Hi everyone and thanks for dropping by for The Fall edition of my Vancouver / Republic of Ireland Football Manager Story. We left off last time with the Whitecaps leading their NACL group and topping the overall standings in the MLS and looking strong for achieving a play-off spot. Can we capture our fourth straight MLS Cup? Before we find out that we’ll start this update with Ireland.
So there was in fact one game that missed the last report and that was a 1-0 defeat at home to Scotland, though against the Swiss we started to show some signs of “banding together” and that was more than evident away to Lativa. Striker Shane Long scored twice in the opening 10 minutes with Sean Scannell adding the third just before half time.
Ireland: European Championships
Our campaign started with a dramatic last minute winner by Sean Scannell in Budapest followed by a home win over Romania where a controversial penalty snatched all three points for us.
We finished up the year with two more friendlies which we really should have done better in both games.
Vancouver: September 2014
The month began with an easy Cascadia Cup win over Portland at BC Place with 2 goals by defender Cuesta from set pieces and a rare goal by DMC Jesus Hernandez.
We stayed at home for the visit Columbus where RB Sarkodie opened the scoring with a thunderous shot from 25 yards out from a cleared corner. The young defender set up goal number two slipping the ball through for AMR Jordi Pablo to bury into the corner of the net. On the opposite side Sinclair’s speed was all that was needed to provide an assist forJoaquin Hernandez to kill the game off before the interval.
** Brazilian forward Tardelly became a Canadian citizen after this game so that freed up an international slot on the roster.
North American Champions League
With two wins already under our belts we got off to a fantastic start at home to Honduran side Marathon when a superb pass by Edinho found Villalobes running into the box and he swept the ball into the net after just two minutes. Edinho added a second with a curling free kick from 20 yards out and then was instrumental in a counter attacking move that ended with Villalobes getting his second of the game. Tardelly who had become a Canadian certainly had not lost his Brazilian roots dribbling past several players before driving the ball into the corner of net to make it 4-0 by half time. We eased off the gas in the second half for comfortable victory.
Back in MLS action, ten seconds of inspiration by Tardelly ensured we came away from Texas with a point after a very lethargic performance against FC Dallas who really deserved the win and were very unfortunate not to get it.
Match-day four of our NACL campaign required two goals in the last 10 minutes by a determined Joshua Galloway that ensured a come from behind victory over 10 man Philadelphia and qualification to the quarter-finals of the NACL.
We finished up the month with a tough encounter at BMO Field in Toronto which predictably ended in a 1-1 draw though it was the pace of Sinclair that saved us from an embarrassing defeat. The result against Toronto ensured we went straight through to the semi-finals of the play-offs and just one more point will mean we will have the best overall regular season record.
We were off to Mexico for match day five of our NACL group and took the lead inside 20 minutes after a blistering run by Sinclair ended with a low cross that found Nagbe steaming in from the right and he struck the ball first time for the opening goal. We struggled to make any further impact as Toluca organized defensively and it was our own defensive errors that cost us the game through unbelievably poor marking on a corner and committing too many men forward resulting in being burnt for speed in a counter attacking move.
We quickly put the NACL defeat behind us, returning to BC Place where the start of a three game home series saw us record our biggest ever MLS victory in a 6-0 thrashing of Colorado, the highlight of which saw a spectacular team goal finished off by Edinho. The Brazilian was on hand again with a cracking 30 yard strike as we hosted New England with another goal by Traore and a poacher’s effort by Tardelly. The Whitecaps faithful were treated to another goal fest as we crushed DC United 5-2 in our final home game of the regular season.
North American Champions League
With qualification already assured to the quarter-finals I sent down a somewhat weakened team to Honduras where we took an early lead through Joaquin Hernandez. Marathon fought back scoring twice in 14 minutes that left us shell shocked from which were unable to recover and consequently suffered our first defeat in the group stage.
The final Group D table looked like this.
Almost 50,000 people were packed into the Seattle Stadium for our final game of the regular season and it was a Cascadia Cup match as well. Seattle got off to a great start scoring just after 10 minutes to send the home fans crazy which was quickly followed by two golden opportunities as Nagbe and Villalobes missed from close range. Tardelly though had no such problem striking the ball in off a Sinclair cross to tie the game up on the half hour mark. Nagbe made up for his earlier error finishing off a free kick minutes later and after the interval a rampant Sinclair made it 3-1 as we caught Seattle on the counter with Cuesta heading in goal number four 12 minutes from time. This win meant we had a 100% record against Portland and Seattle.
We won the Western Conference for the second straight season though this time by a massive 20 point margin scoring 80 goals, our most since joining the league.
In the combined standings we were top as well with double the goals and almost double the points of the last team to make the play-offs, the New York Red Bulls. This meant that we had won the Supporters Shield for the first time meaning automatic qualification to the Champions League next season.
