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19 July 12:26 pm

It was one of the hottest tickets of the summer in Vancouver – a visit by David Beckham and the star-studded LA Galaxy to take on Vancouver Whitecaps FC in a crucial MLS Western Conference encounter.

Most times, the hype and anticipation of a live sporting event is balanced by what unfolds during that event. Wednesday night, however, Whitecaps FC and the Galaxy took full advantage of the energized atmosphere at BC Place by offering more great moments to the 2012 MLS season catalogue.

From a soccer standpoint, the match was a tale of two halves. Whitecaps FC set the initiative by taking a two-goal lead into the halftime break before the Galaxy showed the heart of defending MLS Cup champions to earn something from their lone regular season visit to Vancouver.

The game likely left those who watched it live, on television, or online in one of three categories. For passionate Whitecaps FC fans, there was disappointment at being held at home, while Galaxy supporters would have been relieved to earn a late point on the road.

The third category may have been the more popular one, as the midweek clash left people fully entertained and fulfilled by the gallant efforts of both clubs. Yet, unlike the experience of a satisfying meal, Wednesday’s match will have fans hungry for more soccer entertainment in Vancouver.

There were likely some first-time visitors to a Whitecaps FC game at BC Place on Wednesday night, and depending on their level of knowledge of soccer, the club, and MLS, it proved an outstanding advert for new converts.

Much credit must go to the home side, who showed spirit and application to take the game to their high-profile guests. In particular, some key individual performances made Whitecaps FC fans jump out of their seats!

Fully deserving of the ‘Budweiser Man of the Match’ award, Gershon Koffie played with determination against LA. He deserved more than the one goal he actually scored, while his eagerness to create openings for Darren Mattocks and home debutant Dane Richards was a positive sign for the future.

The young Ghanaian also deserves praise for his defensive work, particularly in the first half, as he did well to nullify the threat that was David Beckham in central midfield.

It was in midfield that another of the ‘Caps top performers offered his new fans a taste of his influential abilities. Using the recent extended road trip to gain his match fitness, Barry Robson might have become the new hero in Van City.

His first-half goal was superbly taken, while his efforts to score again brought BC Place to life in the dying stages. With each match under his belt, Robson is proving to be a talismanic character in Martin Rennie’s side. At the very least, Robson would have been full of adrenaline from the crowd reactions to his efforts on Wednesday night.

And what of his fellow countryman Kenny Miller, who watched his new club from the press box? He must be itching to have a chance to experience the BC Place atmosphere on Sunday when San Jose Earthquakes pay a visit.

It is a bit difficult to sum up Wednesday’s match, but maybe the opinion of one broadcaster at the end of the game offers the best assessment. In his mind, a Whitecaps FC match at BC Place is the best live sporting event you can attend in Vancouver. When you assess our home games this season, the above argument has plenty of evidence to support it.

If you missed out on Wednesday’s soccer fireworks, you only need to wait four more days before another Whitecaps FC match takes place in downtown Vancouver.

Top MLS club San Jose make the visit this weekend, and if the events of May 5 are anything to go by, we are all in for a real soccer treat!

We hope to see you Sunday!

19 July 10:54 am

No one really left much when I was younger. Or at least if they did, I didn’t notice. That small state on the East Coast was all I knew, and all I ever thought I would know. And at the time, I was fine with that. I didn’t know any different, anyways… 

What I knew was volleyball, basketball, swimming and school. But not soccer. Or boys. Not romantically at least. Soccer season interfered with volleyball, and instead of being liked by the guys, I was one of the guys. 

Imagine my surprise when I went off to college and it turned out that the big man on campus, that handsome soccer-playing English boy with the accent, liked me. Despite my outfit at our first meeting, duck slippers and red plaid pajama pants, I guess he saw something he liked. Or he just wanted me to keep writing his papers for him. Either way, 8 years, 2 kids, 1 ring, and many moves later, we’re still together. 

Through all the moves, however, Vancouver never even remotely entered my mind. Why would it? I just always assumed we’d stay relatively close to home. Raleigh was a mere 5 hour drive from Maryland, and even then I still shed more than one crocodile tear when saying my good byes. 

