Vancouver v. LA: A Meditation on Difference-Makers

My interest tilted toward the home team when I tuned into the Vancouver Whitecaps v. LA Galaxy. Memories of the season-opening curb-stomp against Red Bull New York the angle: maybe the ‘Caps would do it again, especially if they carried some confidence over from the prior week’s narrow loss to LA at the Stub Hub.

Pedro Morales made one hell of an impression in that opener. Talk of how he’d eviscerate any team fool enough to leave him alone with the ball at his feet bubbled into commentary. Yep, all very promising.

The Pedro Morales I watched last night was not that guy. He did hit a couple cross-field beauties, balls that landed on a dime’s edge from 40+ yards away – things o’ beauty, in all honesty – but he squandered those hot little flashes with some alarmingly loose, shorter-range passing. You start to wonder if Morales can only hit the long ball. Continue reading

MLS Week 6 Feelings Check: A Failure to Launch

ImageWe’re finally to that point in the long – and, by August, interminable – Major League Soccer season when narratives start to take shape. And thank gods for that. Who doesn’t like a story? And the title, it’s a joke so inside that it’s entirely possible that only I will get it. Still, it fits the vagueness of what comes below.

I like stories, personally, because they signal an end to the long march through watching and commenting on highlights (which I’ve long felt was a little low value). Maybe the time lost watching and re-watching highlight reels will go to watching one more game each week; maybe. What I’m after here, and what I’ll be after in the (many, many) weeks ahead is a general sense of what’s going on across the MLS as a whole. Something as global as power rankings, but without the faux-precision…like getting rid of the guys with the chains in futbol Americano. Maybe it’ll deal more with players in the future, or trends that track below the game-level. For now, though, it’s all about games. At any rate…

…so, where are we, or rather where are MLS’s 19 teams after Week 6, and how do they fit together. Again, generally? Continue reading

MLS Week 4: Men Standing…In Sashes!

(NOTE to WordPress: the hell is wrong with your photo button? A stack at the bottom does not help my site say, “Pow!”)

Now, that’s more like it: teams standing up to pull that big contender…sash across their, um, chests. Probably not the piece of clothing I’m looking for, but the point should be clear: teams like Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake turned in statement-style, mike-drop performances that read “Force to Be Reckoned With.” Clubs like the Columbus Crew and the Vancouver Whitecaps sounded off as well, if absent the stature that comes with being last year’s MLS Cup contenders…

…and thank god Vancouver stepped up for Cascadia, seeing as the other two clubs couldn’t be bothered.

Tempting at it is to dismiss the rest as a mess, some things came clearer this weekend. Among them, DC has a long, shitty, stressful season ahead; Toronto FC, while improved, can’t throw punches with the big boys yet; and New England’s not totally dead yet. At least one thing hasn’t changed: no one knows what the fuck is going on with New York.

The usual pile of observations about the week’s results appear below. Same rough format, though with some adjustments to content and arrangement. Continue reading

Vancouver v. Red Bull New York: Opinions and an Acknowledgment

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BC Place?

I’m going to start this with an acknowledgment. Yesterday, I posted what I assume to be one of a countless collection of responses to Billy Haisley’s exhortation against watching ugly, crappy Major League Soccer. While it’s true I devoted most of that post to attacking (kill! kill!)…or, rather, examining, ahem, his rather useless advice to MLS (“get better”; that was it, really), I did take some time, a paragraph really, to defend MLS, the product.

Notably, I challenged his assertion that MLS players’ first touch is a problem. Funny what you don’t fully notice…

…because, holy dear god in heaven and the devil below, did Vancouver Whitecaps v. Red Bull New York feature a very, very large collection of hideous, bobbly first touches. Looked like they played the game in a goddamn bouncy house. Or maybe with one of those bouncy balls one gets from those 25-cent vending machines at the grocery. Just ugly, loose stuff all the over.

Point taken, Mr. Haisley. And I nowhere did I say it was a better product…just…the trapping was…never mind…OK, not that incredibly shitty. Wow.

The point here is to offer some substantive comments on the game referenced above. Hopefully, you’ll see something novel enough here. Continue reading

Vancouver Whitecaps 2014 Season Preview: The Little Team That Might

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M & M & M & M: What they should aspire to.

How’d 2013 Treat ‘Em: 13-12-9 (W-L-T), 53 gf, 45 ga; 7th in the West
The Whitecaps had the Golden Boot winner on their roster – yay! This did not help them make the playoffs – boo! Still, worse than not making the playoffs was the way that Golden Boot winner broke up with them, like, in front of…the…whole…school. SO embarrassing! They spazzed a little through their offseason in general – I remember something going weird in the draft as well – but that only mattered due to the way they ended 2013. Some nice players emerged – Kekuta Manneh, Russell Teibert (the Canadian Diego Fagundez!) – but injuries hurt ’em (Jay DeMerit, most prominently) and there was drama before the season ended (Darren Mattocks) and, at or near the end of the season, their coach got canned for failing to sail the ship straight. The ‘Caps proved a great team on their day – just ask Seattle (ha!) – but the good days just didn’t come often enough.

Exciting Additions ! – Steven Beitashour, Matias Laba, Pedro Morales

Tricky Departures… – Lee Young-Pyo, Camilo Sanvezzo, Matt Watson (maybe), Daigo Kobayashi

Quality Parts: Beitashour, Jordan Harvey, Gershon Koffie, Kekuta Manneh, Darren Mattocks (when sane), Kenny Miller, Nigel Reo-Coker, Russell Teibert

It Gets Better If They Come Good: Jay DeMerit (health), Mehdi Ballouchy, Christian Dean, Laba, Andy O’Brien, Omar Salgado

What I’d Expect Based on the Above:
It depends on two things, mainly, the extent to which they remedy the above and how they fit into a hyper-competitive Western Conference. The latter looms larger for my money. Vancouver does have good parts – for instance, get Manneh and Mattocks rolling (go with “M&M,” guys…wait, “M&M&M!” Awesome! Branding, people…) with Miller pulling the strings behind them and the attack could be something deadly. Generally, though, the issue is the meaningful number of “ifs.” Sure, things can go wrong for any team – what worked in the past won’t always work going forward – but, in the West especially, most teams at least have that foundation of things that work in the past to carry them forward with a bit of comforting confidence. If there’s a surprise team in the West, one that no one sees coming till they’ve arrived, it’s Vancouver. Look out, y’all. And if anything moves….shoot it!

2014 Season Opener: v. Red Bull New York, March 8