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Whitecaps 2 highlights

By Duane Rollins, 03/30/2017
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    • Let’s not be subtle here. If the allegations are true – and it’s a little hard to come up with a scenario where they aren’t – then Cyle Larin was, well, a dumbass last night. He blew .182 blood alcohol level. That’s not “had a glass of wine too many” drunk. That’s I can’t see straight, blind hammered. There is no way he possibly thought he could drive. There’s very little possibility he thought, period. This was a major, major lapse in judgement and no one should be making excuses for him. In fairness – and this is the only bit of fairness I’ll allow him today – he hasn’t come out and made any excuses so far today. He, nor the club/league/CSA, haven't said anything at all. That’s not anything to celebrate, but the lack of excuse making is at least not rage inducing. By all accounts, he was “cooperative” during the arrest. Thank God, for small miracles, I guess. Look, we all make mistakes. And, we all deserve chances to make up for those mistakes. For two years, in my early 20s, I worked as a correctional officer for young offenders. The idea of redemption and rehabilitation is close to my heart. I will watch Cyle Larin’s next moves closely and, so long as this isn’t a pattern of behaviour, I will continue to wish him the best. But the other side of redemption and rehabilitation is consequence. You can’t have the former without the latter and Cyle Larin will need to face consequences for these actions. He most certainly will legally – I suspect he’ll have to park that Mercedes for a while – but he should also face them professionally. Earlier today, I ran a poll asking whether Larin should be excluded from Canada’s Gold Cup roster because of this. As of writing, close to 500 people had responded with 55 per cent agreeing that he should be left home. The majority is right. This is a serious incident and the CSA needs to react in a serious way. To fail to do so is to value the potential of soccer success over doing the ethically responsible thing.   One mistake should not destroy a career. Larin should, and absolutely will, get lots of opportunity to redeem himself. We all should hope he does. But, not before he is appropriately punished. Leaving him off the Gold Cup roster is a perfectly appropriate punishment.          
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    • Full press release of Alphonso Davies citizenship announcement below:   Canada Soccer welcomed Alphonso Davies as a new Canadian after the young footballer took his Oath of Citizenship at his Canadian Citizenship Ceremony.

      “I am overwhelmed and I am glad I can make my parents proud by becoming a Canadian citizen,” said Alphonso Davies. “It has been a long journey becoming a Canadian citizen.”

      The 16-year old midfielder, who has been part of Canada Soccer’s Men’s EXCEL Program since 2014, can now officially accept his first call up to the National Team Program ahead of a Men’s International Friendly match in Montréal.

      “We are very proud to welcome Alphonso Davies into our Men’s National Team Program as a full Canadian citizen,” said Steve Reed, President of Canada Soccer. “Coming up through Canada Soccer’s youth system, he has worked hard to achieve his success and he will be a big part of our future.”

      Davies departs for Montréal where he will join an extended Men’s National Team roster training in Laval ahead of the 13 June 2017 Men’s International Friendly. He will look to impress the coaching staff with hopes of making the final squad for the match at Stade Saputo: from the full group of 28 players, Head Coach Octavio Zambrano will reduce the number of players on Friday 9 June after a Thursday intra-squad match.

      “I am really excited to be called into Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team,” Davies said. “Canada Soccer worked extremely hard to get me where I am right now and I am very grateful. I am really glad they took their time and put the effort in me in helping me get my citizenship.”

      The international match is part of a three-match Summer of Soccer Series in Canada which includes a pair of Women's International Matches in Winnipeg and Toronto. The Women's National Team has matches against Costa Rica on 8 and 11 June ahead of the Men's National Team's return to Montréal on 13 June. All three matches will be broadcast live on TSN.

      Davies has been a part of Canada Soccer’s Men’s EXCEL Program since 2014 when he was just 13 years old. He is currently a professional player with Vancouver Whitecaps FC. After making his pro debut at age 15, he became the youngest goal scorer in the history of the Canadian Championship at age 16 on 23 May 2017.

