Brek Shea returned to Orlando in the blue and white of Vancouver Whitecaps FC, and yet the home supporters cheered for him. He scored a goal, the game's winner no less, and yet the home supporters cheered for him. There was nothing but love for the man affectionately known in these parts as 'the Avatar', with 'you'd better take good care of him' being the most common refrain.
Having sealed all three points for the visitors, he and his wife Carling might do well to take a Na'vi River Journey before riding a Banshee in the Flight of the Passage in Pandora: the World of Avatar in the Walt Disney World Resort. He has a title to defend, and more than that, he and his teammates earned the time off.
"Matí is an important member of the club and we wish him a speedy recovery," said Vancouver Whitecaps FC manager Carl Robinson. "Our priority now is to support Matí and help him get back on the field as soon as possible. It's a big loss for us, but we have confidence in our group as we enter the final third of the season."
The native of Villa Raffo, Argentina, will have surgery to repair his ACL in the coming weeks, and will miss the remainder of the season. The club fully expects him to make a complete recovery come the spring. But his season is over.
And with it, perhaps the Whitecaps' season as well. Matías Laba has long been one of the most unheralded players in the Major League. They say that a holding midfielder is at his best when you don't even realise he's on the field.
Teal Bunbury, Canadian Football's prodigal son, continued his blistering pace by scoring a fourth goal in five matches as the New England Revolution beat Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 on Saturday night.
Bunbury finished off a nice passing sequence in the 53rd minute. Kelyn Rowe started it off by intercepting a goal kick by Vancouver's Stefan Marinovic. He sent it to Kei Kamara, who famously thought he was on his way to Vancouver before ending up in the Bay State. The ball was quickly returned to Rowe, who was on the right side, before being fed to a charging Bunbury, who found the back of the next from just outside the six year box.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced on Thursday that the club has signed central midfielder Aly Ghazal by use of Targeted Allocation Money.
Ghazal, 25, has agreed to a Major League contract through 2018, with a "club option" for 2019. He will occupy an international roster spot and officially join the club's squad pending receipt of his work permit, visa, and medical examinations.
"Aly is a top midfield player who is comfortable on the ball and strong defensively," said Vancouver Whitecaps FC manager Carl Robinson. "He fits into the way we want to play, has a lot of experience at a great age, and brings leadership qualities. We are looking forward to welcoming Aly to our club and city."
Sebastian Blanco scored shortly after the break, as the Portland Timbers went top of the Cascadia Cup table, and incidentally managed to halt their winless streak at a measly six matches with their 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday afternoon.
Jeremy Ebobisse set up Blanco's winner, and opened the scoring in the fourteenth minute, while Vancouver's Andrew Jacobson levelled the match for all of four minutes.
Between Portland's injuries, suspensions, and the players still in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the match should have been Vancouver's for the taking, but things don't always turn out as expected.
The 'Caps successfully grabbed the bull by its horns, and will now look forward to catching the tiger by its tail later this month.
Goals from Alphonso Davies and Fredy Montero were enough to see off the New Yorkers, after 10-man Vancouver had earlier secured one goal draw in the first leg.
After Brek Shea, who had only been bought from Orlando on Monday, had some nice interplay with Jordan Harvey, Marcel de Jong whipped the ball into the six-yard box, and Davies finished it from close range.
"He was one of a number of players who was outstanding today," said Vancouver Whitecaps FC manager Robinson. "He's 16 years of age. I think two things stuck out to me."
Whitecaps FC added Peruvian International Yordy "Magic" Reyna from FC Salzurg today. Reyna, a 23 year old forward, can play all across a three man attacking line, but prefers the centre forward role, where he scored one goal every 263 minutes last year, or just under one goal for every three complete matches.
He was acquired with the use of Targeted Allocation Money (TAM), and is under contract until 2018. The club has the option to extend his stay until 2020. Although he has agreed personal terms, the transfer is subject to receipt of his international transfer certificate, and his Canadian work permit and visa.
CONCACAF revealed Monday details of an expansion to its international club competition structure with the addition of a new tournament, accompanied by a new format for the CONCACAF Champions League.
The expanded CONCACAF club competitions platform will feature 31 club teams – increased from 24 -- beginning with the 2017/18 season. Sixteen clubs from countries around the region, including Canada, Mexico and the United States, Central America and the Caribbean, will compete in a concentrated CONCACAF Champions League to be disputed between February and May of each year.
Additionally, starting in August 2017, sixteen clubs from Central America and the Caribbean will participate in a new tournament, which will conclude in October.
Whitecaps FC will train on Monday in Vancouver before departing for the United Kingdom, where they face Cardiff City FC, Oxford United FC, and Bristol City FC on their pre-season tour.
