MLS Regular Season
With three MLS teams returning from bye weeks after their CONCACAF Champions League exploits, MLS Rivalry Week is gearing up to be a potential windfall for Fantasy Managers. Houston Dynamo, Los Angeles Galaxy and the Seattle Sounders are all back in action and expect to see some high scoring affairs. A word of caution when making your picks this week however, as Round 4 falls on the same week as World Cup Qualifiers for many players, so expect to be without some of your international stars. Make sure you plan ahead!
With that being said, on to this week's players and featured team of the week:
Graham Zusi ($9.7m), Sporting Kansas City – Normally when you pick a midfielder and he doesn't get on the scoresheet you expect the worst. Fortunately for those of you who have Zusi in your lineup he's proving otherwise. With 10 crosses and 7 key passes he controlled the entire pitch last week against Toronto FC and walked away with 8 points. We expect Zusi to continue his stellar play versus Chicago Fire as he doesn't look to have missed a beat from last season.
Jeb Brovsky ($4.7m), Montreal Impact – Former Whitecaps FC defender Jeb Brovsky is not only playing well for Montreal but he’s also a bargain for Fantasy Managers. At only $4.7m he offers tremendous bang for your buck. Facing Toronto FC in Montreal is a good match up for the young American. Even if he picks up the typical 60+ minutes of playing with an additional 2 defending bonus, coming away with 4 fantasy points at his price is a brilliant return on investment.
Team of the week (Round 3), Los Angeles Galaxy – Fresh off their dominating performance in CONCACAF Champions League they now face a favourable opponent at home in Chivas USA. With Chivas being notorious for low scoring, Carlo Cudicini ($5.5m) looks destined for a clean sheet.
We like the bargain of Todd Dunivant ($5m) on the back end, although if you have a bit more to spend, then Omar Gonzalez ($6.1m) is your guy. Sean Franklin ($5.5m) is a player to watch, as a listed defender Galaxy appear to like playing him in the midfield.
Robbie Keane ($10.5m) is currently owned by 33% of the league. The Irishman will turn into the player Fantasy Managers either hate and fear week in and week out, or the player they ride into the sun with. We prefer the latter as we rather not worry about him exploding against us on any given week.
As always, keep an eye on injury report updates HERE and don't forget to watch this week's edition of MLSsoccer.com's fantasy show: Starting Lineup (below). Good luck in Round 3.
For more information on prizing and how to sign up for the Official Whitecaps Fantasy League click: HERE
We’re headed into Round 2 fantasy managers and where do you stand? If your squad performed poorly last weekend, don't fret just yet. It's a marathon after all, not a sprint!
Many teams who had fast starts either went with LA Galaxy or Columbus Crew. With Los Angeles on a bye this week and the Crew facing the defensively sound Vancouver Whitecaps FC on our home turf, that should cool the jets of some of those early leaders this round at least. To help you climb a few rungs on the ladder let’s take a look at two players whose stock is certainly on the rise, and our featured team of the week.
Brad Rusin ($5.0m), Vancouver Whitecaps FC – With his mentor Jay Demerit sidelined after an unfortunate injury now is the time for Brad to Rise & Shine. The 26 year old centre back has big shoes to fill, but looked right at home on Bell Pitch against Toronto FC. Rusin is now likely to feature in Martin Rennie’s starting XI for the foreseeable future and if the ‘Caps back line can hold strong against the Crew this weekend then expect him to haul in 5-8 points.
Fabian Espindola ($8.6m), New York Red Bulls – Pump your breaks kid! It’s no question fantasy managers have made Espindola a favourite pick after his point tally in Round 1; but consider how he got there before jumping on the bandwagon. Portland Timbers left back Mikaël Silvestre made a calamity of his MLS debut, gifting both goals to Espindola. This is one of those situations where it's better to know HOW a player scored, as opposed to IF a player scored.
Team of the week (Round 2), San Jose Earthquakes – The Goonies came up with a tough 2-0 defeat in their home season opener. That result could well have been reversed if the $10.5m Wondolowski didn't hit the bar early, plus miss a sitter and a free header. The goal scoring machine won't have too many of these games and we expect him to quickly right the San Jose attacking ship that made them so feared in 2012 (72 goals).
