You're not going to believe this, but the Whitecaps drew another game! Last night, at the single worst named stadium in the soccer world, Vancouver drew FC Tampa Bay 1-1 on goals from Blake Wagner for Vancouver and Tampa Bay's star striker Aaron King. Several of the newer Whitecaps made appearances: Cody Arnoux started and played the first half, Jonathan McDonald was Arnoux's replacement, Ridge Mobulu also went for the first half, and Terry Dunfield played the full ninety. None of the fresh meat particularly distinguished themselves but, then, who can blame them: this team is entirely different from the one that led the NASL Conference a month ago. It's only natural they won't be used to each other quite yet.
FC Tampa Bay, in spite of their lacklustre record, controlled most of the play and were prevented from taking all three points only by a lack of finishing. Tampa Bay mustered seventeen recorded shots to Vancouver's six and hit the post four times. They couldn't have been helped by Aaron King being helped off the pitch with an injury after King buried his chance in the twenty-sixth minute. Vancouver did not play "tenaciously", as some teams that hold on to draws do: they just played badly, regardless of the more glamorous names on the roster.
It was a largely unremarkable game against a pretty unremarkable opponent that hasn't decided if it wants to flirt with the USL Conference cellar or make a run at the playoffs. The most interesting thing from a Vancouver standpoint is that it ends the Whitecaps' Homeric five game road trip: the Whitecaps and whichever fifty new players we've signed in the meantime return to Swangard Stadium August 29 to take on the Austin Aztex.
But, as unremarkable as the game was, something ought to be said about it. Ideally something in point form, consisting of a few vaguely related quick hits about the match and the teams involved. Maybe it'll be a feature whenever I run out of story ideas post-game, which will be often. But hopefully it'll also be informative!
This game was originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon, until a Tampa Bay Buccaneers pre-season game was scheduled Saturday at home against the Kansas City Chiefs. I actually thought the game had been moved to today and even had a pre-game post scheduled for this afternoon. Instead, I rushed home (instead of to the pub on Broadway where Tom Soehn was answering questions) and watched as much game as I could in my apartment. Ooops. Perhaps I shouldn't admit to my embarrassing mistakes so readily?
Lost in FC Tampa Bay's on-field mediocrity this season is that they actually draw pretty good crowds: usually over 2,500 and frequently over 3,000. For a blisteringly hot and humid game rescheduled to a weekday evening, Tampa Bay still brought 2,562 through the turnstiles last night. That's not bad for the second division any way you slice it. They're supposedly spending a lot of money on the club, but hopefully the numbers work out for them. Fans like that deserve a team.
The Whitecaps men haven't lost since July 22, when they went down to those buggers the Portland Timbers. Since then, they've played six games, five of which were on the road, most of which were with a hugely variable team, and 2-0-4, running their season record to 9-3-12 in the regular season and 0-0-4 in the Voyageurs Cup. This is a team that can kiss its sister with the best of them. Whether it's Marlon James or Cody Arnoux, the Vancouver Whitecaps draw more than Bob Ross.
Zurab Tsiskaridze did not appear last night, being stapled to the bench in favour of 648-year-old Takashi Hirano. Did Tsiskaridze run over Teitur's dog or something? Is Thordarson just sick of having only the second-most unpronounceable name on the team? Signing Rochat and Forko was bad enough for Tsiskaridze's chances at making the 2011 roster, but if he's going to start losing minutes to senior citizens he should probably just start booking tryouts right now.
In five appearances since the Whitecaps gave him away, Ricardo Sanchez has three goals for Tampa Bay (and looked bloody dangerous from what I saw last night). Fellow Whitecap scrap Jonny Steele assisted Aaron King's equalizing goal. I realize that the Whitecaps are trying to win in 2011 more than 2010, but I can't help the nagging feeling that those two former USL-1 MVPs might have come in handy.
- Speaking of useful members of FC Tampa Bay who were rescued off the scrap heap, did you notice that kid Aaron King? Scored the only goal against us (and suffered an injury in the process)? Yeah, him. That goal was his ninth of the season, putting him in contention for the USSF D2 golden boot. Impressive considering that he's playing for what is currently a non-playoff club, and even more impressive looking at his career record: a brief spell riding the bench with the Colorado Rapids followed by an utterly undistinguished career riding the buses between various second division stops. He's never been a professional scorer, except sporadically with the Charleston Battery a few years ago, and now he has nine - more goals than Whitecaps co-leaders Wagner and Martin Nash combined.
Nelson Akwari had last night off as Thordarson ran a back line of Hirano, Bellisomo, Janicki, and Knight. Why's this significant? Because until that moment Nelson Akwari had played every minute of the 2010 USSF D2 season. Jay Nolly is the only remaining every minute man on the Whitecaps.
The more I see Jonathan McDonald, the less sure I am what he's for. He's like Cornelius Stewart without any of the things that makes Cornelius Stewart useful. The famous YouTube video of McDonald deking out hapless Costa Rican defenders and burying short-range efforts past buffoons in striped shirts couldn't have been less impressive if McDonald was playing against a team of office furniture, and on the pitch McDonald is all smoke and not a trace of fire. God, what a stiff. Randy Edwini-Bonsu is losing minutes for that clown.
- Terry Dunfield played ninety minutes without, apparently, embarrassing himself. Which would be a good thing if he was a teenager making his pro debut, but not so much for a prodigal son we keep being told has returned to lead Vancouver into Major League Soccer.
- Blake Wagner, who has missed most of the season with a foot injury and scored in only two games, is currently joint first on the Whitecaps scoring charts. On the bright side, Vancouver is spreading the scoring around. On the down side, maybe we should find some strikers who are good at it.