Voyageurs Cup infographic

The Voyageurs Cup semi-final is a two-legged affair, as we know, and one in which away goals matter.* With the 2-1 first-leg win, Toronto come to Vancouver with a lot of game still to play, and many think that result favours Vancouver. (And if it weren’t for Robinson’s commitment to playing youth, I would agree entirely.)

In their preview email, the Whitecaps sent out a smart little infographic to help explain what the possible results in the second leg (which kicks off tomorrow at 7:30pm at BC Place) will mean.

A very effective infographic.

A very effective infographic.

Simple, effective. Job well done, Whitecaps comms team.

* For those that don’t know, two game play-offs are very standard in the world of soccer. And generally goals that are scored away from home are valued more than goals scored at home.

The simplest explanation to illustrate this is if the two teams draw 0-0 in the first game and then 1-1 in the second game, the away team in the second game advances because while the two teams are tied on points (each earning a point in both games) and in goals, the away goal counts more than the home goal.

Pin the wig on Donovan

I don’t really like making fun of someone because of baldness, but I’ll take any opportunity I can to take a poke at Landon Donovan.

In 2011 when the LA Galaxy visited Empire, Donovan played in front of us for a half, and our chants of “HAAAIIIIRRR-PLUGGGGGGSSS!” rang out loud and clear. He most definitely heard us.

And then he scored twice and ran over to celebrate in front of us, mostly because there were some visiting LA fans behind us, but I’d also like to think he was happy to taunt us as well.

Fast forward to this year, last Saturday. The good folks over at Rain City Brigade put together this brilliant piece of work:

Pin the wig on Donovan

Pin the wig on Donovan

(Photo credit: Rain City Brigade Facebook page)

And when the LA players, disappointed with a draw after leading twice, quickly made their way to the exit, Donovan was first off the pitch. Here he is walking past his very own Pin the Wig on Donovan game:

Partially obscured by the Southsiders flag, but not obscured to Donovan himself.

Partially obscured by the Southsiders flag, but not obscured to Donovan himself.

Again, brilliant work by Rain City Brigade.

Breaking down the breakdown v. LA

Continuing on the same vein as last week, here’s a breakdown of LA’s first goal against the Whitecaps at BC Place.

Unfortunately the Whitecaps also continued their play from last week, which meant leaving players open at the back and allowing a simple ball forward to leave them outnumbered and out of position in the 18-yard box.

Take a look at the goal here:

Here are the key moments that led to Ishizaki’s free header in the box:

After a second attempt, the ball was cleared by Laba from an LA corner. The Whitecaps backline pushed out of the 18, and our mids and attackers moved forward to pressure the ball. They were actually in decent positions as LA regrouped.

1st goal Apr19 1

Mattocks pressured the ball early, Koffie was first of the midfielders out, Morales was covering Husidic out wide, and Miller (lazily) seemed ready to pounce on an errant pass.

1st goal Apr19 2

Koffie pressured Juninho, who slipped it sideways to Sarvas.

Morales and Teibert were about equal distance from the play, and some communication could have allowed them to properly mark up. Or Koffie could have moved over to Sarvas, stalling the play a bit.

Still, nothing glaringly poor yet. The team still looked like they had things covered.

1st goal Apr19 3

But then Teibert, starting a bit out wide, ran straight at Sarvas, which allowed a simple pass out wide to Gargan and left Teibert in no position to do much of anything.

You can see that Husidic jogged ahead of Morales, who appeared to switch off. You can also see that DeMerit noticed this and was pointing and yelling at someone about it. Nice try.

With Laba in front of Donovan and looking over at Gargan, and Husidic ahead of Morales, there was a clear 5-on-4 developing at the back.

1st goal Apr19 4

At that point Laba realized that there was no one to pressure the ball and sprinted out at Gargan. Unfortunately he’s way behind the play.

Morales had stopped running at all, leaving Husidic wide open. Beitashour had two players to mark there, so can’t really be blamed for leaving Husidic open.

1st goal Apr19 5

Husidic easily beat Beitashour to the ball, and put a very nice ball back across the box.

O’Brien had to stay with Gonzalez, and Harvey did a decent job (on this goal, anyway) of sticking with Keane.

DeMerit, on the other hand, is lost. He followed the ball and completely left both Ishizaki and Donovan wide open in that dangerous area 8-12 yards from goal.

1st goal Apr19 6

In the above video you can see DeMerit gamely try to recover, but he’s nowhere near Ishizaki, who easily powered his header through Harvey, out of reach of Ousted. 1-0 to LA.

Just like last week our midfielders didn’t cover well, a simple ball out of the back put a ton of pressure on the Whitecaps defenders, and a mental lapse allowed a relatively easy goal to put the team under a lot of pressure and ultimately cost points.

TFB podcast Volume 2 Episode 8: The One In Which We Really Blathered

Bit of a tough week. Even by our lax standards we rambled a lot. Ben had the unenviable task of finding 30 minutes of quality from 70+ minutes of blather. I still can’t believe he cut the bit about superliquification. 

