Have I mentioned how excited I am to watch the ‘Caps this season?
Well I have, but hey, now is the time for excitement, and this certainly looks to be a very entertaining team!
What continues to intrigue me the most about this side is our rookie wingers.
WATCH: Manneh shows what he's got
I grew up watching my home team Manchester United, who for the most part have always used two wingers. When they were in full flow there was no better sight. They went right at the opponent’s fullbacks and looked to get dangerous crosses into the box for their strikers to finish.
So what does make a great winger?
Stick to the plan
First of all you, have to be patient. You spend a great deal of time holding your position out wide and relying on your teammates to get you the ball. This can be frustrating at times if you’re not getting involved in the match, and naturally you will want to start wandering inside to go look for the ball and try to get more involved.
Sticking to the plan, that is how I got my nickname Chalkie.
Back in the day I was playing in a game for Oldham Athletic. I hadn’t seen the ball for ages, so I decided to leave my position on the wing and go hunt for the ball. It was not long before our manager Jimmy Frizzel screamed at me to get back out wide and put some chalk on my boots (the touch lines were marked with white chalk), which I promptly did. Hence my new nickname, which has stuck with me even until today.
WATCH: Dane Richards gets compared to the Legend
It’s not always about taking on defenders …
Having dribbling skills certainly is a plus for a winger, but it is not necessary (I was told by one fan I only had two moves).
A certain fellow named David Beckham was not known for his moves with the ball, but you would find it very hard to find a better crosser of the ball than Mr. Beckham. He would only need a yard of space to cross the ball or bend it around the defender.
Another similar player that had the same type of game was someone some of you longtime ‘Caps fans will remember as “the Silver Fox” Alan Hinton. He was not very tricky or fast, but he too would find that yard of space to whip in a dangerous cross for his strikers to attack.
… But speed and dribbling certainly help
Of course, if you do have dribbling skills that makes things very frightening for defenders. Cristiano Ronaldo was the king of the step-overs when he first came to play for Manchester United. There have been other wingers like Ryan Giggs (sorry another United player) who could do amazing things with the ball while running at full speed. These types of wing men would beat you inside or outside, or just twist you into the ground then run away from you.
WATCH: Giggs in his prime
If you have speed, then you can knock the ball past a defender and find a cross or make the runs into space and look for balls over the top of defenders to create breakaways. With or without the ball, these players with speed stretch defences and excite the crowd with their play.
There are different types of wingers, but one thing they have to have is courage. As a winger, you will be kicked because you have too much skill for the defender – sometimes by accident, but many times just to slow you down.
You also have to have a certain fearlessnesses. You can’t be afraid to take on one, two, maybe even three defenders at a time. Of course you may not get through, but if you do you’ve opened up the play and set your team up with a good chance to create a goal.
I am probably biased when I say that there’s no better sight than seeing teams that play with two wingers to open up the game and play attacking soccer.
And that’s why I am excited to see this year’s ‘Caps – and in particular Manneh and Hurtado. All the weapons we have will make this MLS season a very entertaining one.
Bring it on.
After sifting through all of the reports at the MLS Player Combine and reading through the various final Mock Drafts, I’m feeling confident that this will be a strong 2013 SuperDraft for our ‘Caps.
‘CAPS SHORT SUPERDRAFT HISTORY
In our first ever MLS SuperDraft in 2011 we had control of our own destiny with the number one pick and we chose Omar Salgado, who I feel would have made a big impact last season had he not got injured.
Last year the consensus was that the top two prospects were Andrew Wenger and Darren Mattocks – who both seemed to be worthy of the top selection. In the end we got Mattocks, and I’m sure like me, you’d likely agree that things turned out for the better for the ‘Caps.
This year there is much debate about who should be number one, and where all the players will land in the draft. With this uncertainty, that essentially makes our #5 and #10 picks more valuable.
If we hold on to the picks, there could end up being some very talented players left on the table as teams debate their best course of action, rather than having little thought to do with a surefire selection. Meanwhile, Martin Rennie and company are also fielding a number of trade offers as coaches will be urgent to move up to secure the player they fancy.
That leaves the possibility of making a trade for one or both of our picks that could land us a quality MLS player that fills one of our needs.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter how we acquire a player – whether through our draft picks or through a trade – as long as we get players that can help our team.
Rennie has gone on record as saying that he would like the team to create more chances next year. Vancouver has a solid foundation at the back and for the most part has established itself as a hard team to beat, which is a good formula for success. But the team would benefit by adding a couple more creative players on the wing or in midfield.