      Before moving to Vancouver in 2015, Davies grew up in Edmonton, Alberta where he played for Edmonton Inter, Edmonton Strikers, FC Edmonton Academy, and St. Nicholas Soccer Academy. He was just five years old when he arrived in Canada, living briefly in Windsor, Ontario before moving out west to Edmonton. 
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    • Advocates for the league system that is commonly referred to as Pro/Rel in this part of the world can be…persistent in their advocating for the system. At least the more vocal ones, anyway. There’s no need to re-hash the names here. If you’ve spend any time online in North American soccer communities you know who we are talking about. Ironically, that insistence that EVERYONE talk about Pro/Rel ALWAYS means that no rational conversations about whether North America should move towards such a system ever happen. Instead what happens is that someone says ‘good game by the Crew last night, eh?’ and [redacted] replies ‘WHY DO YOU HATE FREEDOM??? #ProRel4USA.’ Then it gets worse. So, last week’s revelation that The CanPL will launch with a plan to move towards a system of promotion and relegation was met with, well, fear by those of us that live in online communities that talk about soccer. The fear wasn’t related to the actual system – most of us would love to have an intellectual discussion about whether this is a good idea – but rather about how the discussion would play itself out. It will do no one any good to set up in two separate pro and con camps that do nothing but yell at each other. So far, so good. Perhaps it’s Canadians’ desire to be polite and morally superior to Americans (which isn’t that polite, but I’ll save that conversation for another type of article) that is reigning in the debate thus far, but it’s been fairly respectful. Let’s keep it that way – for the benefit of both the CanPL and (morally superior alert) our American friends who might benefit from having folks less…entrenched…in their positions debate the merits and risks. So, is this a good idea? Should CanPL launch with a plan to do something that the USA didn’t dare (or want) to do just two decades ago? Yes. Yes we should. With a caveat. That caveat is found in a single word in the question – plan. A plan doesn’t mean a guarantee and it certainly doesn’t mean that it literally should launch with pro/rel in place (I think all but the clinically insane would agree with that – I mean where exactly would the clubs be relegated to?). A plan simply means that you’re putting it on the table immediately and acknowledging that in an ideal world it would be great to get to the point where it could happen. That’s the biggest mistake MLS made. They never planned for the possibility of relegation (promotion they are cool with. Just write a cheque). Without that plan in place from the start it becomes exceptionally difficult to implement. It just does, no matter how many times you write the #ProRel4USA hashtag. As for why it is a good idea – why it is ideal to work towards – well, here is where you have to ignore the hyperbole and vitriol of [redacted] and look at the underlying arguments in favour of pro/rel. Simply put, they are that by allowing smaller clubs to aspire to something greater you can then encourage them to invest more in the game in the hope that they might one day find glory at the highest level of the game. That, in turn, will force them to do everything just a little bit better, which, in turn, means that even if their dream comes up short the whole system benefits. It’s a kind of trickle *up* economics theory. Like any theory it’s not likely work out perfectly in execution, but in the context of Canadian soccer – and Canada in general -- it does actually make some sense.    See, we have 100 years of history to point to that illustrates that Canadian clubs (of the youth verity, since we don’t have a lot of other types) don’t aspire beyond their own backyards. They just don’t. They’re comfortable. And, more to the point, there’s nothing to aspire to. The thinking then goes that if you provide these clubs with something to aspire to then maybe they’ll start to think bigger. Here’s the thing though—history suggests that they’ll need to be shamed into thinking bigger. You start a typical North American league tomorrow and nothing changes at that level. Nothing. I almost guarantee it. But, if you start a league tomorrow that is structured in such a way that provides an opportunity – a challenge, really – to these clubs and, well…even the less ambitious are going to understand the need to, well, get off their ass. Get off their ass and improve infrastructure. Get off their ass and improve coaching. Get off their ass and let someone else with more ambition take over.     