I should know by now not to assume. None of this was ever the plan, really.  Soccer, married with a kid by 23, 2 by 25, Canada, moving, leaving, changing constantly. It’s just not what I imagined, or where I imagined, or who I imagined I’d be. 

Maybe I need to broaden my thinking a little, because, it’s a lot better than what I imagined. It’s better than I imagined because of the people, the experiences, and the growth that’s been forced upon us with the constant change. It’s been a blessing in disguise.  

When I first walked into BC Place for the ‘Caps home opener versus Montreal Impact, I was at a loss for words. This was definitely not something I had envisioned being part of, even if in a small way, back in my volleyball days. It was too huge and I felt too small. Watching Matt over the years to that moment was surreal. And it’s that point in time that made me realize that I need to think bigger, because you never know what life holds and where you may end up. 

I was just a tomboy ready to live my life with no surprises. Then one day I put on my duck slippers, crossed the hall of my dorm to hang out with my best friend, and instead of just having a regular night I met a boy. It’s amazing to think that that started a series of events that led us here, two extra souls in tow, for soccer, to Vancouver. 

Dr. Seuss said, “I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.” Given that my life has ended up nowhere close to what I imagined, it can’t hurt to introduce a little bit of nonsense into my thinking. I’ll just be less surprised when the fantasy becomes a reality. 

Cat Watson
Wifey to 'Caps player, Matt Watson. Mommy to Evelyn and Theo. Cook, maid and laundry lady to the aforementioned parties. Oh, and I take pictures. And blog. (www.catwatson.com.)
 

 

15 July 8:11 am

One of the toughest stretches of the season is now at an end, and although it did not end with a result, there is a lot to look forward to at Whitecaps FC.

As for Saturday’s match in Chicago. One of the things that every ‘Caps fan can appreciate is the quality of players across MLS.

The Fire have such quality in the form of Pavel Pardo. A Mexican soccer legend, his pedigree in a free-kick situation ultimately secured Chicago a very good result after finishing the game with ten men.

The visit to Chicago’s Toyota Park ended one of the more challenging spells of the season for Martin Rennie’s side and some results in that extended road schedule might have been different…

Yet, to be sitting in a good position in the Western Conference standings with four of the next five games at home, it is all about looking forward and what can be achieved against our conference foes in the 14 games to come.

On Saturday, ‘Caps fans got a chance to see the club’s newest acquisition in action. Dane Richards came on in the second half and showed glimpses of what makes him an attacking threat in MLS.

The Jamaican international offers speed and skill when he gets forward, and against the Fire, his presence was a boost to the Blue and White’s attack that had more life after halftime.

With the ‘Caps schedule soon to have several days in between league matches, new faces like Richards will have the chance to be well incorporated into Rennie’s set-up with numerous training sessions.

And after several MLS seasons as a New York Red Bulls player, Richards offers valuable experience to a club in their second season in the league.

He has been through the battles in the Eastern Conference since 2007 and it will interesting to know if the winger will find the Western Conference playoff chase to be a reinvigorating one.

We welcome Dane to his new home on Canada’s west coast and hope he enjoys his time in Vancouver. I’m sure fans will enjoy him hitting the jet afterburners in a ‘Caps uniform!

The winger will surely be looking forward to this week, as we all will at Whitecaps FC. The visit of LA Galaxy is a highly anticipated one on Wednesday night, and after the display they put in against our Cascadia Cup rivals Portland Timbers, a very challenging one as well.

A big performance will be needed by the Blue and White that night, and with a passionate crowd at BC Place supporting Rennie’s side, it might be the type of match that inspires an unlikely hero or a new player like Richards.

Remember, it has been less than a month since Richards got a taste of the BC Place experience as a New York player. We now have a chance to make him feel welcome by getting behind every move and run he makes on Bell Pitch.

Should Richards get that chance against the defending MLS Cup champions, he will surely remember the moment fondly as a player and a person. Let’s make it happen!

