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MLS Regular Season

01 October 4:18 pm

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!

24 September 5:14 pm

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!

16 September 9:46 am

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!

08 September 6:49 pm

If, by now, you are getting tired of hearing about my kids, I get it. But, no matter how many times in a single day I’m tempted to scream, I still think they’re the best and their bums the cutest. Plus, they consume about 97% of my time, so what else would I write about? So, bear with me. I’ll get to soccer in a second… 

I had a girl first, so I didn’t know any different. I just figured her playful, energetic, on-the-go personality was normal. Not that she’s abnormal, but I know little girls who will sit still and read books for hours. Ha! Not mine. She’s not a boy, but she sure can keep up with the best of them. She wears me out, but that aspect of who she is is one of the things that I love the most about her. 

I thought that maybe because I had a girl with a boy’s disposition when it comes to sitting still, maybe my boy will be calm. Quiet. Gentle. Most of all, maybe he won’t be non-stop. Maybe he’ll give me a break every once in awhile. No such luck. While our Theo is most definitely sensitive, he gives Evelyn a run for her money. The kid is a little daredevil.

Essentially, I’ve got two monkeys on my hands. 

This makes game day interesting. 

It’s really all about timing. Those 8 p.m. games? Forget it. Half of the moms won’t even try. We want to be supportive WAGS, but in all honesty, will our attendance, accompanied by tired, cranky kids wearing our patience thin, affect the result? Hardly. If anything, the game will go smoother since our kids won’t be around to annoy the nearby fans. We are, after all, indebted to the fans. Our husbands wouldn’t have jobs and we wouldn’t be able to feed those screaming kids if the fans didn’t care enough, so the least we can do is let them watch in peace. Besides, those few precious hours after bedtime are hard to compete with. Fans watch in peace, mommy watches from the couch, everyone wins. And we always hope for a home win. 

But say we do luck out and get a 4 p.m. game. Everyone is fresh and just up from naps. The game occupies the whole afternoon, so it’s straight home and straight to bed, which, if you’re a mom and you’re honest, it’s your favorite part of the day. The afternoon is looking great, until every mom shows up with every kid in tow at the same time, and we realize we’ve now got a circus on our hands. Popcorn is flying, someone is crying, Theo fell down the stairs again, we’re screaming to say hello, God forbid the crowd goes wild - it’ll send at least two babies into hysterics, and our awesome suite host gets stuck with babysitting duties. It can get a little out of control sometimes, but that’s life with kids, eh? 

Game day can be crazy and exhausting, but one thing it never is – boring. At the end of the day, we love game day, screaming kids and all. And we love it even more when it ends with a big win.

07 September 1:12 pm

OMG! I can't believe that just happened.....

Yeah, that's probably the first thought that crossed my mind. I do not like talking or dwelling on my mistakes, but my younger brother convinced me to go ahead and write. After giving up a bad goal, so many thoughts come into your head....

"What just happened?", "Why me?", "I can't believe this", and even the old "please get me out of here" all crosses your mind.

However, there is still a game going on and the last thing you want to do is let your thoughts cost your team another goal. The initial thing is to stay focused until the game is over. Only then, is it a time to reflect....

I can only imagine how difficult it is for goalkeepers to go through this a first time in their young careers. For someone like me, it is a tad easier, but in all honesty, nothing in life can prepare you for the isolated feeling in front of thousands of fans.

It even gets worse when family, close friends, and thousands of supporters have spent tons of time and money to come and watch a game. All these things come into play after making a mistake, but then you really have two choices.

Do you let this mistake get the best of you? Or do you make this another learning experience to grow and become a better person?

After making a big mistake, it is human to want to runaway and hide in a hole, pretend you don't care, or just start making excuses.

You can choose to do this, but a better way out, in my opinion, is to simply raise your hand and say "it was a mistake, and I will learn from this". There is a tendency to want to do more than you have been merely to "make up" for your mistake. STOP!

You don't have to do MORE. You just have to be YOU! Hopefully this means going back to being the hard working player you have been and concentrate on the only thing you can: this moment, the next play, your day to day habits as well as your attitude.

Do I have the mental capacity to come back and be better? Or will I sit and dwell about the past??

I think we all know which one is the correct answer.