Keeping with the offense, Michael Fucito ($6.5m) impressed and looks to have good chemistry up front with Wondo, although he may have picked up a knock and is questionable for this Saturday. Former ‘Cap Shea Salinas ($8.0m) comes at a fairly steep price but is expected to be a focal point of San Jose's transition on attack.
Defensively you can't go wrong with any of San Jose’s roster, but Ramiro Corrales ($5.0m) is on our watch-list as he has a knack for putting in crosses as well as getting up field in a hurry. If you’re considering Victor Bernardez ($6.0m) be aware that he was added to Honduras' roster for World Cup qualifying games so will likely miss the Round 4 match versus Seattle Sounders.
As always, keep an eye on injury report updates HERE and good luck in Round 2.
For more information on prizing and how to sign up for the Official Whitecaps Fantasy League click: HERE
It’s that time of year once again. The game? MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager. What's at stake you ask? Pride and prizes!
Everyone likes new beginnings but the decisions you make today could impact your entire season. Hopefully I can provide some small insight in maximizing your Fantasy team’s points right out of the gate. By the way, if you haven't already done so there’s still time to sign up for the Official Whitecaps Fantasy League HERE but you have to act now before the March 2nd cutoff.
Let’s kick things off by weighing in on two of the most popular pickups in the game so far…
Chris Wondowlowski ($10.5m), San Jose Earthquakes – There’s a reason why 39.2% of Fantasy players have him on their team. Wondowlowski has been the top scorer in the league for three seasons running and is poised to continue his trend. This year the Earthquakes play their home season opener against Real Salt Lake whom he onion bagged 5 times in just 3 games last year. He may not have the media star power of other players in the league, but he's a consistent performer who's well worth the hefty pricetag.
Robbie Keane ($10.5m), LA Galaxy – Along with Wondo, Keane was the only other striker to break 200+ Fantasy points last season. Can he do it again? The Irish international will be needing service to maintain his goal scoring prowess and whether his current roster of teammates can deliver remains a question mark. With Beckham gone to Paris Saint-Germain and Donovan delaying his return until late March, we've decided to take a buyers beware approach and will keep an eye on him for week 3.
Team of the week (Round 1), Sporting Kansas City – Out with the old and in with the new is the story upfront for Kansas City. Roger Espinoza and Kei Kamara have both traveled across the pond and are already making waves in the English Premier League. As a result Kansas City have brought in forward Claudio Bieler ($9.5m), the team's only designated player, to fill the gap. We don't anticipate it will be very long until Graham Zusi ($9.5m) welcomes Bieler to the club with a nice through ball assist...or two.
Sporting also only conceded 27 times last season (16 clean sheets) and there's a reason why! How does a backline consisting of Aurelian Collin ($6.0m) and MLS' Defender of the Year Matt Besler ($6.0m) sound? If opposing strikers are fortunate enough to get through those two warriors then all they have to do is beat the Goalkeeper of the Year Jimmy Nielsen ($6.0m), no big deal right?
All I can say is good luck to anybody with a Philadelphia player in your starting eleven. You're going to need it.
For more information on prizing and how to sign up for the Official Whitecaps Fantasy League click: HERE
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.
The 2013 season opener is less than two months away and with the announcement of the schedule today comes a lot of anticipation and excitement as we look forward to a number of marquee matches.
With former players such as Sebastien Le Toux with Philadelphia Union (July 27) returning to BC Place, and with rivalries growing against other clubs, there will be a sense of familiarity throughout the 2013 home schedule.
Our home opener has been public for a while now, and I’m sure like me you are all looking forward to getting off to a fast start against our Canadian rivals Toronto FC, just as we did in 2011 when we were victorious by a 4-2 margin.
Of course it’s not going to be an easy game, but BC Place has become a fortress for us and with the added incentive of Eric Hassli and Terry Dunfield coming back to play in front of what should be a sellout crowd, it does not get any better than that.
I’m confident that we can kick some TFC butt.
KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE…
With the Cascadian rivalry heating up on and on the field it’s easy to see why many ‘Caps fans will have these matches highlighted on their calendar.
Portland Timbers will visit us twice this year with the first game on May 18. We have some payback to give to the Timbers and these two games could go a long way towards bringing the Cascadia Cup to Vancouver.