On to Wednesday!

12 July 2:44 pm

It’s been an interesting road trip for Whitecaps FC so far. After starting with a loss to LA Galaxy, the ‘Caps responded with a win against Colorado Rapids and a draw versus Chivas USA.

Now head coach Martin Rennie will have to lift the boys from a tough last-second 3-2 defeat to Toronto FC on Wednesday as they get ready to play their fifth road game in a row this Saturday in Chicago. With a positive result against the Fire, the ‘Caps can look at this road trip in a positive light. So what really makes road trips so tough?

The Travel

When I first arrived in Vancouver in 1979, my longest road trip was from Oldham to London – which was a four hour bus ride. But in North America I had to endure four or five hour plane rides and different time zones, as well as the heat, altitude, and humidity.

My first couple of years traveling in the North American Soccer League (NASL) was an adventure as I went to many cities for the first time. One of the perks of being a professional athlete is getting to see a lot of great places, and everything is paid for. But not everything with travel is as glamorous as it might seem. There are long waits at the airport, many of which come on connecting flights. Flying to the east coast and changing time by three hours is especially difficult. You have to change your sleeping and eating habits with no real time for proper adjustment.

For anyone who’s travelled in a large group, you know how long it can take to get everyone organized. After the flying is done, you have to get everyone to the hotel by bus or vans, and then there’s the matter of sorting out rooms once you arrive at the hotel.

The Roommate

One of the biggest challenges of being on the road is finding the right roommate, not just because you have to like each other, but you need to be close to having the same routine before games. I always like to sleep in the afternoon before a night game, so my roommate needed to sleep as well. One of the best roommates I ever had was Fran O’Brien, even though he used to squeeze my toothpaste into his empty toothpaste on road trips. He was Irish.

Probably the hardest roommate I had was goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, who I lived with in Vancouver and shared a room with on the road. He was very hyper active and hardly slept at all. I had to get used to the TV being on until three or four in the morning, and constant chatter when we were awake in the room.

The Game

When the game finally arrives you have to adjust to different challenges. You have to get used to the field quickly: the size, playing surface, crowd noise, weather, altitude, and so on.

The home crowd always gives the home team an extra boost, as we’ve seen numerous times at BC Place, and even in the last match for Toronto.

As for the weather, I remember a game we played in Chicago and at halftime we found big striker Ray Hankin lying naked on the cold tile floor trying to cool down from the extreme heat out on the field.

I can imagine that few people would feel any empathy, but when you have to go out and compete at a professional level you have to battle a lot of things to feel fit and fresh enough to be competitive on the road.

In regards to making travel easier, the ‘Caps are lucky to have exceptionally organized and diligent team administrator Steve Bridge on their side.

In the end, you have to have the mental capacity to overcome all these things. At home the goal is to make your home field a fortress and dominate the opposition so they fear coming to your home turf.  On the road it’s much different, you must become a team that is tough to beat and that can frustrate the other team so their fans get on their backs.

There are many obstacles to overcome and lots of reasons not to win when you are away from home. But good teams find a way, and that’s what the ‘Caps will have to do in Chicago as they complete these five consecutive demanding games on the road.

Since 1979, Carl Valentine has been an integral part of the soccer community in Vancouver. A club legend, Carl was a key player for the Whitecaps FC team that won the 1979 North American Soccer League (NASL) Soccer Bowl, as well as the 86ers squads that won four Canadian Soccer League (CSL) titles. Now, Carl represents the 'Caps as club ambassador. Make sure to check back regularly for his columns and videos as part of 'The TWO ONE'.

04 July 3:27 pm




So the off-season has begun for so many goalkeepers out there. College, youth, and many competitive players find themselves with so much free time during the summer season. Well there's a quote I'd like to try and reiterate which I read in High School:

"When you are not training, remember, someone somewhere is training, and when you meet him he will win"

Now I could of hacked this up a little bit, but you all get the point. Right now if you're not doing the best you can to improve your game, someone out there is. When you go back to practice or tryouts or whatever, you want to make sure you worked harder than the other guy or girl. This is your new summer mission.