For the young players out there, it's important to know that no matter who you are, you are going to make mistakes. However, it is your response to these mistakes that show the world who you are.

The most successful people in the world say that the biggest problems present the biggest opportunities. Well that's exactly what I'm doing. Bad goals are part of the position. Accept this and move on.

If you have a story you'd like to share or just want some encouraging words, please email me at GKUnion101@gmail.com

The advice I give to all younger goalkeepers is to go out and make mistakes. They are the best learning teachers and as Billy Joel says, they are truly the only things you can call your own. haha.

may the posts be with you....

05 September 3:45 pm

Today is a historic day, perhaps even more than we can appreciate right now.

This major announcement of the National Soccer Development Centre (NSDC) at the University of British Columbia (UBC) is what Vancouver Whitecaps FC have been waiting to have built for years, and what a difference it’s going to make to our club!

In this partnership between Whitecaps FC, the Government of British Columbia, and UBC, we have something here that will benefit all levels of the game, from youth to professional.

We now have a place to call home, a place that will house our men’s and women’s teams, as well as our Residency, Girls Elite, and other youth development programs.

It starts at the top

Our ownership team have lofty goals for this club and for the sport of soccer, and there has been a need for first-class facilities for some time.

Now, with a proper training centre, Whitecaps FC look to move to the next level as we try to establish ourselves as one of the very best soccer clubs in North America.

Having grass and turf fields and a state-of the-art fieldhouse is going to open many doors on numerous fronts for the game of soccer here.

Our owners have already invested greatly in our Residency and youth programs, so it will be great for our Whitecaps FC youth players – and other BC Soccer players – to be at the same fields as our first team players and to be able to watch them more closely as they try to realize their own dreams of becoming pro players.

Attracting the best

With top facilities we will finally have a firm attraction for top talent to train in Vancouver.

The NSDC will provide a place on the West Coast for Canada’s men’s, women’s, and youth national teams.

We will also be able to attract the top teams from around the world, instead of having to travel to see them. We have seen the likes of Manchester United, Roma, and Benfica come to Vancouver in the past and now we can look forward to again seeing the very best teams here in our home city.

These are exciting times for the club. We’re in the midst of a heart-pounding playoff race and we’re pumped to have four home matches on the trot and an electric atmosphere created by our fans.

And now we can look forward to moving into a new training home as we enter into another chapter of this club’s proud history.

The game is growing, and the ‘Caps are more than happy to help plant the seeds.

04 September 2:45 pm

September has arrived. Time for many to bid farewell to summer and head back to work (or school) after holidays in the sunshine and warm weather.

The month also dawns the start of Major League Soccer’s 2012 regular season run-in and the aim of securing spots in the postseason. With only a handful of rounds remaining, a closer look at the Western Conference playoff picture reveals some interesting facts.

The last few games have been tough viewing for Whitecaps FC supporters, and while Vancouver’s recent form needs turning around, Martin Rennie’s squad know their six remaining fixtures offer opportunities to take them towards a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs. This is especially true in the timing of their next couple of games.

Many are focused on Whitecaps FC’s next match at FC Dallas, who only trail fifth-place Vancouver by four points for the last postseason berth in the MLS Western Conference. After a 1-1 home draw with Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday, The Hoops know they cannot move past Vancouver, should they earn a result against their Canadian foes.

In many ways, the Saturday, September 15, match is one that Whitecaps FC can relish for the opportunity it provides. Should the Blue and White earn a result in Texas, they would return home for four straight games on Bell Pitch at BC Place - the first of which is a major chance to add further distance between themselves and Dallas. Their clash with Colorado Rapids on Sunday, September 23, is Vancouver’s game in hand on The Hoops, as the Texas club will not be in action that weekend.

While that scenario is in Whitecaps FC’s hands, Chivas USA have three games in hand on Vancouver. If one considered those three matches as victories, it would take the Southern California outfit level with the ‘Caps on 37 points.

Problem is The Goats have not shown signs of making a late surge up the Western Conference standings. Sunday’s 4-0 defeat at San Jose Earthquakes took Chivas USA’s winless run in the league to five matches, with Robin Fraser’s side facing a season-defining month.

