Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blogging the World Cup

So I've pretty much given up on this blog and I'm blogging the World Cup on my main blog, Brenton writes. See you over there.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Rebuilding the Whitecaps

This off-season the Whitecaps will need to rebuild the team in a few key places. Luckily, they've already started:

They just announced the signing of one of the best midfielders in the league, Ricardo Sanchez. Sanchez played for the Minnesota Thunder last season, and was named in the USL-1 All-League First Team. He scored 7 goals and had 8 assists, most in the league (tied with Wes Knight). Apparently he's a set-piece specialist, which we don't really have (Martin Nash only half-counts).

I see him, Nash, Kenold Versailles and Gordon Chin as our starting central midfielders, depending on the opponent and injuries. We desperately lacked creativity in the midfield when Nash was injured or in a funk, and while Chin provides energy and Versailles solidity, we need someone who can pick out a pass, loft the ball over to a wing, etc. I'm pretty excited about this signing.

We also picked up a Canadian international (I know, not the highest honour), Chris Williams, a right-sided defender/midfielder. This is probably a straight replacement for the released Lyle Martin. Williams, who featured prominently in the Canadian U-23 and U-21 teams, played for the Charleston Battery last year, making 31 appearances.

Charles fights (poor choice of words?) with DeRo in the Canadian Nutrilite Championship

In other news, black sheep Wesley Charles is training with the team. There is a good piece on his trials and tribulations in the Province, laying out his struggles with depression and discipline (you'll recall he was let go last season for getting into a fight on field and acting too aggressive in training). But he's back, and I'm hopeful that he has worked through his issues and will provide the stability at the back that we lacked last year. He's fast, strong, and commanding. Hopefully he can gel with Pejic, Pozniak and Bellisomo in training, and we'll offer him a contract.

And on the downside: USL Rookie of the Year Marcus Haber is thinking of leaving the club to pursue his goals elsewhere. Haber was a revelation last season, finishing with 9 goals (and 3 more in the play-offs), and generally looking dangerous. He's so fast with the ball and has a nose for goal. We'll miss him if he goes, and would be left with only Marlon James and Randy Edwini-Bonsu as starting strikers (and that's being generous to my man Edwini-Bonsu).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Commentary hurts my ears: Real Salt Lake beat Chicago Fire

The other day I watched the MLS East semi-final between Real Salt Lake (spits on ground: worst contrived name ever) and Chicago Fire on ESPN or Fox Soccer Channel. RSL won 5-4 on penalties, contrary to this MLS headline: RSL buries Fire. A lively but disjointed match, certainly not a great advertisement for MLS. What stood out for me, though, was the commentary. Here is a list of comments that highlight, for me, why American and Canadian footie commentary duos need a Brit for credibility:

"...to handle the "flyers" from Salt Lake."
"...that enforcer type, that will pick the fights for his teammates that can't."
"...to get out of difficult (pause) phases of the game."
"...flying in to become an option here."
"...when they're relaying into the centre."
"...two 50-50 balls featuring Will Johnson."
"...it's going to be an elevated second half."
"...double-digit touches here."
"...the New England team was very very altered by what they could do."
"...every minute starts to magnify here."
"John Busch clears." (it was a goal kick)
"...to put some type of strong conclusion on goal."
"It's in their DNA." (about Real Salt Lake, as if they're some historic club)
"...it comes down to down-and-dirty penalties."

Some of it was marginal, but some was just painful. What is a conclusion on goal? What is an elevated second half? How can a minute start to magnify?

It wasn't all bad, and some was quite insightful. The announcers did a good job of calling it when players fell over too easily, and gave credit on solid unflashy defensive play and midfield coordination. I'm looking forward to watching the MLS final this Sunday between LA and RSL.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Whitecaps form breakaway league

So they've done it. Vancouver, Montreal and a few other teams that make up the Team Owners' Association (TOA) have split from the USL-1 and have formed a new league to play at Div. II level in the US and Div. I in Canada. Read the Sun story on it here. I wonder why the Caps have bothered with this, given that they'll only play in the league for one year, and it may have serious consequences for their women's and youth teams that play in the USL.

This will seriously damage the USL. Two of the best teams, and half of all their teams, have just left. Portland is gone soon, and Seattle left last year. I think this leaves them with 8 teams in total, meaning they'll have to promote some developmental teams if they want to have a full league next year. The same goes for the TOA, though. With only 8 teams committed, how are they going to maintain any semblance of a decent league? Especially if a few teams dominate the first year.