As far as our other Pacific Northwest “friends”, we will have to wait until July 6 for the only visit of Seattle Sounders FC.
If these games are half as good as last year, it will be well worth waiting for.
TO BE THE BEST
Memories of that playoff match against LA Galaxy still linger.
When the two-time defending MLS Cup champions come to town, those will be matches that you will not want to miss.
LA will be making two visits to BC Place this season and we will be looking to get our first win against the Galaxy in MLS, which nearly came in the playoffs last year when we were 1-0 up entering the last third of the game.
As we’ve seen in the past, battles between these two teams will be open and attack-minded. And while Beckham has moved on, this is certain to be another star-studded Galaxy squad led by world-class striker Robbie Keane.
MORE IN-CONFERENCE CLASHES
April 13 and September 28 should be two mouthwatering matches as Real Salt Lake roll into town. Salt Lake are always a team that like to pass the ball and attack teams, home and away, so it should make for some entertaining games.
August 10 we will see the high flying San Jose Earthquakes – who finished as the top team in the 2012 MLS standings – come to BC Place and provide our fans with lots of thrills. The Quakes were last year’s top scoring team with an impressive 72 goals scored. The ‘Caps will look to remain unbeaten at home against reigning MLS leading scorer Chris Wondoloski and his Earthquakes.
This promises to be another thrilling season, and with four exciting Western Conference clashes (Portland, Seattle, and Colorado twice) at the end, we’re sure to see the season end with a bang.
The second year in Major League Soccer for Vancouver Whitecaps FC was marketed as Round 2. We had a new coaching staff, some new players, and lots of optimism going into the new season.
Preseason had gone well in Arizona and Florida and everybody wanted to get the season started. Martin Rennie – in his first year coaching in MLS – liked the look of his Whitecaps FC squad and felt his team could challenge for a playoff spot. Getting there would be no easy task though.
The season began in fine fashion as our ‘Caps won their season opener at BC Place with a 2-0 victory against expansion side Montreal Impact. Optimism was high, but we all certainly knew that an opening day win does not make a season (see 2011 opening win vs. Toronto FC).
The next game, however, provided further proof that this would be a historic year. The boys got their first away win in MLS by beating Chivas USA 1-0 on a Jay DeMerit header. This was a sign that the mentality of this team had changed; Rennie was slowly but surely building a winning culture.
The next two games would end up as 0-0 draws, which meant the ‘Caps remained undefeated and had shut out the opposition in every match. The run of form continued as the team achieved an MLS record for longest shutout streak to start a season.
It was a great start for the team, but this was only the beginning. Much work remained.
Proving their mettle
April saw the ‘Caps hit with their first taste of adversity. A blown lead and first loss on the season at San Jose and a home loss to Sporting Kansas City could have sunk the ship early, but Vancouver persevered. The Blue and White grinded out a pair of 1-0 wins, at home to FC Dallas and on the road to Columbus Crew.
The early season success altered expectations. Suddenly fans and media were dreaming big, how good could this second year team really be?
The season was steadily moving along until the ‘Caps faced off against Toronto FC in the Amway Canadian Championship finals. A 2-1 aggregate loss to the team that would end up finishing dead last in MLS was nothing short of a massive disappointment.
Having been brought back down to earth, it became easier to reflect and evaluate. Clearly there was still work to be done.
Rome was not built in a day
Despite the positives from the first portion of the campaign, questions also remained from fans, media, and the club itself. What is the ultimate goal for this team? Is winning the only thing that matters? What about entertainment value, many asked? Was the team scoring enough goals? What about the young players, shouldn’t they be playing more? Why aren’t there more Canadian players?
These are all important questions that need to be posed and each of them are part of the values that the club is looking to instil moving forward. But it can also be easy to lose sight of the big picture. This remained only the second year for the club in MLS. All of these questions will be answered over time, but only so many aspects can be managed at once. Building a winning team, an entertaining team, a team filled with Canadian talent on the field – it’s all a process. For now, the most important thing was to allow coach Rennie to put his own stamp on this team. He has built a winning culture at every club which he’s coached, but that takes time and patience. If he could get this team to the playoffs in his first year, it would be a massive achievement and a big step in the right direction.
