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Vancouver Whitecaps: Season 5, He who laughs last….

The Fall 2015

Hello friends and welcome back to my final installment of the 2015 season. Last time we finished up with Vancouver in the middle of some sporadic form coupled with my own intermittent attempts to find a home elsewhere after being rejected by the Canadian Soccer Association and laughed at by DC United. Can the turmoil be put behind us as we challenge for a record breaking 5th MLS Cup? Can we qualify for the NACL Quarter-Finals?

September 2015

If there had been mayhem it was quickly forgotten about in our first game of the month as skipper Yamith Cuesta headed us in front from a corner after just 12 minutes. Winger Marc Pelosi produced two fabulous runs down the left flank and both crosses ended in goals for Nagbe who slid along the ground to meet the ball on both occasions. Striker Joaquin Hernandez was brought down in the box just before half time with allowed Nagbe to complete his hat-trick from the spot. Cuesta would also complete his hat-trick.. Just the start we needed.

We stayed at home for the following game where pressure from Galloway forced an own goal putting Columbus behind after just 9 minutes. A brilliant effort from long range made it 2-0 as Arboleda imposed his presence on the game. After the interval a give and go between Pelosi and Hernandez made it 3-0 with the visitors pulling a goal back late in the game.

Match Day Three of the NACL provided stiffer opposition as we were once again at Vancouver Stadium for the visit of Costa Rican side Saprissa. After intense pressure in the opening thirty minutes we finally got the breakthrough when Nagbe drove the ball hard and low into the six yard box and Joaquin Hernadez turned it into the net. Goal number two came in similar fashion in the 57th minute with Pelosi the provider and Nagbe the finisher. We ended up the game with 10 men after a wild tackle by Galloway but we collected a vital three points to put us back in the running for the next round.

Our great start to September came to an end in Texas as we went down 2-1 away to Dallas but back in British Columbia we held the visiting Pumas to a 1-1 draw in Match Day Four of the NACL thanks to a smashing equalizing goal by Nagbe.

Group D Snapshot

Next, we travelled across the country to take on Canadian rivals Toronto FC where we snatched all three points deep into added time thanks to the efforts of Nagbe and Pelosi. We didn’t deserve this at all as Toronto has hit the woodwork no less than three times.

Match Day Five was critical that we win it and we finally did with a burst of energy late in the second half with three quick goals that puts us right back into contention for a quarter-final spot.

October 2015

The final month of the regular season was very kind to us as we had three games in a row at home of which we took full advantage. We started off by cruising past Colorado and then unleashed Darlington Nagbe against his former club Portland in a Cascadia Cup match in which he set up all three goals. Finally a stunning performance by David DiPlacido** made sure we handed DC United yet another stunning defeat after the previous 7-0 win over them.

** Authors Note

Thanks to Ziggy’s story here as I picked up on him sending a failing striker to the reserves for a while to improve his form. I did that with DiPlacido and the results speak for themselves scoring 5 in the last three games.

NACL Match Day 6

Our final group game required a crucial trip to Costa Rica where we had to win to ensure a place in the Champions League quarter-finals. Here’s how the table looked with 5 game played.

1 Saprissa

9

2 Pumas

8

3 Vancouver

8

4 Chivas   UA

2

 

We got off to a dream start with a shot from DiPlacido rebounding off a Saprissa defender to put us in front after 3 minutes. From there the home side stamped their mark on the game pinning us back for the entire first half and scoring 2 goals. Left back Bret Melia who was having a horrible game scored an own goal before I could get him off but we managed to pull another goal back through Villalobos. In a wild final twenty minutes Saprissa made it 4-2 but we never gave up scoring 2 more ourselves to tie the game up.

It was always on the cards that we would need to win our last game and having failed to do so we were eliminated from the competition coming in third place in our group.

The final game of the MLS regular season required just one point to retain the Western Title as we crossed the border to take on Seattle in a Cascadia Cup match. After taking the lead through Joaquin Hernandez, Seattle pinned us back for most of the game and it was only through the goalkeeping exploits of Edson that we managed to hold on to the draw.

