Vancouver Whitecaps Archive


Dear MLS, please kill the No. 4 vs No. 5 playoff game dead

MLSlogoplayoffsFor a guy who writes about soccer as much as I do, loves the game as much as I do, I surprise myself about how many times I wonder if there are too many matches being played.

The world would be a better place without the League Cup (we get to see who the big clubs put on the bench today!), meaningless friendlies, North American summer tours by European clubs… They are like the cheapest of Scotch; too much exposure to these things, and you might get so turned off that you forsake the good stuff, too.

And, if Major League Soccer cared about the integrity of its playoff system, it would do the world a favour and jettison the No. 4 vs. No. 5 conference playoff games.

Wednesday’s match, which saw FC Dallas end the Whitecaps season with a 2-1 win, was another example of why the No. 4 vs. No. 5 playoff game is a massive issue. The announced attendance was 10,279. Almost Chivas bad. But, as anyone in Sports Marketing 101 would tell you, what do you expect when a team is expected to sell playoff tickets for a game that happens on a midweek evening, just three days after the regular season ends?
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USL-PRO silent on status of Canadian MLS teams’ bids for affiliates

uslThe deadline to apply for a new USL-PRO franchise fell on Sept. 15.

A day later, the USL brass won’t say much about which MLS teams will have new affiliate teams in place for the 2015 season. That includes the three Canadian MLS sides.

In 2013, USL forged an to become the developmental league for MLS. In 2014, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact confirmed their wishes to have USL affiliates for the 2015 season. Toronto FC has been rumoured to also be looking at having a direct affiliate in 2015, after failing in an earlier bid to secure an affiliate team in Hamilton.

But, when asked about who could be in and who could be out, USL President Tim Holt said Tuesday that the process of adding teams is still ongoing.

“USL PRO remains in the process of determining the roster of teams for the 2015 season, including any additional expansion teams. This includes several MLS clubs evaluating the opportunity to launch a USL PRO franchise. Any such official announcements will occur once agreements have been finalized.”
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Breaking down Michael Bradley’s comments, by the numbers: Do Canadian refs really favour American teams?

Dave Gantar: Even though he got the call wrong, is he owed an apology?

Dave Gantar: Even though he got the call wrong, is he owed an apology?

Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley crossed a line on Saturday night.

After Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Chicago, which saw Edmonton-based referee Dave Gantar rule out what would have been Gilberto’s winning goal for a phantom push on a Chicago defender, Bradley vented his frustration. And it was captured on the TFC’s official video feed (CLICK HERE).

“They continue to assign Canadian referees whenever an American team is playing against an Canadian team… they are going to go make a conscious effort to show that they are not being biased one way or another. It’s not the first time we’ve had this guy this year. What can I say? He’s just not good enough?”

A player moaning about officials is nothing new. But it wasn’t that Bradley was simply calling out Gantar for missing a call. He was suggesting that there was a motive behind the call. He suggested that Canadian referees are making “conscious efforts” to call their games a certain way.

It’s one thing to challenge a referee’s eyes or even a referee’s judgement. But the second you challenge the official’s character, you need to back that up.

Did Gantar make the wrong call on Glberto? Yes. Even the opposing coach, Frank Yallop, allowed that his Fire side was fortunate.

“It didn’t look like it was a foul, or whatever the ref called. We got lucky on that one,” Yallop said after the game.

But, let’s make this clear. There’s a big difference between a blown call and a blown call because of bias. And Bradley suggested the latter.
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Stats show link between number of draws and playoffs; are there lessons there for MLS?

MLS-logoAs of Thursday, 31.7 per cent of Major League Soccer’s game end in draws.

That’s not a number that falls far from the conventional soccer wisdom that says that between a quarter and 30 per cent of all games will end in ties. But, probability changes as the game evolves. And, if you look at other leagues around the world, the 30-per-cent-draw figure isn’t such an accurate reflection of how the game is being played nowadays. The rate of draws is actually closer to 20 per cent, if you look at the major Euro circuits.