The other thing this plan will provide is an opportunity for cities in Canada that aren’t currently in the CFL to aspire to having pro teams. This is a fundamental difference between Canada and the US. In the US there are probably a hundred cities that could, in theory, have a pro team in the North American franchise model. In Canada there are three – and six more if it’s the CFL or hockey (grudgingly accepted by their American overlords).  Kitchener-Waterloo isn’t among that nine, yet it’s an important city in this country. London. Windsor. Kingston. Halifax. St. John’s. Kelowna. Victoria. Saskatoon… I could go on. A pro/rel plan from the start will plant the seed in those type of communities that maybe it’s not crazy to dream of professional sport in their communities – even if it’s in the second tier. Even if they understand that they’ll probably never be at the very top. What do we love about European pyramid?  That it’s inclusive and that it provides everyone with a chance to find their level. What don’t we like about the American model? That traps you at a level and shuts out some from being a part of any level. Will pro/rel guarantee a magically new world for Canadian soccer? No. Would a franchise model doom the sport forever? Also, no. But, if given the chance to plan for an ideal scenario from the get-go then why wouldn’t you do just that? #ProRel4Canada #Eventually
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    • It appears that there will not be a Canadian quota in the CanPL. Paul Beirne indicated as much in a post on the Voyageurs discussion board. However, he followed it up by stressing that the league would still be vastly comprised of Canadian players. That would be accomplished by putting a restriction on the amount of foreign players permitted, rather than by putting a specific number on Canadian roster spots. The information written by Beirne, corresponds with what CSN has been told by various people over the past two years or so. From the beginning, CSN has been told that there was a resistance to requiring X amount of Canadians per team. That opinion is informed by the CFL owners, who has experience with the "non-import" rule in the CFL. They feel that the rule artificially inflates the salary of Canadians and puts a financial strain on their ability to build the best rosters possible. TFC argued the same thing back in 2008, after having to vastly overpay for Canadians in year one. Although restricting "imports" creates the same end result as requiring x amount of Canadians, it isn’t thought to have the same impact on salaries. However, as Beirne wrote, it's also always been stressed that there is no way this league isn't going to be made up of a majority of Canadian players. The economics of the league will dictate it. A better question to ask is whether there will be anything put in place to ensure the percentage of Canadian playing minutes is protected -- i.e a starters quota like we saw in the old NASL or in the Voyageurs Cup now. Unfortunately, the idea of a starters’ quota has also been resisted from what CSN has been told. The reason is the same as why a Canadian roster spot requirement is resisted – fear of salary inflation. If, say, three Canadians are required to start every game then that puts a premium on Canadian roster spots as it’s likely that the club with the best Canadians is going to be at a competitive advantage.    
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    • The CanPL Bits and Bites is an occasional article rounding up the latest Canadian Premier League News.  The biggest news dump on the CanPL in sometime came earlier this week when Paul Beirne appeared on SoccerToday with myself and Kevin Laramee. We wil unpack some of the biggest pieces of that in a moment, but if you haven't listened yet do so now. The interview starts at 30 min. I'm mostly talking about Pablo Zabaleta for the first 30 minutes.  Let's look deeper at the three biggest things to come out of that interview: 1 - A team in French Canada was promised This shouldn't need to be explained, but in case you're new or still holding a Reform Party membership card from 1993, but you simply cannot have a national league in Canada in the year 2017 that ignores one of the major regions of the country. I'll avoid the politics of this (for the most part), but if you don't launch with a team in French Canada -- and preferably in Quebec proper -- you are alienating a significant part of the country and you'll be fighting uphill to gain the respect of that part of the country for many years to come, even if you do eventually get a team in there.  So, I've been long beating the drum on this. The CPL needs to also be the PLC.  