The 'Caps British tour is in preparation for an upcoming Champions League quarterfinal with Red Bull New York. The first leg will be on 22 February in New York, and the second leg at BC Place on 2 March.
On Monday, the 'Caps will train at Ken Woods Field at 11:30 AM. The first team will be joined by four Whitecaps FC 2 players, two unsigned draft selections, as well as a select number of camp invitees. The full squad is listed below.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced on Thursday that former Orland City SC and Toronto FC goalkeeping coach Stewart Kerr has joined the technical staff on a two-year contract, which runs through 2018. Kerr, 42, spent ten years as a player at Celtic FC, before moving to Wigan Athletic FC for the 2001-02 season.
Force into an early retirement due to a back injury, Kerr traded his gloves for a whistle. He has served as a goalkeeping coach at Scottish sides Airdrieonians FC, Motherwell FC, as well as Toronto FC and Orlando City FC in the Major League.
"We're pleased to welcome Stewart to our coaching staff," said Whitecaps FC manager Carl Robinson. "He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge from the UK, as well as (the Major League), and has helped develop a number of quality goalkeepers."
The problems of the 2016 edition of Vancouver Whitecaps FC are well documented. At its most basic level, the 'Caps are having trouble scoring goals, and preventing them; but a better summary might be to say that they are finding ways of turning wins into draws, and draws into losses.
Tonight, it was Axel Sjöberg who broke the supporters' hearts. Sjöberg as you may recall, was the 14th pick in 2015, exactly one spot behind Vancouver's Tim Parker.
After tonight's result, Parker has still scored one more goal than Sjöberg, collected four fewer yellow cards (none of which were in the same match), while playing the equivalent of almost 18 more games. But if tangents like that are any indication, it's becoming harder and harder to find some silver linings.
Last week in Ottawa, Vancouver Whitecaps FC were battered, and they were beaten. They returned home with tails firmly tucked between legs, where they would need to reverse a 2-goal deficit. Vancouver had gone into that first leg thinking that they could rest some players. They are after all the defending Champions of Canada, and they finished 3rd in the Major League last year. But Ottawa Fury FC were no pushovers. It took three tiebreakers to separate them from New York Cosmos, and they were Cup Finalists last year. Fielding a nearly full strength squad, the 'Caps didn't waste any time in the second leg. Nicolás Mezquida won a 3rd minute penalty after Rafael Alves pushed him down in the box. Pedro Morales calmly sent Ottawa goalkeeper Romuald Peiser the wrong way, and cut the deficit in half. Less than twenty minutes later, Mezquida erased that deficit when he converted a nifty cross from Octavio Rivero. Alphonso Davies, a 15-year old striker from Liberia making his first professional start, would have sent the crowd of 17,863 into rapture had it not been for the woodwork. But there was a sense of when the third goal would come, not if.
Vancouver's Christian Bolaños and Kansas City's Diego Rubio scored first half goals, and the Whitecaps held on with only ten men for a 1-1 draw on Wednesday night.
Bolaños scored his first Major League goal, connecting with a Cristian Techera corner kick in the 14th minute. Bolaños deftly slotted the ball into the top corner with a left-footed volley, which beat Sporting goalkeeper Alec Kann.
Sporting tied it 13 minutes later on Rubio's first Major League goal. He scored off a scuffed shot by Kansas City's Lawrence Olum.
Vancouver went down to ten men in the 51st minute when an uncharacteristically poor back pass from Tim Parker to goalkeeper David Ousted forced fellow defender Kendall Waston to take down Rubio for his second yellow card.
Jordan Harvey and Kekuta Manneh scored for Vancouver and Dallas had an own-goal in the Whitecaps' 3-0 victory.
Vancouver took the lead in 35th minute, to end their three-match scoring drought, when Manneh whipped a cross in that Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz punched off defender Maynor Figueroa, and into his own net.
Harvey made it 2-0 in the 63rd minute off a Cristian Techera corner, after the ball fell to him in the Dallas penalty area. Manneh sealed it in the 77th when Blas Pérez — just into the match as a substitute against his former club — touched the ball to Manneh for a shot through Seitz's legs.
Major League-leading Dallas were unbeaten in their previous six matches.
Matías Laba was shown a straight red card in the first half, but the Vancouver Whitecaps still held on for a 0-0 tie with the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday night.
The midfielder was sent off in the 28th minute for a challenge on Los Angeles counterpart Mike Magee, outside the Whitecaps' penalty area.
Vancouver is now unbeaten in three straight, while Los Angeles picked up its first away point of the season.
After an emotionally charged opening 45 minutes that included Laba's dismissal, the Whitecaps sat back after halftime, down a man, content to soak up the pressure, and try to hit the visitors on the counterattack.
Pedro Morales scored a penalty kick in the 23rd minute, and the Vancouver Whitecaps beat the Houston Dynamo 1-0 on Saturday night.