SUPERDRAFT FOR A SUPER SEASON
We already have two players from the draft in Omar and Darren who are destined to be important players for this team, and I believe that they will both have even bigger seasons than they had last year.
This year’s Superdraft should see the addition of either another exciting prospect or two coming out of college, or a proven player through a trade helping our team make another run at the playoffs and beyond.
It looks like we’re set up for a successful SuperDraft, and that’s yet another important step towards a successful season.
A familiar face to Whitecaps FC fans was appointed to an important role in Canadian soccer on Tuesday, as Tony Fonseca was named the Canadian Soccer Association’s new Technical Director.
The former Portuguese international, who was a Whitecaps FC player and head coach (2002-2004) during the club’s United Soccer Leagues First Division days, has been tasked with overseeing ‘the technical growth and development of soccer in Canada’. No small job…
The timing of Fonseca’s appointment is important, as Canada look to chart a new course after last month’s qualifying exit from the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. His understanding of the Canadian soccer landscape will be invaluable to addressing the many challenges of his new role.
With the responsibility of establishing new technical policies for Canadian soccer, Fonseca’s influence on player development - particularly at the elite level - will be closely scrutinized by the media and Canadian soccer supporters alike.
Canada’s three Major League Soccer clubs are currently in the business of elite player development and have expressed a willingness to strengthen their relationship with the CSA on this key issue.
Creating a productive player development system through strong collaboration will be essential to Canada’s ability to produce top players at the professional and international level.
Fonseca knows the good work that Whitecaps FC Residency, Toronto FC Academy, and Montreal Impact Academy have been doing in recent years, and is keen to establish a strong partnership between these elite soccer stakeholders.
Where the biggest challenge may lie is in further educating those involved in grassroots soccer across Canada that a different player development pathway is desperately needed. In other words, making those individuals rethink the way they see grassroots soccer in their own communities.
The CSA and Canada’s professional clubs know they have a role to play in this regard and that making such changes will be difficult. However, what should excite Canadian soccer fans is the strong desire that now exists to implement real change.
Congrats Tony and best of luck!
So that was the season that was…
The build-up to last Thursday’s inaugural MLS playoff game had that familiar postseason buzz that ‘Caps fans know all too well. What was also exciting to see was the amount of attention that Whitecaps FC drew from being in the playoffs.
Of course, the Blue and White filled a certain void (no NHL hockey) for Vancouver sports fans last week, and although it did not result in a win in LA, the performance of Martin Rennie’s side left some good feelings.
The feedback from media and supporters after Thursday’s game was one of pride, as most were aware of the tall task that faced the ‘Caps against the star-studded Galaxy.
The contest required spirit and commitment from Vancouver, and that was seen in abundance at The Home Depot Center. By giving the defending MLS champions a severe test of their credentials, Whitecaps FC might have even played a key role in the destiny of this year’s MLS Cup title.
Traditionally, playoff exits leave an empty feeling. In this case, however, there was an acknowledgement to the efforts made by Rennie’s side in LA and indications by observers of how it offered a glimpse into a promising future.
Vancouver Sun sports columnist Iain MacIntyre was particularly struck by what he witnessed on Thursday, as he drew comparisons to where the club was in 1977 and how it built towards an NASL Soccer Bowl title by 1979.
There was also an intriguing - some might say prophetic - tweet from former ‘Caps and Seattle Sounders FC head coach Alan Hinton (@alanhinton11): “Whitecaps FC will within two years be the number two franchise behind Seattle in MLS…I know, I have been there!”
As for yours truly, the 2012 season was one where every match offered an opportunity to Whitecaps FC. Building and growing as an MLS outfit were, in many ways, the club’s objectives this season. In other words - 2011 was about establishment; 2012 was about strengthening.
Clubs that have shown steady growth in MLS are usually amongst the league’s elite. While that challenge lies in front of Whitecaps FC, this second season suggests Vancouver are now following a similar path.
While it would have been nice for the playoff journey to continue, much was achieved this season. What is really exciting is how things can improve even more, starting in 2013.
Hunger and desire are bedrocks of successful sides, and it would not surprise this soccer scribe if those are the driving influences behind a memorable Whitecaps FC campaign in the New Year.
As we enter the quiet of this offseason, we take positive vibes from a season that gave strong glimpses of very bright days ahead.
Time to prepare for the next chapter of this great journey!
Till we reconvene in the spring…
What a difference a year makes!
This time last year, Whitecaps FC were wrapping up what was a turbulent inaugural season in MLS, and head coach Martin Rennie was preparing for a postseason training camp to familiarize himself with his new squad.