Many coaches would not tinker with a team that was picking up points fairly regularly, but Rennie had made it clear that he was not just building for this year; he was looking at a team that could be one of the best for years to come.
Tough decisions had to be made before the season, and it was felt at the midway point of the season that more changes were needed.
This was not an easy time for players to come into the team. It’s never easy to adjust to a new team, a new city, a new culture, and a new league. It’s especially difficult to do it in the middle of the season during a stretch of nine out of 13 games on the road.
Results were mixed, but sometimes it takes one step back to take two steps forward.
With 39 days away from home and a rough winless stretch, it would have been easy for the team to fall apart and look for excuses, but you never heard that from the coaches or players. The team showed great resiliency, and in the end the season’s body of work achieved the main goal at the beginning of the year – a first ever playoff spot for a Canadian MLS club.
Their reward? A date with the defending MLS Cup champions, the star-studded LA Galaxy, on the road no less.
In the end the boys gave them the fright of their lives – probably much more than they expected. Not only did we score an early goal, but we also nearly doubled the lead to 2-0 with 20 minutes to go. Unfortunately it was not to be, as the Galaxy eventually came back to win 2-1.
I was so proud of the performance in our first playoff game and it just reinforced what I already knew: we belonged in the playoffs after competing all season long in a tough Western Conference.
We have a coach in Martin Rennie who is not afraid of making big decisions. Of course not everyone will agree with every decision – you can’t please everyone. And not every decision will be correct either. As a coach you make some choices that will work and some that will not. The key is that everyone learns from the process. That is why I am really excited for next year.
This team has come a long way from last year and has shown it can compete with the best teams in MLS. Now Rennie and his coaching staff have a season under their belt and are more familiar with what works in this league. They will also have a squad of players that are also more accustomed to playing in North America, with the physicality and the travel.
Of course there will be more changes, but having made the playoffs this year, expectations will again be raised. There will be highs and lows again next season, as there always will be, but I’m confident that the best is yet to come.
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!
Before the season, Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie set a goal to make the MLS Cup Playoffs. That may have seemed a lofty goal for a club coming off of a last-place finish in 2011, but after a long season the 'Caps achieved that goal. Along the way the team got their first MLS road victory, set a record for the longest shutout streak to start an MLS season, and put together an impressive home record by losing only three of 17 matches at BC Place.
We will most definitely be underdogs going into next week’s playoff clash versus LA Galaxy on the road, but one fact remains: this team is one of only 10 clubs left that can win MLS Cup this season.
A baby boy’s hair is not to be messed with unless the momma bear gives permission. Especially when that hair is curly and blonde. Imagine my shock and, let’s be honest, heartbreak, when I walked in the door to find it strangely quiet in our apartment. Quiet doesn’t happen here much, so I knew something was up. I rounded the corner to our bathroom to find Matt going to town with the razor. I thought he was being nice to let me step out of the house alone, little did I know his plans to shave our son’s head. And the quiet? The kid has a thing for brushing his teeth, it’s like Disney World to him, so Theo happily brushed (also known as drooled) while Matt happily shaved. And I silently cried.
Funny thing has happened though -- Theo is slightly faster, nimbler, and not falling as much (big accomplishment for him). His head has less bruises from staying afoot. We even thought we heard him say “good” the other day when we asked him how his day was going. Could it possibly be? Could the Power of the Mullet be the cause for his advances? We like to think so.
I’ve now embraced his Mini Mullet. Not only is it probably enhancing his physical, as well as mental, capabilities, it looks pretty darn cool for a one-year-old.
To increase the Power, we joined a few of the ‘Caps at Sugar Skull Salon on Wednesday for one last shape up before today’s game. There were no tears this time, but just as much drool as Theo sat still for about three and a half minutes thanks to a lollipop and his rockstar stylist, Gracie. A few new power stripes in there, a snip or two off the top, and he was good to go. I tried to get a snapshot of Theo with the original mullet, but Theo didn’t want to share the spotlight. Clearly the Mini Mullet isn’t helping his manners.
Regardless, today, of all days, is really the day for the spotlight to be on our ‘Caps. So in light of this afternoon’s momentous match: here’s to faster feet and greater goals -- here’s to the Power of the Mullet.
VIDEO: WHITECAPS FC VISIT SUGAR SKULL STUDIOS
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!