The Vancouver Whitecaps 2015 season was a great story that never quite materialized. If it wasn’t for them goals that never came, they coulda been contenders. Instead of a bunch of bums, which is what they were, let’s face it.
That’s harsh. I know that’s harsh, but I always liked that Brando line, and it was painful to watch a club who was odds-on for the Supporters’ Shield in September sink out of the race and get bounced without so much as a whimper in their first home MLS playoff game. By the hated Portland Timbers, no less. A stellar defence undone by a lack of any consistent offence, and a plague of injuries. Oh, what could have been. Anyways, they’ve fixed all that now, and they’re totally going to win all the trophies this season. End of preview. Continue reading Whitecaps 2016 Season Preview→
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→
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→
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→
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?
Because we all need, from time to time, to feel like hey, at least we aren’t that guy, Pucked in the Head is pleased to bring you some news from the Oceania region.
The Federated States of Micronesia recently decided, for the first time in their history, to try and qualify for the Olympics in the sport of men’s football. For those unfamiliar with the tiny island nation, it’s, well, tiny. My garden shed is bigger than this country, as the Voyageurs’ chant goes, and I live in an apartment. The country has a total land area smaller than Metro Vancouver and a population base in the neighbourhood of Maple Ridge. The players had in most cases never left their own island prior to the tournament, and in some cases had never played 11-a-side football before. You might expect this qualification attempt to go poorly. You might be correct.
Micronesia, not a member of FIFA, was put into a group with Tahiti (182nd), Fiji (195th) and Vanuatu (200th) at the Pacific Games, an Olympic qualifying tournament. They lost to those teams 0-30, 0-38 and 0-46 respectively. That’s what happens when you use goal differential as a tie breaker. Here are some highlights, if you can bear to watch.
In an age of hyper marketing, intense competition and tightly controlled PR, it’s amazing that truly horrible ideas can still make it past the brainstorming stage. Whether it’s the nightmare of design by committee or just a conflagration of mediocre talents pulling the wool over the eyes of out of touch rich CEOs, we occasionally see awful designs rolled out in an underwhelming explosion of anticlimax. Today, we analyze the most recent Scottish obscenity with the resurrection of Somebody Approved This.
To our regular readers of Somebody Approved This: first, an apology. Not only has it been several months since the last iteration of this column, our return today takes a radical departure from previous posts and does not deal with a jersey. We would like both of you to rest assured that this is a temporary departure, and normal jersey ridicule will resume whenever I get off my lazy ass and pen another entry. This week, in a move one imagines is designed to reduce the incidence of lost children at football matches by ensuring they spend the afternoon clinging to their parents’ legs in terror, Scottish Premiership club Partick Thistle FC unveiled their new dark prince mascot, Kingsley.
The Globe and Mail’s Cathal Kelly has been making a lot of friends lately.
The sports columnist for the national rag has raised the hackles of more than a few with his coverage of the Women’s World Cup. He began on June 4th, with a mildly amusing and utterly harmless hit piece on the city of Edmonton in which he suggested that Toronto would have been a more appropriate host with the eyes of the world watching the opening ceremonies. He was half right. Edmonton wasn’t the best choice. Yesterday, Kelly continued to aggravate women’s soccer fans when he panned the entire tournament to date as boring and dreary. Once again, he wasn’t wrong.
We at Pucked in the Head don’t hang our heads in shame and tears just because the Vancouver Canucks had their behinds handed to them by the low-down, dirty, rotten, head-shottin’, potshottin’, ball-droppin’ Flames. Nay, we hold our heads high and own our team’s decades-long failure to bring a Cup to the west coast. At least we’re not the bloody Leafs, right?
And so, we put our heads together and prognosticate the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for your scoffing pleasure.
New York Rangers vs Washington Capitals
Jason: Kudos to the Capitals for skirting past the New York Islanders, but even with Alex Ovechkin honouring defensive assignments they won’t have enough to get past the Vigneault-led Blueshirts. Lundqvist outsaves Braden Holtby in a series whose brevity belies hard-fought games. Rangers in five.
Chris: If there’s anything to indicate that Washington can take New York in a best-of-seven, I haven’t seen it. The Rangers steamrolled Pittsburgh and then took the weekend off while the Islanders gave the Caps all they could handle. (That’s right: Eleven shots on goal is about all the Capitals could handle.) Ovechkin may be the best player in this series, but New York is deeper, and Alain Vigneault shouldn’t even need a full pack of lozenges to out-coach Barry Trotz. Rangers in five.
Montreal Canadiens vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Chris: Should be a barn-burner. The Lightning netted a whopping 41 more goals than the Habs during the regular season, but Montreal’s defence was much stronger. On recent form, my money goes to Tampa. They dispatched Detroit without a single goal from Steven Stamkos, and you can only hold that man off the score sheet for so long. Meanwhile, the Canadiens were lucky to get past Ottawa in a game six where a referee’s untimely whistle cost the Sens a tying goal in a contest they dominated. Lightning in seven.
Jason: Kudos to the Bolts for getting past the ageing wreck of a Red Wings team that barely made the post-season. I mean, the Wings have only been mired in a Mike Babcock will-he-or-won’t-he story all year long, and got to Game Seven on the strength of a handful of nobodies ruddering a ship full of greybeards. The Habs, on the other hand, have been the class of the East for a couple of seasons, boast perennial candidates for the Norris and Vezina trophies, and ride the winds of the most powerfully emotional fan support in North American sport. Individually, what’s not to love about seeing PK Subban flatten Steven Stamkos? These guys have been playing hockey against each other for twenty years already, and damned if it ain’t more fun every year. Canadiens in six.
Anaheim Ducks vs Calgary Flames
Jason: Do we really have to talk about this? Where the Canucks and Flames both exceeded expectations by just making the dance in the first place, the Ducks have been promising a deep run for years. Getzlaf, Kesler, Perry, Beauchemin, Fowler… This roster is deeper than any of the wrinkles walking into Botox clinics around the Honda Center. The Flames are hard-working, sure, but they’re just a bunch of Grade Eight boys hanging about in the corner, ogling the good looking seniors across the gymnasium floor. Ducks in two and a half.
Chris: Seeing the Flames in the second round is enough to make me want to vomit like I’d just eaten undercooked fowl. Undercooked, by the way, is exactly what I expect these particular fowl to be at the end of the Pacific Division Final. The Flames are a terrible possession team, and their luck won’t get them close enough to roast the Ducks. The Saddledome crowd helps Hiller steal one from his old team, but Ducks in five.
Chicago Blackhawks vs Minnesota Wild
Chris: Devan Dubnyk has been outstanding, but I’m not convinced he can hold off the Hawks’ firepower. Both teams have high-end defencemen that can do a number on the opposition’s top line, but the Wild lack the offensive depth that Chicago has in spades. One ray of hope for Minnesota: Corey Crawford is in net, and Chicago conceded 21 goals to a similarly dubious offensive team in Nashville. The goaltending disparity will keep the series interesting, but Chicago outscores its problems. Hawks in six.
Jason: The Chicago Blackhawks have somehow flown under most people’s radars this season. Jeez Louise, people, this team is full of all-Stars, Olympians and beauties who fuckin’ work their nuts off, and has won two of the past five Stanley Cups. As for the Wild, Thomas Vanek has been promising to do something important in the playoffs for years, but hasn’t helped a team win anything since the 2003 Golden Gophers took the NCAA championship. Maybe it’s unfair to saddle the guy with his teams’ lack of success, but damnation, does this guy ever know how to pull a disappearing act in the post-season. Ryan Suter can’t do everything, man. Hawks in five.