Our MLS Cup Playoff experience was a distant one last year, with our television screens showing the unfolding drama in the cities of our league rivals. Fast forward to this week, and our engagement for the MLS postseason is at its highest level. On Thursday night, Whitecaps FC make history as the first Canadian club to take part in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
The midweek trip to Southern California was an effort earned over 34 regular matches by the Blue and White and sign of significant improvement for a burgeoning MLS club.
Five victories and 15 points more were achieved than at this point last year, with only MLS Supporters’ Shield winners San Jose Earthquakes and playoff-bound D.C. United making larger turnarounds statistically.
Vancouver’s 43 points was also the highest total achieved in a single MLS season by a Canadian club, with expansion club Montreal Impact also joining the ‘Caps in passing the 40-point barrier in 2012.
The club’s first three wins away from home, plus 12 clean sheets also contributed to the improvement, but even Rennie knows there is plenty of room for further progress.
Much of that can be set aside for 2013. Right now, Whitecaps FC are six results away from an MLS Cup title. If anyone knows the recent postseason history of MLS, it is not as improbable for Vancouver, as it initially looks.
This past weekend offered a very good ‘dress rehearsal’ for the clash with the Galaxy at The Home Depot Center. Like LA, Real Salt Lake can be a formidable foe when they are at home.
The type of tests that Whitecaps FC endured in Saturday’s 0-0 draw were not only good for them tactically, but also mentally. Shutting down a potent RSL attack required organization, commitment, and spirit.
The ‘Caps not only showed those characteristics in hostile territory, they left the Rio Tinto Stadium pitch feeling confident and full of anticipation for Thursday night.
Relishing the opportunity that is the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs will be a big part of the game plan in Carson, California. Few, if any, expect a Whitecaps FC postseason run, but Rennie’s squad know their chance to become MLS champions is no more or less than any of the other nine contenders that will be involved.
Long-time ‘Caps supporters will be the first to reveal their excitement at this time of year, as the club’s playoff folklore has done much to shape the identity of the Blue and White.
One only needs to look back to the championship years of 1979 and 2006 when Whitecaps FC triumphed against the odds. Now its 2012 and we’re in that familiar position again.
The key is to enjoy the journey, starting Thursday. Any achievement from this point on will be greeted with delight and excitement, as few outside Whitecaps FC nation believe Vancouver is capable of achieving anything in this year’s playoffs.
I say, “Let the skeptics think that way…we’ll worry about getting a job done on Thursday...and beyond.”
The playoff train is at the station!
All aboard for LA!
Across Canada this weekend, family and friends will be digging into feasts of turkey or ham and giving thanks for the bounty that is served and the time shared with those they care about.
Wednesday night on Bell Pitch at BC Place, Whitecaps FC supporters were offered a bounty that satisfied their soccer palate, let alone their hunger for ‘The Beautiful Game’.
Facing an out-of-form Chivas USA side, the ‘Caps put together a performance that saw them turn the corner and provide plenty of optimism for the remaining couple of games in the 2012 regular season.
A first-ever 4-0 win in MLS was just the tonic that Martin Rennie’s side needed to put a difficult seven-match winless streak behind them and build on a three-game unbeaten run.
It was a midweek goal feast, and ‘Caps fans were served up different types of goals to enjoy. Like a recipe, the common theme in all four goals was good passing and movement, all of which are ingredients of good team understanding on the pitch.
It was pleasing to see the way Whitecaps FC worked to create the openings for their goals, as the build-up had as much quality as the finish on all four occasions.
This was down to some key goalscoring ingredients. Before coming off early with a hamstring strain, Kenny Miller offered vision in setting up Gershon Koffie’s match winner, as did all-around action man Camilo Sanvezzo with his two assists.
There was also speed - much of it used to devastating effect by Dane Richards. A winger by trade, the Jamaican international showed his striking abilities as a substitute on Wednesday.
The way Richards tormented Chivas USA centre back John Valencia was almost criminal to watch, but equally decisive in the thumping Vancouver gave The Goats.
There was also hunger and quickness, with Camilo offering those ingredients in the second half. Like a mountain lion, the Brazilian pounced to score the game’s third goal before intelligently running on to his own through ball to set up the fourth goal.
Wednesday’s soccer feast also served plenty of work rate and commitment on the defensive side of the ball by the Blue and White.
The way Rennie’s side closed down the Rojiblancos resulted in turnovers and loss of possession from the visitors. Barry Robson led by example with his applied pressure on Chivas USA opponents, and that defensive work was infectious amongst his teammates.