I have always thought that it is hard to really improve throughout a season. Of course you can make small gains week in and week out (both skill and confidence wise) but the off season is where you set the base.

This summer try to work on things you normally can't. If you need to improve your strength in jumping, then do some plyometric exercises to get your spring a little bit better. If your footwork needs some work, then get out and do some footwork drills. If you simply need to get better, call some older players who need a goalkeeper to shoot on and let them know you're available.

It is not the time to play Call of Duty and socialize with friends online. Trust me, I have enough 20 and 30 year old friends who do that to this day. It is time to set your goals and go after them.

"If not now, then when? If not you, then who?"

Take responsibility for your goals and dreams and get out there to make them happen. Summer is a great excuse for your competitors to relax and get comfortable in their free time. For the ones who are serious about achieving their goals, the time is NOW.

While other people are daydreaming, let's be proactive in trying to make ours come true.

May the posts be with you.....

28 June 10:27 am


This week, Vancouver Whitecaps FC agreed to have youngster Caleb Clarke go on a two-week trial with FC Rot-Weiss Erfurt in Germany’s third-tier ‘3.Liga’.

If this trial is successful, Clarke - who turned 19 on Saturday - will likely be loaned to FC Rot-Weiss Erfurt for one year. This is a good move for Caleb and the ‘Caps, and is one of the many pathways for young players to make the grade at the highest level.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency has grown from 20 to over 80 players in the past year. Even now our U-16 and U-18 Residency teams are playing in Texas in the United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) playoffs after both teams finished first in their respective age groups. On Thursday, the U-18 team won their group and advanced among the final eight teams in the entire USSDA, while the U-16 team went undefeated but fell just short of advancing on goal differential.

The Residency program has received a lot of praise throughout North America for the job we are doing in developing young players. With Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie wanting a winning mentality throughout the club, it bodes well that both teams have had winning USSDA seasons, as they try to develop their game to make the jump to the next level.

The challenge Whitecaps FC currently have is when these players get to Caleb Clarke’s age. They are still young and in need of much playing time. So what are the options for the club and these players?

We have seen Russell Teibert sign an MLS contract last year and then start the memorable season-opener versus Toronto FC. Russell played a strong game and would probably have got a lot more minutes, if not for some niggling injuries. He has not hit the same heights so far this season, but he is knocking on the door and has to be ready to take his chance, when it comes.

Bryce Alderson is another Residency product that signed an MLS contract and is an exciting prospect. At 18 years of age, Bryce has huge potential.

Both Russell and Bryce are gaining valuable experience training with the first team and playing reserve team games, but like any young players in a club, Whitecaps FC would like to be in a position to offer them more games.

This is why we are seeing Caleb going on trial, in the hopes of securing a loan deal that will afford him valuable time on the pitch playing high-quality games. With this experience, he will come back to the ‘Caps a more complete player.

Another option for Whitecaps FC is to look to the lower divisions in North America and loan out young players, so they can develop their game, plus try and help a second or third-tier club be successful. Below MLS, there is the second-tier North American Soccer League (NASL) and the third-tier United Soccer Leagues Professional Division (USL PRO).

A third development pathway is through the university or college route. We have seen first-hand what players out of college can do, having selected striker Darren Mattocks out of Akron University in this year’s MLS SuperDraft.

If our Residency players are not ready to make the jump to MLS at 17 or 18 years of age, all is not lost. Young players can go to college to get an education and develop their game at a very competitive level.

If they develop their game enough, Whitecaps FC would have the option of bringing them back to the club, as they would be Homegrown players.

So whichever decision is made, there are many ways to make the grade.

08 June 10:20 am

So I chose my top 3 on Twitter last night, and I just wanted to give my insight.

Iker Casillas- Big game player. Has the experience and the athleticism to win any game. Already has a Euro and a World Cup to his credit. Has the fortunate pleasure of playing behind the world's best team.