Western Conference:

Supporters Shield:

New York who had been leading the standings all season long fell by the wayside as we did enough to win the overall title for a second season in a row and ensure Champions League play next season.

Landing in first place also meant I could rest players for a while and with injuries to AML Pelosi and Tardelly as well as central defender Jackovic the break was much needed and hopefully one or more will be back for the play-offs.

The Play-Offs

Western Conference Semi-Final 1St Leg

Our run for a 5th MLS Cup began away to Colorado where two counter attacking goals finished off by Nagbe and Arboleda sent us into the interval with a comfortable 2-0 lead. Some poor marking allowed Colorado back into the game early in the second half but we never let them near our goal afterwards and when club captain Cuesta headed in our third the result was beyond any doubt.

Western Conference Semi-Final 2nd Leg

With a two goal advantage we sat back too much in the second leg and Colorado took the lead early in the second half from a set piece. The introduction of Marc Pelosi spiced things up for our attack and it was his assist that eventually brought around the equalizer with Nagbe finishing off the move. That proved to be enough to send us through to the final against the LA Galaxy.

Western Conference Final

A full house was on hand for the final against LA and as usual against the Galaxy the opening 30 minutes was a really tight affair. We took the lead 11 minutes before half time when Joaquin Hernandez hit a powerful shot that was only partially saved by the LA keeper who pushed the ball onto his own defender and it rebounded into the net. That goal totally demoralized LA and we dominated the rest of the game scoring two further goals in the second half and enjoying 67% of the possession to send us through to the MLS Final

MLS Cup Final

In a repeat of last season’s final we once again faced Toronto FC this time at Toyota Park in Chicago. The first 45 minutes produced very little action aside from former Toronto player DiPlacido missing a golden opportunity from 7 yards out just before half time.

With several players not performing to their best of their abilities some individual talks were required during the interval and within two minutes of the restart those words produced results. Marc Pelosi broke free down the left flank and his cross from the byline found the DiPlacido who side footed the ball into the net for the opening goal. Two minutes later Edson produced a dramatic save as Toronto went searching for the equalizer. The back four tightened up, our midfield took over and Nagbe tormented down the right producing a sending off in the 67th minute.

Our Canadian rivals were down to 10 men and not long after we took advantage of that as DiPlacido scored an identical goal to the first with Pelosi the supplier once more. With seven minutes remaining a shot from distance by DMC Ostolaza put the game in the bag though Toronto came up with a consolation goal as we sat back for the last few minutes.

We had done it!!! A record breaking 5th MLS Cup, surpassing that of DC United’s 4 championships and the very team who laughed off my job application. Who’s laughing now?

Financially we ended the season in strong position with over $8million in the bank and with no concerns over future debts.

*** Authors Note

Vancouver has been an amazing team to manage and always seem to drag themselves out of trouble and turn on the style when it really matters. My 4-1-2-3 tactic (Balanced / Attacking) has held up extremely well over 5 seasons and I’d like to think my Moneyball /Sabermetrics approach to acquiring players has actually worked. We won this seasons title with one of the lowest salary budgets in the league and that’s what the system is all about.

Links to Moneyball and Sabermetrics

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moneyball

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabermetrics

We landed at Vancouver International Airport to a hero’s welcome and 24 hours later following a small parade and reception I was back at the airport after resigning from the Whitecaps as my work was done. At the airport I boarded Air Canada Flight  heading on a very long journey south with a connecting flight on another National Carrier Airline…

Thanks for taking the time to read this update and for your support all season long. As always I look forward to your comments.

 

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Karl
Karl
8 years ago

Well done on another MLS success, you’re dominating the competition. Your finances are looking better also. Are you going to stay with Vancouver?

Karl
Karl
8 years ago
Reply to  Karl

Crap missed the last paragraph, good luck at your new club!