In the previous English Premier League season, just 78 of 380 matches ended in draws — or a shade above 20 per cent. Major League Soccer has seen 61 draws already, in just 192 games played so far in 2014.

In the previous Bundesliga campaign, 64 of 306 matches ended in draws. Just a bit under 21 per cent, and consistent to the English trend. In Spain, 86 of 380 matches were even after full time, a rate of 22.6 per cent. A little higher than in England or Germany, but nowhere close to MLS.

In the 2013 season, MLS had a 25.4 draw percentage. Slightly higher than the elite-European-league norm, but 2014 is trending upwards, thanks to the likes of the Vancouver Whitecaps and Chicago Fire, who each have drawn more than half of the games on their schedules (and, so fitting, played to a 0-0 draw on Wednesday).
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Garber hints that Canadian-player rules in MLS may change: Why we need to look at minutes played, not roster spots

Don Garber

Don Garber

In a Facebook chat with fans held on Monday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber was greeted with the thorny question about Canadian players in the league.

Francis Ghanimé asked him: “Will Canadian players ever stop counting as internationals for American clubs?”

And this was the answer from the commish.

“We are working on a new approach to our international player rules as they relate to Canada. Stay tuned.”

We have asked MLS for more clarification on the issue.

But, we do know the rules as they pertain to Canadians are on the radar. We also know the Canadian Soccer Association has lobbied MLS to changes the rules so Canadians are seen as domestic players, league wide. This would then put MLS on an equal footing with USL-PRO, which allows Canadians to be domestics on U.S. clubs.

Right now, the Canadian teams are required to each carry three Canadian players on their rosters. On the U.S. teams, Canadians are counted as international players and take up roster space that many American teams would prefer to give to players from, well, sexier parts of the soccer world. Meanwhile, on Canadian teams, Americans are seen as domestics.

The timing is interesting. We know CSA has been pushing for changes for a while. But, now, the CSA has gone public with its stated goal of having Canada’s own “Division 1A” (CLICK HERE or see issue 2 of Plastic Pitch), and reports continue that NASL, CFL owners and the CSA are discussing the formation of a Canadian division — something that NASL won’t deny, but says it simply can’t comment on… at this time.

So, pressure is no doubt building on MLS.
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The ifs and buts of bringing a New Westminster team into USL-PRO

uslThere is one key word to take out of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ announcement that the club hopes to place a USL-PRO affiliate in New Westminster.


There are still a lot of variables in play. Some should come easier than others: It’s hard to imagine USL-PRO not wanting to approve this. To be fair, the league has approved far more speculative expansion pitches over the last several years. With the backing of an MLS side and two more investors willing to put themselves out in the open, the New Westminster pitch will arguably be one of the best pitches USL-PRO will have seen since the third division’s partnership with MLS was announced ahead of the 2013 campaign.

Ian Gillespie of Westbank Projects Corp., and Gary Pooni of Brook Pooni Associates are the new partners in the New Westminster proposal.

The promise is to have Queen’s Park Stadium refurbished for the new USL-PRO if the franchise is granted. So, there shouldn’t be a venue issue.

The Whitecaps hope to have their USL-PRO affiliate in New Westminster for the 2015 season — which would be far more convenient for the club than to ship prospects to the Carolinas for their professional seasoning. The proximity of the USL-PRO affiliate to Vancouver would, logically, allow for the team to better supervise and manage its young players.

The biggest “if” might come from the Canadian Soccer Association; though, the national sanctioning body for the game in this country has softened what had been a hardline stance towards USL-PRO.
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Montagliani’s vision: A Canadian Division 1A that “coexists” with MLS, NASL

Victor Montagliani

Victor Montagliani

The second issue of Plastic Pitch, released today, features a 16-page section on Canada’s bid for the 2026 World Cup, with stories from five different writers.

(For those new to us, Plastic Pitch is our dedicated magazine for iPad, smartphones and Android readers — you can get either issue 1 or 2 or subscribe through iTunes, Newsstand, Google Play or Amazon, links at the bottom of the article)

But, there’s one part of that World Cup section that’s sure to get a lot of attention. And that’s the stated Canadian Soccer Association goal of an all-Canadian Division One — or “1A,” as CSA President Victor Montagliani called it in our interview.