THE PLAY OFFS
The 1st leg of the Western Conference semi-final saw us travel to New York to play the Red Bulls who had “crossed over” to the west having beating Seattle in a wild card game and there were already 4 Eastern teams in those conference semi-finals. What unfolded in New York was truly amazing as we thrashed New York 7-2, with five goals coming before the interval the best of which was Sinclair’s who intercepted pass across the half way line, sprinted past two defenders before striking the ball into the roof of the next. It was a magical goal in a magical game.
The second leg wasn’t quite as thrilling as New York played a lot tighter and coupled with the changes I made to our line up resulted in a very mundane draw.
Western Conference Final
We had home field advantage for the final and a packed BC Place was on hand for the last game to be played at the stadium and my 200th game in charge of the club. The sense of occasion seemed to get to the players as we got off to a sluggish start against Salt Lake, missing opportunities as they arose and defending nervously. Skipper Edinho broke the ice just before half time with a twisting shot into the roof of the net off a long throw into the box.
The second half had barely got underway when Sinclair sprinted down the left flank and his cross met the head of Nagbe for our second goal of the game. Nagbe would go on to torment the Salt Lake left back and would eventually set up two goals in the last 10 minutes for midfielders Villalobes and Hernandez who both came storming into the box to meet Nagbe’s cross ball.
Chester Park, Pennsylvania provided to venue for the first ever all Canadian Final of the MLS Cup as we took on Toronto FC, who were the newly crowned Eastern Champions. We got off to a fabulous start with the pace of Sinclair being too much for the Toronto defence and his first run led to a goal for Villalobes within a minute of the kick off. Edinho added a second just after the half hour when a defensive error allowed him to break free with the ball which he drove low and hard into the corner of the net. Toronto hit back immediately from the restart catching us flat footed along the back line and looked to be making a game of it going into the interval.
Early second half pressure from Toronto created a succession of corners the last of which was cleared away to Sinclair who ran three quarters of the length of the pitch with the ball before crossing to Tardelly who had kept up with him for the Brazilian/Canadian to make it 3-1 with a side footed tap in. Toronto though wouldn’t capitulate throwing everyone forward but again we caught them on the counter attack with Nagbe leading the charge down the right for Tardelly to finish off the cross with a thrilling shot in to the roof of the net. Edinho had time to miss a penalty before the final whistle but it made no difference and to the delight of our travelling fans we had won our fourth MLS Cup in a row equalling DC United’s record and completing the double with the Supporters Shield.
In the wake of our fourth championship title came the fact that this mini dynasty could be coming to an end simply because of league rules regarding Senior Players – maximum 20, Developmental Players – maximum six and Internationals – maximum nine. With many younger players now eligible for senior contracts some harsh decisions would have to be made before the end of 2014.
Transfers & Trades
We’d been in contract talks with Sinclair for some time before the play-offs as he’d originally signed for one year but having played so well he demanded over twice his salary, $ 69,000 per week which we could not afford and so he will be joining West Brom at the start of the next transfer window.
Defender Alain Rochat would be joining Luzern in January so along with Sinclair were immediately taken off the squad registration list following the MLS Cup final with young GK Brian Sylvestre and central defender Guilianni Sacco also being waived.
Next to go was AMR Steve Kramer who was picked 18th by us in the first round of the 2011 Superdraft and was sold on to FC Dallas for $100,000. In probably the biggest shock before the year ended club captain Edinho was traded to rival Toronto FC for Canadian striker David DiPlacido whom we had been tracking all season long having scored 13 goals in 25 appearances. The deal also cost our complete allocation funds of $400,000.
All the transfer outs with the exception of Sinclair were based on Moneyball stats and the players who left the club are highlighted below in green broken down into Defence and Offence. The defence is pretty strong both in the CB and FB roles and so it’s unlikely that there will be any new players coming in.
Both Pelosi and Traore could be adequate enough to fill the shoes of the departing Sinclair and although Edinho had a great end to the season his stats, especially passing are beginning to dwindle so the trade with Toronto seemed the right move. Kramer was a no brainer as his effectiveness as a right winger was over having completed just 10% of his crosses.
With the arrival of DiPlacido its likely Jarju will leave at the start of the New Year being offered to overseas teams.
The board had provided a cash injection of over $6,000,000 to avoid sinking below $10,000,000 in debt and additionally we had signed a new sponsorship deal as well.
We start next season away to New York in the MLS who we will become very familiar with as we meet them in the NACL quarter finals as well. A very tough looking three game road trip awaits us in April before we end up playing New York again at the end of May.
So that concludes another season with the Whitecaps and many thanks for reading all the posts including this very long update. Appreciate your time and look forward to your comments.
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