TheZiggy
8 years ago

Congratulations on winning a 5th MLS Cup, a great way to finish the season. Shame about the NACL group, but it always was going to be a tough ask this time.

Good to see that sending a striker to the reserves to gain confidence worked for you. It doesn’t always work out so well, but I when it failed for me, I think it was down to the striker not being good enough for the EPL.

saltwater
saltwater
8 years ago

That last paragraph was probably an obvious clue as to who your next club is, but I’m terrible at this stuff so I won’t even bother :)
5 in a row!!! That is incredible! Not too many people can say they won their domestic league 5 times in a row (then again Johnny can), but this is really impressive. I’ve enjoyed this story as much as the Plymouth one (I do like your in-depth writing) and I look forward to whatever club you go to next.
Oh and brilliant how you finished 14 points in front of D.C United!

Mohammad Sadek
8 years ago

Wow , this episode Kevin showed your undoubted writing ability , your story is one of my most enjoyable stories there , btw i watched yesterday a match for Vancouver vs Houston & i was impressed by their stadium & fans :D
you managed to write your name in MLS legends , however i was looking for that moment you ‘ll turn into new fresh story .

Darren Smith
Admin
8 years ago

Fantastic achievement Kevin, shame you couldn’t progress in the NACL but winning a record amount of titles in consecutive seasons is an outstanding feat. I think the time is right for a new challenge in your career and I can’t wait to see what it is.

Lye
Lye
8 years ago

Hi Kevin,

Sorry about the NACL exit, i guess your team just fell short of expectation but you did really well in the domestic competition which you achieve the target of winning the MLS cup and the title. Still quite a feat there. Congratulations and i look forward to your next challenge.

Tegar Triemanudigdo
8 years ago

Congratulation there! You finally broke the record there! Oh man, how I loved to see thr face of Dallas FC chairman there when your team just break their records. XDD

Looking forward on your next adventure.

vaibhavc
vaibhavc
8 years ago

You broke the record and DC United are definitely hiding their faces. The ending was superb, good luck with whichever team you have, and hopefully Canada will recognize you!

Gaurav Chaddah
Gaurav Chaddah
8 years ago

Greta stuff kevin, cant wait for your mew team

Johnny Karp
8 years ago

Congratulations Kevin, you deserved that 5th title and I’m very pleased to see that you have won it in style. Any club with chairmen that are not brain-dead would be excited to have you as their manager.

Martin F.M.J.S
8 years ago

Congrats Kevin. You were a bit unlucky with NACL group but a nice way to finish the story with the title and winning that elusive 5th MLS Cup mate. Good Luck with your new challenge Vancouver will miss you.

Ana Garcia
8 years ago

Congrats on another title!! :)

Your ‘money ball’ idea seems to work out incredibly well is it a system that you will take on to your next club?

I must admit I had never heard of it but am intrigued by it having read about it and watching it work in the MLS would be great to see if the idea works elsewhere also.

Looking forward to your next adventure, I have my fingers crossed that it will be South Africa though! ;)

Heresy
Heresy
8 years ago

Well, changing clubs seems to be the current flavour of the month :P Can’t wait to find out where you’ll be managing next!

And the Whitecaps shuld build you a statue or something! You’ve done amazing work there with the players and resources at your disposal. Let’s hope you can achieve the same (and more!) with your next club!

CsAtlantis
8 years ago

Sounds like a long trip, south eh, somewhere in South America? :P

Congratulations on the 5th MLS Cup, narrowly missed out on progressing to the knockout rounds of the NACL, and I think you’ve left a good foundation for the next manager at Vancouver with a new stadium and good looking finances

Good luck with your next club!

Ben
Ben
8 years ago

Wow, five in a row and now the record amount, that’s some achievement. Looking forward to your next challenge, I hope it’s in south america :)

Sears
8 years ago

Well done on winning another MLS Cup Kevin , looking forward to seeing you’re new team as well. Best of luck! :)

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