The Whitecaps' captain sent goalkeeper Joe Willis the wrong way from the spot, after Dynamo defender Jalil Anibaba was judged to have fouled Vancouver striker Kudo Masto in the box.
Morales currently leads the Major League with four goals in four matches to start the season, all penalties. Vancouver's other two goals also have come from dead-ball situations — off a corner and an indirect free kick.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC Manager Carl Robinson
"It was a better performance. This game is a process, and if you put the right performances in, the results will come. I think we tripped ourselves up with mistakes in the first two games and we accepted that. Today was a team performance."
On Seattle's equaliser:
"(There was) lots of character shown today. It's not an easy place to come. We know we have to have a very good game against a very good team. We know they're going to put you under pressure, and they did that today. When they got the goal, it was a set piece, and a fantastic finish on a free kick. But we showed character, and we probably played our best little bit of football after they scored. That shows the team has character."
Montreal Impact beat Vancouver 3-2 in the Major League, with Argentine midfielder Ignacio Piatti the star. The Impact didn't have Designed Player Didier Drogba, but as it turned out, they didn't need him. Piatti scored twice, assisted on a third, and proved the Impact were right to reject the "transfer offer in excess of $5 million" dollars, which they received from an unnamed Latin American club during the close season. "In different moments, he made it look easy," said Montreal manager Mauro Biello. "He's a first-class player, and when he plays like that, it's hard to defend." The first of these moments came in the 19th minute. Piatti effortlessly wove through a Vancouver defence that included Kianz Froese, Christian Bolaños, Fraser Aird, and Kendall Waston. Aird overcommitted, Waston slipped, and Piatti fired it home.
On the field, Blas Pérez is a man who drives opinion. Former teammate Chris Seitz asked, "is he a pest? Absolutely! Does he get under people's skin? 100%. But it's all part of his game, and all part of making him successful." When he wears your colours, you will love him and defend everything he does. When he's in the opposition, most of what comes to mind isn't fit to print. With a penchant for delivering when it matters most, Pérez has earned the enmity of the entire league. Everyone knows who he is and what he can do. But just as importantly, we all know where he is when the clock is ticking. Most of the time, he'll be right there, in the centre of the action. A clock of a different kind has this annoying habit of going on ticking, even after the final whistle blows. And at 34 years of age, FC Dallas decided to part ways with Pérez at the end of last season. But it was not for a lack of fitness or effort.
The Portland Timbers had less than 72 hours to recover from Thursday's epic 120-minute, penalty kick victory over Sporting Kansas City in the preliminary round of the 2015 Anschutz Cup. If they were feeling the effects on Sunday afternoon, it certainly didn't show. The Vancouver Whitecaps started the match without the services of Captain Pedro Morales, former designated player Mauro Rosales, and perennial starter, Pa Modou Kah, although the first two would see action after they replaced Kekuta Manneh and Gershon Koffie, respectively. The match was officially a sell-out, with an announced capacity attendance of 21,144, although there was a large swath of empty seats sprinkled throughout the stadium. The Timbers Army unveiled a Bob and Doug McKenzie-inspired banner in honour of regular goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey, but the New Zealander was left out after he developed the flu.
The Vancouver Whitecaps Football Club has once again qualified for the Anschutz Cup, not that you will hear it referred to by that name from the Major League, or many of its media partners. They prefer to use its sponsored, and no doubt focus group approved name, the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs. Vancouver's "qualification" comes after their scoreless draw with FC Dallas. The problem is that they have not actually qualified yet. The Whitecaps have assured themselves of at least a spot in the play-in round, where they lost to Dallas in 2014, and Los Angeles in 2012, but they aren't in the Anschutz Cup proper just yet. In a sense, they have qualified for the qualifying round.
Before the first blow of the whistle, athletes like to warm up. They will run and jump and try to simulate match-like situations. For the Whitecaps, this includes leaping up for headers, crossing the ball to their teammates, and other things that you would naturally expect of a professional footballer. But Dallas, they're a funny lot. When they warm up, they like to fling themselves to the ground. At least two of them practiced that today. We're not making any judgements, but it was quite a peculiar sight to behind. We've never seen anything like it before. Perhaps they were curious about the new turf at BC Place and wanted to test it out for themselves. After seeing that, you might expect a Dallas player to be the first one to hit the ground. But that honour was reserved for Cristian Techera.
The 'Caps traditionally start well, have a mid-season dip in form, and improve in the final third of the campaign. It's a tradition that they're on course to replicate this year. The key difference being that their highs have been are higher, and their lows are not nearly as pronounced as in seasons past. In the first third, they finished with a 6-2-3 record, good enough for 20 points. In the second, they were 5-1-5, which dropped them down to 16. And in the third, they've already added 6 from two matches. After tonight's victory, they trail only DC United, who they have a game in hand on. They have conceded the fewest goals, and have the best goal difference. They're flying high, though Sporting Kansas City, with all their games in hand, remain a concern.