The Goats play five more times in September, including difficult trips to in-form sides Seattle and Columbus Crew, plus Eastern Conference playoff chasers D.C. United. They also have challenging home games versus San Jose and Real Salt Lake this month. They too need to find form and in a short space of time.

Another note to keep in mind - there are enough matches left for Whitecaps FC to reel in the frontrunners in the West. On the surface, that task may prove difficult when you consider the form of sides like Seattle (two games in hand) and LA Galaxy, but it’s important to remember that most of the remaining league games are all-conference match-ups.

Results from those games can easily alter the picture of the Western Conference standings (same scenario in the highly-congested Eastern Conference), and that means we’re all in for an intriguing and exciting end to this regular season campaign.

A message to my fellow ‘Caps faithful - We thrilled in joining MLS in 2009, we thrilled in winning our inaugural match in 2011, and the great moments that followed! Surely, the next few weeks will be even more thrilling!

Enjoy the World Cup qualifying break! Until mid-September…

23 August 4:20 pm

As many of our fans prepare to head to Portland for another big Cascadia match, I thought I’d share my experience from last weekend when I had the opportunity to experience the rivalry as a fan on the road for the first time.

 I hosted a bus load of Whitecaps fans on a day trip down to Seattle courtesy of UNIGLOBE Vision Travel. I had been to a game in Seattle before to watch the team I had supported as a boy, Manchester United, as they played Celtic. But this was my first time watching the ‘Caps play the Sounders in Seattle, and my first time going to the game as a fan.

I’ve sometimes wondered what it would be like to travel down the I-5 to Seattle and Portland for a Whitecaps FC game, and now here I was about to get a new perspective of this Cascadia rivalry. The meeting of the bus was nice and early at 6:45 a.m. and the wait at the boarder was longer than usual, but these things took nothing away from the excitement and anticipation of what was to come when we reached our destination.

As soon as we entered the city of Seattle there was lots of evidence of the upcoming game, as we began to witness more than a few green shirts worn by the Sounders fans, and the closer to the stadium we got the more green we saw. We arrived around kick-off, so most of the ‘Caps fans were already inside singing their heads off.

When we left the bus in our Whitecaps jerseys and scarves, we took some good-hearted ribbing from numerous Seattle fans that were still tailgating and getting in the mood for the game. I loved it, rival fans baiting each other before the game started. I was now chomping at the bit to get inside with the rest of the 55,000 plus crowd.

As I showed my ticket at the gate and began to walk up the stairs to my seats I got chills as I heard the chanting and the singing coming from both sets of fans. The atmosphere was electric and I hurried as fast as I could to join in the action.

When I arrived at the Whitecaps section the place was rocking. I did not reach my seats as some ‘Caps fans recognized me and pulled me into their section. I was not going to argue with them. Our 2,000 or so fans were certainly outnumbered, but we were not drowned out as they roared on their team. This is what I remembered as a boy growing up in Manchester.

There is no doubt in my mind that this Cascadia rivalry is the best of Major League Soccer, and a small taste of what the future holds for the league. We are only into the second year of the Cascadia rivalry in MLS and it will continue to grow on and off the field.

I really hope all of our fans can experience travelling to Seattle or Portland for a game, as it truly is a unique experience. I hope to again travel with our fans soon so I don’t miss out on all the fun!

18 August 4:00 pm

As weeks go for Whitecaps FC, this middle week of August 2012 will likely be forgotten in a hurry.

Despite the challenge that it posed (three Western Conference rivals in a week), the opportunity to make ground and further solidify a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs was abruptly halted by two sobering defeats – the latest leaving a particular regional sting.

It felt like the soccer omens were against Vancouver heading into Seattle on Saturday. Though there were welcome faces back from international duty, the absence of injured captain Jay DeMerit and suspended centre-back partner Martin Bonjour caused speculation as to who would play in Martin Rennie’s backline.

Then came word on Saturday morning that influential midfielder Barry Robson was also forced to sit out this latest Cascadia derby after MLS deemed his booking late on in the home defeat to Dallas was aggravated dissent against an assistant referee.

While there was debate over the timing of Robson’s suspension announcement by MLS, Rennie gave some players a chance to stake their claim for a regular starting role.