Joe Hart- Playing in England is no easy task. Playing for Manchester City and leading them to the EPL title is even harder. He has proved he has got the mentality and pedigree to win big games. The only question is can he do the same for England. I think he can.

Manuel Neuer- a tough pick over Buffon and Cech, however he has a certain confidence about him that makes him seem older. Germans are very mechanical and methodic and Neuer fits this bill. The same questions come up with him as they do Hart. Can his International game live up to his club performances. Once again, I believe it can.

Others to watch: Buffon, and let's be honest, I'm writing this after the displays of Cech and Szczesny, so I don't have to include them now.

Enjoy!!

22 May 11:21 am

This year marks the fifth edition of the Amway Canadian Championship, as the professional club teams of our country battle for the Voyageurs Cup and a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. It is a championship that has so far eluded Vancouver Whitecaps FC, and it has been taken away in some unpleasant and extraordinary circumstances.

Normally we’d look at the history of events in chronological order, but this tournament has developed a strange phenomenon, with rather incredible events occurring every second year.

EVEN YEARS, EVEN RESULTS
 
2008: The beginning
 
The tournament began in 2008 with a round robin format between Whitecaps FC, Toronto FC and Montreal Impact. The biggest highlight for the then-second division ‘Caps in the first year was beating Toronto FC 1-0 on their home field on a goal by Martin Nash. Vancouver then went on to draw Toronto FC 2-2 in the return match at Swangard Stadium, going undefeated against their MLS counterparts in their first two meetings. Two losses to Montreal, however, would prevent the ‘Caps from contending that year.  Montreal – who were also in the lower division at the time – would upset Toronto FC and become the first winners of the Voyageurs Cup, going on to a lengthy run in the inaugural CONCACAF Champions League.
 
2010: Unbeaten, but winless as well
 
Before we get to the interesting years, let’s skip ahead to 2010. Compared to the other exciting years of this tournament, 2010 was rather dull. By the third year, Canadian fans were well versed in the unexpected turns that a six-match Amway Canadian Championship could deliver. For the first time, the six matches were scheduled on six consecutive Wednesday nights, with all six matches broadcast by Sportsnet for coast-to-coast television coverage.
 
The tournament itself would be a very frustrating campaign for Vancouver, as they went undefeated, but did so by drawing every match against Toronto and Montreal. Toronto on the other hand, got two victories against Montreal, enough to repeat as Canadian Champions.
 
ODD YEARS, ODD MOMENTS
 
While defeat in the Canadian Championship has been rather ordinary in even years (2008 and 2010), the circumstances in odd years have been just that …odd.
 
What happened in 2009 and 2011 you could never make up. All teams have to overcome tough losses; you can lose on player’s mistakes, referee’s mistakes, unlucky bounces, or just good play from the opposition. But the way the ‘Caps were denied the Voyageurs Cup in those two years could only make you shake your head and try to explain what really could not be explained.
 
2009: Heartbreak from tiebreak
 
The ‘Caps started the tournament off with their first ever loss to TFC at BMO Field, but they appeared to turn around their fortunes by the end of their run of games, earning a 2-0 home win against the Reds to all but secure their first Canadian Championship. The problem for the ‘Caps was that there was still one match to be played, a match in which they had no part.
 
If Toronto were to defeat Montreal in the final game they’d tie Vancouver on points, and the tiebreak was goal difference (and not head-to-head results, or goal difference amongst the tied teams only). This scenario had Vancouver winning the title unless TFC could beat Montreal Impact by at least four goals. However, the Impact had nothing to play for. The result was an exceptionally odd match. One team was fighting tooth and nail to get a big win, while the other team couldn’t be bothered to stop them.
 
Things looked like they might go the ‘Caps way after the Impact's Tony Donatelli (a former Whitecaps player) made it 1-0 at Stade Saputo on a penalty kick. The cushion was now five goals for Whitecaps FC. But then, just before the half-hour mark, Dwayne De Rosario scored his first of three goals to kick off an incredible finale. Toronto FC scored six goals in all, including the fifth by Chad Barrett that turned out to be the competition winner.
 