Seattle is not an easy place to play. They're big on the 12th man, here in the Emerald City. You see it on cars, in shop windows, on t-shirts, flags, scarves, and anything else they can get their little hands on. But the Whitecaps needed to get a result. They needed it for the league, where they're mounting a serious Supporters' Shield challenge, and they needed it to keep their search for a record sixth Cascadia Cup alive. It didn't take long for Carl Robinson's men to get on the score sheet. After Dylan Remick brought Cristian Techera down on the edge of the box, Nicolás Mezquida found Kendall Waston. The Tico's header glanced off of Brad Evans' chest, and Pa Modou Kah capitalised on the confusion to put the visitors up one nil. It's a good thing that the majority of the 53,125 wore green, as they weren't looking too good around the gills after that effort.
The San Jose Earthquakes will always hold a special place in the heart of every Vancouverite. They were the Whitecaps very first opponent, way back in 1974. It was a one all win… but before this article gets bogged down in the nuances of the original North American Soccer League, suffice it to say we have a history with the boys from the Bay Area. The less said about regulation stoppage time penalty shootouts and tie-wins, the better. Tonight was the last chance for both sides to get a win in July. Los Angeles (twice), Portland, Houston, Club America, and Manchester United have already defeated San Jose this month in a mixture of league, cup, and friendly encounters. Meanwhile, Vancouver has dropped a pair of results to Colorado and Kansas City, before their ten-men were able to nick a point in the Rose City. With Jordan Harvey unavailable through suspension, Christian Dean bravely stepped into the breach. For some time now, we've extolled the virtues of the young Californian, and he did not disappoint.
Four years ago, Japan overcame the United States to capture their first Women's World Cup. Today, they began the true defence of their title. And while they did not impress, they were able to get all three points. We don't know yet whether Switzerland raised their game to meet the level of their opponents. We'll have a better idea after Friday's match with Ecuador. But for now, Group C appears to be wide open. Cameroon have the clear goal advantage thanks to their six nil win over Ecuador, but Japan have three points as well, and Switzerland look quite capable of being one of the third place sides to qualify for the knockout phase.
On paper, Cameroon v Ecuador looked to have the makings of a compelling affair. Only thirty points, and five positions, separate them in the FIFA World Rankings. But when it comes to the Women's game, the FIFA World Rankings can be left at the door. Points are earned by matches played, and some associations play far more matches than others. Outside of the top ten or so associations, the rankings are meaningless. And that begins to explain how a match between two closely ranked sides can end in a six nil drubbing. Gaelle Enganamouit may only be listed as 171 cm, 5'7" if you like, but against La Tricolour, she looked like a giant. She used her size and strength, clashing with Ecuador's Shirley Berruz from the whistle, and made life miserable for the girls in blue. They weren't about to handle her, and we're not sure that Switzerland or Japan will fare any better. She is a force to be reckoned with.
With a match against defending League Champion Seattle Sounders FC on the weekend, Vancouver Whitecaps FC manager Carl Robinson elected to field a weakened side against visiting division two side FC Edmonton. That decision could come back to haunt him, as the Rabbits hopped out to an early lead thanks to a 4th minute Tomi Ameobi strike.
Being a referee is a thankless job. It really is. When you have a great game, nobody mentions you. And when you have a bad game, you're all they can think of. But through all the hardship and the pain, referees occupy a pivotal role. They are the voice of authority, making on-the-fly decisions, charged with enforcing the Laws of the Game. They represent a neutral point of view, and they strive to be anonymous. At least they're supposed to.
With four wins through five matches, Vancouver Whitecaps FC stood alone at the top of the table. By comparison, Columbus Crew SC were all the way down in 16th place. But after tonight's two-all draw, nothing much has changed. At least on paper. The Whitecaps found something here tonight. In seasons past, going behind would have meant that the Caps would push up, leave themselves vulnerable to a counterattack, and they would invariably concede the insurance goal. But this squad is different. Whether ahead or behind, they play as a unit, and the play to win. They didn't quite do that tonight, but it was not for lack of trying.
Christopher Vose came to British Columbia in 1995. Since then he has freelanced extensively as a writer, historian, poet, and photographer. His work has been published on six continents, and he will get Antarctica too if climate change has its way.
Tony Lewis is a photographer who has dabbled in travel, landscape, and animal photography, but it is sports where he has truly found his niche. He currently serves as FC Edmonton's official photographer. His portfolio can be found at TLFoto.ca
Mynor Campos is a member of the British Columbia Soccer Referees Association, has written for Noticias FutbolMLS, Major League Soccer's Spanish-language website, and has been seen his photos printed in a number of latino publications.