Top of that list was Carlyle Mitchell, who was slotted into the starting XI alongside Andy O’Brien in the centre of Vancouver’s defence. After appearing for his native Trinidad & Tobago in midweek, the young defender earned himself a measure of redemption with his performance on Saturday.

His last MLS start at New England Revolution back on May 12 was a tough outing for the Caribbean import, and though Whitecaps FC conceded twice in the second half in Seattle, Mitchell can take encouragement from his efforts in Washington State.

Next to him, the experience of O’Brien was tested again, as the former Republic of Ireland international made his second start for the club. Though still short of full match fitness, O’Brien looks a real find, as he showed defensive expertise in nullifying a couple of Sounders FC attacks, especially in the first half.

Rennie and his staff will know that, despite the bitterness of a derby defeat, players like Mitchell and O’Brien will feel they are stronger and can make a more telling contribution to the club after their building-block efforts on Saturday.

This can also be said for striker Kenny Miller, who was asked to fill the role usually occupied by suspended Robson in central midfield. His work rate at CenturyLink Field was also an encouraging sign. The way he made himself busy against Sounders FC was a strong suggestion that the Scotland international made an important step forward with his match fitness.

With a full week to focus on another derby trip to Portland Timbers, the time may prove beneficial after the hectic schedule of this past week. With injuries clearing up and suspensions served, these next few days should help to galvanize Rennie’s squad physically and mentally for the end-of-season run-in.

Time to move forward to the next chapter: Saturday in Portland

15 August 10:30 pm

There were many happenings in and around BC Place on Wednesday night, and all of it contributed to a sense of optimism that it would be another enjoyable match day at BC Place.

There was a gathering of Whitecaps FC alumni in the stadium suites, which brought together former members of the Blue and White from the club’s many eras.

Before kickoff, the glow of Olympic success resonated through the crowd when three members of Canada’s bronze-medal women’s soccer team walked out with both teams for the national anthems.

Following on from Saturday’s fine win over Real Salt Lake, there was also anticipation for what newcomers Kenny Miller and Andy O’Brien could do in their first MLS starts.

In the end, it was FC Dallas that enjoyed a second win in as many seasons in Vancouver, and one that keeps their playoffs hopes alive in this final stretch of the regular season.

It was one of those matches where the ‘Caps could have been in one of two places by the end of it – such is the tight nature of the Western Conference standings.

Victory on Wednesday would have taken Vancouver to the 40-point mark and put major distance between themselves and their midweek visitors, who occupy sixth place in the west.

Instead, Dallas moved closer to the ‘Caps and the west’s top five with Wednesday’s result. They also claimed the unique distinction of being the first MLS club to defeat Whitecaps FC at both Empire Field and BC Place.

So where did all the promise of Wednesday night end up? Are we all a bit guilty for expecting too much? The simplest answer might be a more classic one. One team (FC Dallas) performed better than the other (Whitecaps FC).

Remove the likely debate that will surround the performance of match referee Matthew Foerster, Whitecaps FC were not at their best on Wednesday. And like Martin Rennie stated, it was also a match that struggled to get going.

Neither side really claimed the initiative before the break. After halftime, soccer’s fortune fell to The Hoops, who took the lead in opportunistic fashion, then sealed the win on the counter attack.

Though not endearing himself at times to Whitecaps FC fans, the return to fitness of David Ferreira is a big boost for Dallas. The qualities that earned him the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2010 always make him a player to watch…and so it was the case at BC Place…

Where many hoped that a Miller, O’Brien, John Thorrington, or Atiba Harris would write the headlines, it was a diminutive Colombian in Dallas colours that played the main role in this contest.

For Whitecaps FC, it simply wasn’t to be on this warm mid-August evening, and there will always be days and nights like this during a season. Whose to say we won’t see a turnaround as early as this weekend (Seattle, anyone?).

It’s also important to remember that BC Place disappointments have been very rare in 2012. Most times, the ‘Caps faithful have all left the club’s downtown Vancouver home satisfied.

Trying to achieve the goals of this season was never going to be easy. Remember that this is only Vancouver’s second season in MLS. The club has grown a lot, but a lot more growing still needs to take place.

Like with any other setback in 2012, Rennie’s side have been excellent at putting those experiences behind them and bouncing back. Maybe a derby clash in The Emerald City in three days’ time is not so bad after all…

Until our weekend gathering!