We talk about Teibert’s role in the loss in LA, why Koffie was at fault for the goal but why Robinson has to shoulder some of the blame, and how we’ll fare in the home fixture this Saturday.

Ben gives us an update on FC Edmonton because it’s so relevant to soccer in Vancouver, and then edits out  my paean to Marcos Senna (he won a European Championship, people!).

I drank a lovely Smokehouse Porter, which is a collaboration between Brassneck and Steamworks. We talk about that.


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Beer in March

A bit late, but things are pretty busy at the Fat Bastards household. The sun has been shining, and those dandelions don’t pick themselves, you know.

March was a pretty subdued month on the beer front – your erstwhile scribe had settled into a bit of a predictable pattern, involving trips to Brassneck and 12-packs from Bomber. A decent approach to life, I would argue.

Unfortunately my lackadaisical schedule meant that I missed the Alibi Room’s 500th tap list celebration. They do this every hundred sheets, and bring out a bunch of one-offs, special brews, etc. For several days (March 9-13 in this case) the Alibi Room becomes a Vancouver beer mecca, more so than it already is. Sad that I missed it.

Some things that I didn’t miss:

Brassneck debuted an Imperial IPA (the One Trick Pony) that has since returned. Straw-coloured and well-balanced for a 9% IPA. They also brewed their Passive Aggressive with Nelson Sauvin hops, which lent it a rich and smooth flavour, less sharp. My first exposure to this hop variety, and I was impressed.

Someone else’s photo

I also tried my second beer from Trou du Diable, the Buteuse. It’s a 10% Belgian tripel, described by the brewery as “Bière ambrée coiffée d’une riche mousse. Sa robe pleine de fines bulles champenoises conduit avec elle des parfums de sucres et d’épices exotiques. Le tout est soutenu par la chaleur de l’alcool et de ses effluves enivrantes.”

My comments were: “Wow. Wowzers. Amazing.” Another stellar beer from this Quebec brewery. It’s sweet and spicy and rich and balanced and surprisingly refreshing.

Lemongrass? More like grapefruit

Tried another Howe Sound offering, the lovely Cloudburst IPA. I might as well have been drinking grapefruit juice – the grapefruit flavours in this were overpowering and wonderful.

Crannóg, exactly as you’d expect.

Finally, I had the good fortune to find a lovely red ale from Crannóg at St. Augustine’s. The Wobbly Toddler Red Milk Ale, to be precise (which might be the best-named beer in BC). It was smooth, rich, malty, a tad bitter, and perfectly balanced. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend trying each and every beer of theirs that you come across.

Dissecting the losing goal in LA

Predictably, the Whitecaps lost in LA to a better Galaxy team. Both Ben and I predicted a loss – this was likely one of the easier predictions we’ll make all season. We’ve never won in LA against LA. We’ve never even taken a point from five games.

There was a lot to like in the game, but in the end a loss is a loss. And there are reasons we lost, not just that LA were at home and are a better team. (Though obviously those are strong factors.) LA are relentless, and if you make a mistake, they’ll likely punish you.

And the Whitecaps made a few mistakes on the losing goal. Let’s take a look:

Now let’s take a look at the key moments and decisions that led to what looks like an easy goal:

Doesn't look too bad so far...

Doesn’t look too bad so far…

Juninho pickd it up from a simple throw-in and saw Ishizaki (off-screen) making a run through our backline. Teibert was in a decent position – Harvey was pushed up, watching Sarvas. Koffie seemed to be marking space and was ready to push up on Donovan, but oblivious to Keane behind him. Watch that as we go ahead.

A really nice touch by Ishizaki.

A really nice touch by Ishizaki.

Anyway, it was a really great pass by Juninho, and Ishizaki did very well to bring it down under control. With the ball midair, though, our midfielders realized the danger and started hoofing it back to help out. It took Koffie 8-10 steps before he really got going – Teibert actually gained about five yards on him over this time.

As Ishizaki sets up it’s a lopsided 3-on-3, with DeMerit isolated. Beitashour is tracking Husidic, leaving O’Brien to assess the situation, one eye on DeMerit and one eye on the onrushing Keane. Not a great situation, and one that you especially don’t want to be in after a really simple long ball.

Still looking okay.

Still looking okay.

I’ve been critical of Jay DeMerit in the past for his rash tackling, but in this case he played it safe and smart, and kept Ishizaki at the edge of the box.

And that’s Koffie, just three or four yards behind Keane. Who, it must be said, wasn’t exactly sprinting flat out. And Koffie actually slowed up. What? Yep. Between that and his slow start, he absolutely could have been right on Keane. To me it looked like he thought he was handing Keane off to O’Brien.

O’Brien did a really great job of checking back into the middle of the box, anticipating a cross. But he had to be aware that if DeMerit got torched O’Brien had to be able to come across to challenge Ishizaki. And from his angle it would be hard to see exactly what Ishizaki is doing.

A great cross is about to undo 45 minutes of excellent defensive work.

A great cross is about to undo 45 minutes of excellent defensive work.

Nevertheless, O’ Brien made the wrong decision and moved towards the ball, leaving a ton of space for Keane to run into.

