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!
WATCH THE 1979 NASL NATIONAL SOCCER CONFERENCE FINAL VS. NEW YORK COSMOS (courtesy of canadianblaster09)
PART 1: http://youtu.be/Tm2WkDW7stc
PART 2: http://youtu.be/tsMbk02WhHI
PART 3: http://youtu.be/ZPO1bfdgiiM
As we look forward to playing in our first Major League Soccer (MLS) playoff game against the mighty Los Angeles Galaxy, the task at hand appears quite daunting. The Galaxy are the reigning MLS Cup champions, and they boast three of the top players in the league in Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and of course, David Beckham.
If you are looking at this game on paper it is hard for anyone to really believe that we have any chance of going to LA and getting a result. Fortunately the game is played on the field, and not on paper. In fact, our boys can look at some playoff history that will show them they can do it.
To be the best …
It was back in 1979 when we were to face the cream of the North American Soccer League (NASL), the two-time defending Soccer Bowl champions New York Cosmos. In their team were World Cup winners Franz Beckenbauer (Germany) and Carlos Alberto (Brazil), as well as Giorgio Chinaglia (Italy) and Johan Neeskens (Netherlands) – the latter of whom led Holland to the runners-up spot in back-to-back FIFA World Cups in 1974 and 1978. Not to mention the wealth of other talented players they had on their team.
The Cosmos had finished with the best record in the NASL (24W-6L). In order to get past them, we needed not only to beat them once, but twice in a two-match home-and-home series – or in an extra mini-game should we win one match each.
We had confidence from beating them twice during the regular season, but this was the playoffs, and they had the added incentive of hosting the Soccer Bowl at their home venue – Giants Stadium.
Up against the odds
I have to say in looking at both teams’ rosters, our chances did not look too good. But we knew as a team that once both teams got out on the field that we were not going to be outworked by New York.
There was no doubt that there was more quality in their team, but mentally we felt that we had the edge. We were confident that we were more of a team and that we really trusted each other and could overcome anything that the Cosmos threw at us. But as they say, talk is cheap, and in the end you have to do your talking on the field.
Who wants it more?
We played the first game at home in front of a sell-out crowd (32,875) at Empire Stadium. The game was tense, hard fought, and very close. But we remained focused throughout the match and held strong. Eventually they were the first to blink and we came away with a 2-0 victory on goals by ‘Wee’ Willie Johnston and Trevor Whymark. The job was half done, but there was still plenty of work left to do going back to New York.
Even winning the first game did not change people’s opinions; the prevailing thought was still that the vaunted Cosmos had too much firepower for us and that would show with them playing at home.
When you go into a game as an underdog it is said that you really have nothing to lose and can play freely. There is some truth to that – there was definitely more pressure on New York than us – but we had a lot to lose. We had a chance to get to the Soccer Bowl and we were not going to let this team stand in our way.
We lost the game in a shootout, which meant that we would immediately play a 30-minute mini-game. The mini-game also ended tied, meaning the contest would go to a second shootout. After going toe-to-toe for almost four hours, we eventually came out on top.
David had conquered Goliath.
Our ’Caps face a mighty challenge against the Galaxy and will have to play their best game to advance. But I know firsthand that even the most talented of teams can be beaten.
The first step is believing that you will win.
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!
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!
On weekend of Saturday, September 15, I spent time on the Sunshine Coast working with all of their teams over two days as part of a partnership between Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Sunshine Coast Youth Soccer Association.
This was my fourth visit this year with at least one more visit to come. The experience I have had so far has been excellent, and as we continue to build our partnership I expect the experiences to get better and better.
Whitecaps FC are committed to growing the game of soccer in British Columbia and being an asset throughout the community. There is no way we can make this happen on our own though. In order to achieve these goals we need to build partnerships that we can nurture and grow.
I first traveled to the coast with Sam Lenarduzzi to meet with the SCYSA board and present a proposal that would see us enter into a partnership. The ‘Caps have done many camps here before but this would see our coaching staff be present on the coast throughout the year. It would involve camps, schools, evaluation support and coaching at all levels.
Before this weekend Sam Lenarduzzi and I spent two full days visiting eight schools, where we demonstrated some soccer skills and communicated a healthy and active lifestyle. The kids seemed to enjoy our time together and the principals and teachers of each school indicated that it was very beneficial.
I also had the pleasure to be at the evaluations as all the teams were being put together. Being there as part of the SCYSA & Whitecaps partnership gave me a chance to meet many parents’ players and coaching staff and observe the many talented players on the field.
During the weekend many of the SCYSA teams were getting together for the first time, where they met some new players and received their kit for the season. And all the teams were able to participate in a 90-minute training session with our Vancouver Whitecaps FC staff. It was also an opportunity for the coaches to watch and take notes of the sessions provided by our quality staff.
There was good weather over the two days and lots of happy players as they walked away with Whitecaps FC posters and some knowledge of how to improve their soccer skills.
I really enjoyed my weekend working with a number of teams and being able to talk soccer with a number of coaches. It was also encouraging to see many kids turn up with their Whitecaps jerseys, and knowing that the ‘Caps are supported and loved not just in the lower mainland.
I will be back on the coast with our Residency coaches to work with the Rep teams, and I am excited by how well the first year of our partnership has gone. When I was playing for the ‘Caps back in the day we were very much the province’s team. Now with more kids playing soccer than ever before and the commitment of the club to help grow the game of soccer and be an asset in the community, I hope that all British Columbians can feel the same way about our Whitecaps now.
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!
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.