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!
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?
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.
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.
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'.
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.....
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After a weekend of travel - and the team's first road win - the 'Caps worked out at Steve Nash Fitness World. Carl Valentine was on hand to find out who the fittest guys are on the team.