It resulted in one of the most comprehensive performances from the ‘Caps in MLS - a match that left everyone in good spirits going into the Thanksgiving Day long weekend.
With a five-point lead on sixth-place FC Dallas, the onus is now on the Texas club to match Vancouver’s midweek effort and beat Chivas USA on Thanksgiving Sunday (4 p.m. PT kickoff from The Home Depot Center in Carson, California. Live stream on MLS LIVE!)
Of course, the ‘Caps faithful will hope Robin Fraser’s side can shake off Wednesday’s defeat and do Vancouver a huge favour by earning a win or a draw versus The Hoops. Should that occur, Rennie’s side will head into their final regular season home match with Portland Timbers on Sunday, October 21, knowing a win will secure them a spot in this year’s MLS Cup Playoffs.
Then all in Whitecaps FC nation would be truly thankful!
There are some weekends in the year that prove to be sporting blockbusters, with many major events happening around the world. This weekend might have been one of them.
There was an historical Ryder Cup golf victory by Europe in the United States and the first Canadian to play in and win Australian rules football’s AFL Grand Final as a member of Sydney Swans (Victoria, BC, native Mike Pyke).
There were also events closer to home, with celebrations for one of our local senior soccer clubs, as Vancouver’s Westside FC completed a quartet of Over-35 titles by claiming their first Western Canadian Masters championship crown in Edmonton, Alberta.
Among the smorgasbord of sporting events was an equally exciting Pacific Northwest derby between Whitecaps FC and Seattle Sounders FC - much in thanks to a passionate sold-out crowd at BC Place.
Saturday’s clash was the 116 th edition of this Interstate 5 rivalry, and while there were no goals to speak of, the match had all the ingredients of a fierce derby battle.
Beyond the bragging rights and Cascadia Cup points that were on offer, Saturday’s match had a major bearing on the playoff hopes of both clubs. The result locked in Seattle’s place for the postseason, while the point was another step towards Whitecaps FC’s aspirations of reaching the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time.
With some help from MLS Supporters’ Shield candidates San Jose Earthquakes (thank you, Steven Lenhart!), the ‘Caps came out of the weekend with the same two-point margin between themselves and sixth-place FC Dallas for the fifth and final playoff spot in the MLS Western Conference.
Of course, the gap could have been more, and Martin Rennie’s squad are fully aware of that. As evenly-fought as the game was on Saturday, a single goal would have likely been enough to take all three points for either side.
But at the very least, it was encouraging to see Whitecaps FC put a highly-rated Sounders FC under real amount of pressure in the second half, and that tends to be a rare experience for the Rave Green. It showed again that Whitecaps FC can battle with the league’s best and that would have restored some much-needed confidence in the squad.
Another positive was Vancouver earning their 10th clean sheet of the season (the first ‘Caps shutout for goalkeeper Brad Knighton) with a defensive display reminiscent of games earlier this season.
With three games to go in the regular season, the draw with Seattle was a further indication that Whitecaps FC may be set to put their lean run of results behind them.
It will require confidence and belief from Rennie’s squad, and an understanding that all will need to step up for the cause. After John Thorrington and Darren Mattocks went down with unfortunate hamstring injuries, Matt Watson and Camilo Sanvezzo answered the call and gave Seattle all they could handle.
Watson, in particular, performed admirably in midfield. He linked up well with his teammates, while arguably looking at his best in possession of the ball than at any point this season.
Those performances will inspire Camilo and Watson’s teammates to be of similar service themselves. After all, it is that time of the year when character is a big requirement for Whitecaps FC and their quest to reach the playoffs.
The short turnaround to hosting Chivas USA will also provide the ‘Caps immediate motivation that the next step to fully restoring their form can be achieved this week.
As always, our supporters will have their role to play on Wednesday night. Let’s all get out to BC Place and send our Blue and White into the Thanksgiving weekend and international break in the best of spirits!
Until Wednesday everyone!
There are many ways to describe Sunday’s game, but the thought that comes to mind was how this latest home match filled something that was missing.
Much like a favourite ride at the fair or a favourite action movie that hasn’t been experienced for a while, the 2-2 draw with Colorado Rapids rekindled familiar emotions.
Those emotions were many, but considering previous experiences at BC Place have garnered great memories during Whitecaps FC’s second season in MLS, it was welcoming to have this weekend’s experience.