Toronto FC were crowned Canadian champions, much to the disappointment of the stunned runners-up Vancouver Whitecaps FC – who were actually in attendance to witness the madness, as they faced Montreal in a match that weekend. It’s hard to imagine a more agonizing way to lose a title. But then again …
 
2011: Are you kidding me?
 
The 2011 Amway Canadian Championship featured a fourth team and a new format, with the switch from the familiar round robin group to a knockout style semifinal and final series.
 
The new team on the block was FC Edmonton in the second division – where the ‘Caps used to play. The Albertan side were matched up against Toronto FC in one of two opening series; the other opening series featured Vancouver Whitecaps FC against Montreal Impact.
 
Vancouver and Toronto would both prevail in their semifinal series to advance to the finals, where they would meet in a two-legged championship. Finally, a format where the ‘Caps could truly control their own destiny from start to finish…or so we thought.
 
The first match was in Vancouver and ended in a 1-1 draw, with Eric Hassli scoring for Vancouver. The second leg was played in Toronto a week later.
 
Vancouver came out strong and scored in the first half on a Hassli goal. The game was being dominated by the ‘Caps and with less than 30 minutes to go, they were again on the verge of claiming the Voyageurs Cup for the first time.  Destiny, apparently, dictated otherwise.
 
With heavy rain flooding the field and lightning sparking down towards the stands, the conditions were deemed too dangerous to play and the match was abandoned, with the rules stating that it had to be rescheduled and replayed in its entirety – nullifying the ‘Caps 1-0 advantage. Everyone on the side of Whitecaps FC were of course outraged with the decision, while TFC were all too happy to comply. Fate had dealt the ‘Caps another cruel blow.
 
Five weeks later the match was replayed from scratch. Vancouver got off to a good start with a brilliant free kick goal from Camilo, but TFC eventually rallied for a 2-1 victory, once again denying Whitecaps FC the glory they seemed to deserve.
 
It makes you wonder what we have to do to get our hands on that Voyageurs Cup. But hey, at least it’s an even year.
 
Let’s just hope it doesn’t turn out odd.
08 May 11:18 am

No castle was ever built over night, nor did any become famous for simply being built. Fortresses earn their acclaim because of the battles that they have withstood, with it's occupants protecting their hallowed grounds time after time, always standing tall in the end.

BC Place is our fortress.
 
While it's the fans who cheer on the players throughout the match, the respect is mutual. Nothing drives the men on the field more than a boisterous crowd, and in turn, 'Caps players always return the favour and give an ovation to their proud supporters at the end of each match. Together, we're well on our way to achieving our goal of making BC Place one of the toughest places to play in MLS.
 
Saturday was a perfect example. San Jose were the hottest team in the league and looked like they'd escape with a draw, but the fans at BC Place weren't interested in a draw, so they pushed the team to keep going, and the 'Caps gave everything they had right until the end to snag one of the most exciting wins we've had since we joined MLS.
 
You are the turbo button, the NOS, the shot of adrenaline, the second wind. You are the difference.
 
So here's to you 'Caps fans. Keep up the great work, and see you on Wednesday.
 
 
Tickets are still available for Wednesday's crucial second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinals, as Vancouver Whitecaps FC play host to FC Edmonton at BC Place. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. PT. To purchase tickets, visit ticketsmaster.ca/whitecapsfc.
30 March 10:43 am

With the 'Caps playing Philadelphia Union at PPL Park on Saturday (1 p.m. PT live on Sportsnet Pacific and TEAM 1410 radio), Jordan Harvey, Brad Knighton and Sebastien Le Toux will be returning to the 'City of Brotherly Love' to face their former team for the first time. Carl checked in with the trio to talk all things Philly, from playing with the Union, to cheese steaks, to booing Santa Claus.

Take it away Carl.
 
 
Whitecaps FC MLS 2012 season tickets start at just $295. To secure a seat and for additional information about Whitecaps FC MLS season tickets, suites, and loge boxes, call 604.669.9283 or visit whitecapsfc.com.