A perfect cross and a relatively easy volley later, and the Caps had to return home with nothing to show from what was a good effort and a generally good approach to the game from Robinson.

In the seconds leading to the goal, Koffie’s lapse of concentration, lack of effort, and poor reading of the play meant Keane was free and unmarked running at goal. O’Brien had to keep his options open but ultimately paid the price for ball-watching.

But remember, this came from a simple throw-in in the LA half. And not a quick one that would have caught the Whitecaps off-guard. First, the ball goes out after a long cross-field pass from Beitashour. At that point everyone just jogged lightly to the left side of the field. The ball was thrown in to Juninho, who tapped it to Sarvas, who tapped it back to Juninho, who had a nice cup of tea, looked up, checked his watch, then hit the pass that undid the Caps.

How was it that LA were so easily able to break down what had been a very effective defence thus far? Here is (roughly) what the field looked like when Juninho hit his pass to Ishizaki:



One of the most basic tenets of defending in soccer is to always have a spare man at the back. With one simple pass LA were able to isolate a slow centre back out wide and run their most dangerous attacker through to goal while keeping our other defender busy.

Neither defensive midfielder was particularly in a position to help out our defenders. Teibert played this fairly well. Koffie, on the other hand, was poor on this play from start to finish, and has to wear a huge chunk of the blame, along with O’Brien. But Robinson also needs to have his team better prepared, especially at the start of halves and especially on simple set pieces.

TFB podcast Vol 2 Episode 7 – A Good Episode

Is Ben the new Noam Chomsky? The phrase “criminalization of dissent” is uttered in this episode.

I review the Colorado loss (not a big deal), we both gush over Landon Donovan and Rob Friend in the LA preview, and Ben talks forever about NASL teams FC Edmonton and Tampa Bay.

We give a bit of love to Jono’s Voyageurs Cup predictor (sign up here!), and the shout-outs are numerous:

* Kelly McLain
* Darren Barefoot
* Luke Lohr and Pedro Gomes of Off The Bench podcast (Sorry, Luke, but Ben edited out my mention of the proposed foot race with Brian Shriver.)
* Southsiders FC
* Don Garber!

Sadly we didn’t continue the stellar new segment from last episode, Brenton’s Tweets, so I’ll have to treat you to the latest uplifting tweet from Brenton Griffiths, Rapids squad member (and fellow Aquarian – are there any ways we’re not connected?!):

Without dreams we reach nothing. Without love we feel nothing and we without God we are nothing!!!! #UpAndThankful

Oh, and Ben conveniently edited out any mention of his Calgarian roots in our segment on FC Edmonton. I believe that’s what Noam Chomsky would label manufacturing consent, Ben.

Grumpy? Yep, Ben's grumpy. He can't handle the hegemony.

Grumpy? Yep, Ben’s grumpy. He can’t handle the hegemony.

Nice passing, gents.

So everyone’s on Pedro’s jock because of some pretty awesome passing in the Houston game. And rightly so. He threaded this gorgeous giffed pass to Koffie that has drawn plaudits:

This shows Morales’ ambitious nature – he had an easy pass back to Laba that would have opened up Houston’s left flank, with both Beitashour and Koffie available, and Teibert, Miller, and Mattocks all waiting upfield.

In the game, though, me and my seatmates audibly gasped when he did this:

Great control, slick move to get away from pressure, then a volleyed cross-field pass with his left foot. Gorgeous.

But the first thing you notice in that second clip, or the first thing I noticed, was the great thrown pass from David Ousted. Perfect, right to Morales’ feet. Full credit to Ousted for spotting Morales and then executing an excellent and dangerous pass.

And not only does Morales use both feet to hit those two long, beautiful passes, he hits them from opposite sides of the field.

Darren Mattocks can pass too

I think this deserves mention, because Darren Mattocks is quickly becoming a bit of a polarizing figure for Whitecaps fans, with many demanding goals while his defenders (rightly) point to his workrate and chance-creation.

Here’s a lovely play that highlights for me the value of Mattocks and Morales:

Laba gets the ball from O’Brien, and gets it quickly to Morales upfield. Morales checks back a bit to create some space, and zips the ball forward to a streaking Mattocks. Mattocks composes himself, spots Morales making an unlikely run, and puts a perfect pass through four Dynamo defenders right on Morales’ foot.

Laba the Reliable

Elsewhere in the midfield, Matias Laba had a near-perfect day on the ball (44 and 2), and was a remarkable 25 for 25 passing in the first half. One of his two unsuccessful passes in the second half was a 50/50 header that went astray.

Final third

As a team the Whitecaps were 78 of 101 in the final third. That is a pretty astounding figure, and would be a good success rate for the entire field.

Worryingly, just five of those passes were in or into the Houston 18-yard-box.

Strength on the bench

And finally, credit to the three subs for coming on and barely putting a foot wrong. The three made 27 of 32 passes (18 and 3 in the final third) and created numerous chances.

After coming on in the 87th minute Mezquida made 8 of 9 passes and drew two fouls. Manneh was dangerous and set up what could have been a third goal with a nicely composed pass to Miller in stoppage time. And Fernández kept possession well and created trouble for Houston late in the game.