There was frustration and tension in large parts, as the Blue and White fought their way through - and arguably out of - this tough current stretch of form. Credit must also go to the visitors from Colorado, who played their strongest line-up in a bid to claim a result that would have kept their faint playoff hopes alive.
There was also a bit of relief and delight that the ‘Caps created chances and scored goals after a long stretch that did not produce much during the club’s recent road spell.
The way Vancouver’s two goals were created was particularly encouraging for the play and build-up that fashioned them. Gershon Koffie used his knowledge of the BC Place turf to elude Rapids goalscorer Omar Cummings before setting up Alain Rochat’s neat flick home.
Then there was the fine passing move that created Kenny Miller’s first career goal at BC Place. Koffie found Barry Robson, who then opened up the Colorado backline with a superb through ball to his fellow Scotsman.
While we’ve all been longing for results, it can be said that we were also longing for such goals to be created and such style of play to be produced. In that way, we all felt a sense of satisfaction on Sunday.
Those emotions are something to keep in mind (…and that I would recommend as being the catalyst...) for purchasing or renewing your season tickets for 2013. Now available at 12% off until Wednesday, October 3, why not make that decision now, while this limited time offer is available.
As for Sunday’s events, it’s interesting that we witnessed similar scoring production when we last played host to this Saturday’s opponents – our friends from down Interstate 5 called Seattle Sounders FC.
The draw with Colorado was something to build on, even though more could have been taken from the game. Yet, what Sunday’s performance does offer ‘Caps fans is the confidence to size up this weekend’s Cascadia Cup derby clash with real anticipation.
It’s important to remember that this time last season, Whitecaps FC were formally eliminated from playoff contention after a home defeat to Seattle (our last match at Empire Field).
Now a first-ever MLS win over Sounders FC on Saturday could be a major leap forward to the ‘Caps making the postseason. That’s where our supporters have their role to play.
We made life difficult for Seattle at BC Place on May 19. Time to do it again this weekend!
Until Saturday night!
The tough moments of 2012 have sometimes left me emotionally drained. Saturday night was one of those moments…
You have to give Julian de Guzman credit for how he took his winning goal in Dallas…it just would have been nicer to view such skill on Tuesday night in Panama City…
Many will have their take on what occurred at FC Dallas Stadium, but everyone knows that the race to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs lies in what Whitecaps FC and FC Dallas do in their remaining regular season matches.
For the ‘Caps, that is finally coming home and playing four straight matches in the friendly confines of BC Place before wrapping up their regular season schedule at Real Salt Lake on Saturday, October 27.
For all the emphasis there was on Saturday’s game in Dallas, it can be argued that the pivotal moments of the season are still to take place in downtown Vancouver.
Next Sunday’s home match versus Colorado Rapids is a key clash. The game serves as Vancouver’s match-in-hand on Dallas, who will be idle next weekend.
A third-straight victory over Colorado this season will again take the ‘Caps four points clear of Dallas for the last playoff spot in the MLS Western Conference. Maybe more importantly, it will make it a two-result deficit again for the Texas club, who only have four games left in their regular season schedule.
The Colorado clash is followed by a Pacific Northwest derby clash with Interstate 5 rivals Seattle Sounders FC, which will surely bring the best out of Whitecaps FC supporters, who have played their part in the turnaround of the Blue and White in 2012.
Should results be taken against Colorado and Seattle, Whitecaps FC will see an opportunity in their home clash with Chivas USA on Wednesday, October 3. A result against The Goats might very well put Dallas in a ‘do-or-die’ situation, should they not earn a result at high-flying San Jose Earthquakes on the previous weekend.
The end-of-season home stand concludes after next month’s international break when Cascadia Cup rivals Portland Timbers visit BC Place on Sunday, October 21. Needless to say, the next four games should offer drama and excitement, and there has been plenty of that at BC Place this season.
This is where you – Whitecaps FC fans – can still play a huge role in the way this season concludes for Martin Rennie’s side. The ‘Caps players have always appreciated and looked forward to playing at BC Place this season, and I know they are looking forward to this extended home stretch.
The last five games have been tough watching, but it is important for all ‘Caps faithful to focus now on the task in hand. Remember, a couple of Vancouver results and the situation will look very different.
Unlike the long road spell that just concluded, our ‘Caps will have your support at home that can lead them to victory, so there is a role here that we can all play on September 23 and 29, as well as October 3 and 21.
Major League Soccer is a long season. It’s full of ups and downs. Now is our chance to help Whitecaps FC bounce back from a difficult spell and help them achieve a berth in the postseason.
Put in your preparation this week and we’ll see you at BC Place next Sunday afternoon!