This is odd, and I don't like it, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Cost of roof higher than stated

According to Vaughn Palmer over at the Vancouver Sun, the new cost of the roof on BC Place is actually $513m. The announced $458m doesn't include the $55m that has been spent already in getting the stadium up to standards for the Olympics. Here's his take on it:

In a piece last Saturday's Sun on the cost overrun at BC Place, I noted that the budget for renovating the domed stadium and adding a new retractable roof had escalated from the "up to $365 million" approved by treasury board last year to $458 million in the fixed-price contract announced Oct. 23.

But a complete financial picture would also include the amount that has already been spent to bring the stadium up to standard for the 2010 Games, namely an estimated $55 million.

If added to the amount announced last week, the dollars already spent would push the overrun ($513 million versus $365 million) to 40 per cent.

Or, if you prefer, count it as another $55 million taxpayer contribution to the ever-escalating cost of staging the 2010 Games.

But don't hold your breath waiting for the B.C. Liberals to concede either possibility.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Whitecaps release four more players... and quit the USL?

The team just announced that they have released four more players: defenders Marco Reda and Michael Unpronounceable Lastname (Ndubuisi Onwatuegwu), their back-up keeper Diego, and young striker Aaron Wheeler.

In a recent post re: the squad, I was right about Reda, and I guess no one paid heed to my words on Michael. With only one chance to play in the first team, a friend and I both thought he did well. It was against Cleveland, second to last in the league, but he acquitted himself well. If I recall correctly, Cleveland scored in the second half after he had been subbed off for Reda, and they scored on his side of the field, with Reda doing particularly poorly on the play.

Wheeler just joined the team at the end of August, so no great loss there. I don't have a clue how he was as a player. The 'Caps strike force is pretty strong even with the departure of Charles Gbeke: Haber and James to start, and Edwini-Bonsu off the bench. Dever Orgill and Alex Semenets are their two other forwards listed. Orgill looks promising. Semenets has scored three goals in four games for the Canadian U-20 team.

Behind the usually effective and highly popular Jay Nolly, Diego didn't get a chance in the first team this season. Simon Thomas is 19 and is 6'2" and played in Oak Bay.

Oh, and the team might not have a league next year. What I would give for a multi-tiered system in North America.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Whitecaps 2009 squad in review

So, we lost in the final to a hot team, fair enough. Not a great way to lose, but Montreal were on a tear, winning all six matches in the play-offs after finishing strongly. We also finished strongly (one loss in 15 games, or something like that), and while our squad leaked some goals, we also showed that we could play and beat anyone (except Montreal, that is).

Who made the biggest contribution last year? Who should we keep, and who should be released? The organization has just helped out on this front, releasing star striker Charles Gbeke and midfielders Lyle Martin and Vicente Arze. They also extended captain Martin Nash's contract, and are talking to 'keeper and team MVP Jay Nolly.

The team also has to think ahead to their move to the MLS in 2011, a move given a boost earlier today with the announcement that plans to build a new retractable roof on BC Place will go ahead. Who is good enough to make the step up*?

With Nash and (probably) Nolly, there are four other players under contract. Two wingers, Ansu Toure and Tyrell Burgess, central midfielder Kenold Versailles, and forward Marlon James, who is 32. James' scoring record was pretty phenomenal (one goal every 100 minutes), but he was constantly injured. Nash isn't getting any younger, but he's a rock in the midfield and deserves as much loyalty as Vancouver fans have shown Trevor Linden. Versailles is a workhorse but lacks some vision. Burgess was inconsistent this year; Toure was such a great find.

Young stars like Marcus Haber (USL Rookie of the Year), Wes Knight, and (my favourite) lightning-fast Randy Edwini-Bonsu should be signed as soon as possible.

Gordon Chin was a revelation in the middle of the park; we really missed his energy in the first game against Montreal, and he should be top of the list for Lenarduzzi. Winger Justin Moose should also be re-signed. Chris Pozniak can play at the back or in the middle, and provides stability off the bench.

At the back, Shaun Pejic impressed since coming over from York City in England. Local boy Luca Bellisimo was a mite inconsistent but did well in the last few games of the season. Takashi Hirano will turn 36 next year, but still has his speed. At times he's a liability, but he's also very dangerous going forward. With Knight, that's my starting backline. Michael impressed in the one game I saw him, and should be given more opportunities. Clearly we need subs for the two wide positions at the back, with Martin gone. I can't remember who filled in for Hirano at left-back.

And that leaves who could or should be let go: Marco Reda was a liability at the back. I'm not sure Mason Trafford brings enough to the table. Nizar Khalfan was inconsistent but showed some promise. I would give him another year, but the club might not.

The rest of the players in the first team I'm not too familiar with, to be honest. Thoughts?

* Is it really a big step up? See an analysis of the numbers here.