Say it with me. An all-Canadian league. Division one, not two or three or four.

Over the last year, I’d heard whispers about the possibility of an all-Canadian Division One. But getting anyone to confirm that… well, that was the thing. It was like the Great White Whale. Now, it’s out there. Officially. The recognition that Canada needs its own league; that we can’t redefine our developmental pyramid unless a Canadian Division One — which puts the interest of Canadian soccer at the forefront — is at the top.
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Aird’s Canadian repatriation the highlight of the U-20 roster

Fraser Aird

Fraser Aird

The Canadian Soccer Association released the names of the U-20 players who have are currently in Sunrise, Fla. for a week-long camp.

And one name jumps right out at the Canadian soccer supporter. Fraser Aird.

Aird has been the subject of will-he-or-won’t-he talk regarding his international future. Would he play for Canada or would he play for Scotland? And his appearance at Canada’s U-20 camp is helping confirm recent speculation that he’s ready to don Canada’s colours at both the junior and senior levels.

The teen, who is with Rangers, was placed on Canada’s 35-player long list ahead of last year’s Gold Cup. Then-Canada coach Colin Miller had tried to use his longstanding connections with Rangers to try and convince the teen to come play for his birth nation. Miller spoke with Rangers’ manager Ally McCoist last year to try and sell the parties in Scotland on the benefit of having Aird play for Canada. (CLICK HERE)

As a former Rangers player who represented Canada, Miller was hoping the connections would go a long way. But Aird didn’t play for Canada at the Gold Cup, so many of us pessimistic Canadians had pretty well assumed that the teen had committed to Scotland. After all, Aird had previously played for Scotland’s U-17 and U-19 sides.
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PLASTIC PITCH has launched! Canadian Soccer. Canadian Stories.

PpitchPLASTIC PITCH is ready for download! The app has been approved and the first issue is set to be enjoyed on your smartphone, tablet or device of your choosing. (OK, not totally of your choosing; you couldn’t use an old Commodore PET.)

Right now, the app is available for all Android-ready devices. You can find it Amazon’s app store. You can find it in Google Play. It should launch on Apple in the coming days. The app download is free, issues are $4.99 (five bucks in Canada, we got rid of the penny, didn’t we?) each or a one-year sub (for issues) is $14.99 ($15).

For those who supported this new and unique Canadian soccer magazine through our Kickstarter campaign or other advance subscriptions, the e-mail address you provided is the key. When you download the app, your subscription will be unlocked by that address.

If there are any issues, please contact as soon as possible, and we’ll work to resolve them. As this is the launch of the app and the first issue, we can’t possibly expect to everything go 100 per cent smoothly.

For those who haven’t subscribed, we invite you to download the app and try the first issue. We think you’ll find it filled with fresh voices, interesting art and, most importantly, no cheerleading. Magazine quality hasn’t been sacrificed. You can still subscribe for as little as $15 for a year (four issues). That’s about the price of a beer and a snack at the stadium.
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New Voyageurs’ Cup sked: For NASL teams, short-term pain for long-term gain



If you’re a fan of FC Edmonton or Ottawa Fury, the Canadian Soccer Association’s announcement of the coming scheduling changes to the Voyageurs’ Cup may have you slightly perturbed. Or angry. Or furious.

That’s because, to accommodate the change to a new summer schedule for the Voyageurs’ Cup, no NASL team will be able to try and qualify for the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League.

But you shouldn’t be angry. Anything but. Really, the new scenario is the best thing the NASL teams could have asked for.

OK, let’s backtrack to the announcement made earlier Friday. To try and make more the Amway Canadian Championship — which has been plagued by poor ratings and terrible gates as it went head-to-head with the NHL playoffs — more fan-friendly, the CSA is moving the tournament to the summer, starting next year.

This year’s tournament, which begins April 23 with the first of a play-in two-game series between FC Edmonton and Ottawa, will go ahead as normal. The winner of the five-team tourney gets the Canadian spot in the upcoming CONCACAF Champions League.
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