field when the Caps had the ball, and numerous times forced KC to give up possession when they didn’t. His long ball forward turned a Sporting miscommunication into an own goal in the 17th minute, as defender Igor Juliao headed the cross over Gruenebaum’s outstretched arms. Just over 20 minutes later, Morales gifted Darren Mattocks a one-timer for the Jamaican’s sixth goal this year.  Remarkably, with nine assists so far this season, Morales now shares the franchise record for MLS assists in a single season.

The Whitecaps were unlucky not to lead by three or four in the first half; there were two separate non-calls by referee David Gantar that could have sent Pedro to the penalty spot — whether it was travel,  some sort of turf-related disorientation, or just plain speed on the the part of the home side, Sporting KC looked discombobulated for most of the match, and played a chippy, pull-that-jersey-at-all-costs kind of game.

It wasn’t until the 84th minute, however (and seemingly the gazillionth clear foul by a visitor), that Gantar pointed for a PK. By then, however, Morales had sat down in favour of Canadian Russell Teibert, and Mattocks stroked a lazy, stoppable shot at replacement keeper Jon Kempin instead of slamming home his seventh goal.

But let’s give young Mattocks a break, shall we? He may be overly proud, but he has scored in four of the last five games, and tends to pick himself up after tackles faster than in past years. And rather than sulk after an early missed chance in the first half, he kept up the pace and scored that counterattack beauty to make it 2-0 instead.

Want highlights? You got ‘em.

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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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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