Yet, we've long struggled to find evidence of interest in the league in Quebec (or even French Canada if you extend that to include Acadia; no Moncton group seems to be close). Ottawa might work in a pinch, but even there the Fury seem to be dragging their feet. Not only have the Impact been indifferent to the whole thing, it's been suggested that they might actually be hostile to it.  So Quebec looked like a long-shot. Until Paul answered my question. "Yes there will be a team in Quebec, multiple maybe." That got me to dig around yesterday. What I learned isn't particularly illuminating, but it was suggested to me that there are two groups that have made what was described to me as "preliminary" inquiries.  One group was, as expected, out of Quebec City. No one could say for sure who might be behind such a bid, but a good guess might be the money people behind the Laval Rouge et Or. Although not really soccer guys they have deep roots in Canadian (gridiron) football. If you're not familuar with the Rouge et Or story have a read. The thinking here is that they might be motivated to invest in soccer because of the possibility that it would 1) put them in good standing with CFL owners, thus making the possibility of bringing a CFL team to Quebec City more of a possibility and 2) it would help get PEPS stadium further expanded, also with CFL in mind.   Soccer fans may not want to celebrate such gridiron ambitions, but sometimes ambition makes for strange bedfellows. Laval is deep pocketed and the success of the Rouge et Or is truly remarkable. Soccer could do worse, so long as he was interested in seeing soccer succeed.  The second group was said to be the local ownership of the former Trois-Rivières Attack. The Attack were a reserve team of the Montreal Impact for several years. The Impact would not be involved.  2. Smaller cities than expected When most of us think about the possibility of a Canadian league we tend to only consider the largest markets -- markets that we think of as "major league" (in a Canadian context). Basically markets that have NHL and/or CFL teams.  Paul suggested that markets as small as 200,000 could be targeted as potential sites for teams. Further to that he also suggested that creating local derbies was something that he wanted to see happen. That's significant in that it puts many cities on the list that we might currently look at as being "suburban" or part of another, larger centre.  For the sake of playing fantasy franchise let's look at the current markets that are over the magic 200,000 figure right now. Using Canadian census data there are currently 20 centres that are considered Census Metropolitan Areas (which is a fancy way to say "markets") with more than 200,000 people living in them. They are: Toronto (including Mississauga and Brampton) 5,928,0405; Montreal (Laval) 3,934,078; Vancouver (Surrey) 2,463,431; Calgary 1,392,609; Ottawa–Gatineau 1,254,919; Edmonton 1,321,426; Quebec City (Lévis) 800,296; Winnipeg 778,489; Hamilton (Burlington) 747,545; Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo 523,894; London 494,069; St. Catharines - Niagara (Niagara Falls, Welland) 406,074; Halifax 403,390; Oshawa (Whitby, Clarington) 379,848; Victoria (Saanich) 367,770; Windsor (Lakeshore) 329,144; Saskatoon 295,095; Regina 236,481; Sherbrooke (Magog)212,105; St. John's (Conception Bay South, Mount Pearl, Paradise) 205,955. There are an additional 21 CMAs that are between 100,000 and 200,000, most of which are trending up in population as Canada gets increasingly more urban.  A couple things jump out about that. First, when you consider where top flight teams are in the rest of the world there is nothing inherently preventing Canada from finding enough markets. Particularly when considering an initial 10 or so teams. There are 10 markets with a half million or more people on that list, and London is just a shade away from making it 11.  That said, Canadians will need to adjust their thinking of what a professional market is away from a North American mindset into one that more closely resembles the rest of the world. Are we ready to see, say, Oshawa as a separate market to Toronto? It will be a challenge.  There is, however, an existing league that we do that in -- The Canadian Hockey League. The CHL is amateur in name only. It's highly successful. And it's probably a closer model to what a successful CanPL will look like than the CFL is.  3. We kinda, sorta know the league business structure Not that it was shocking, but Paul confirmed that there will be a form of salary control in place. As stated, that there will be a cap (or budget, or whatever you want to call it) shouldn't surprise anyone. That's the North American way. It's also the only way that most of the potential owners would have agreed to become a part of the launch. It shouldn't necessarily be seen as a bad thing that no one is looking to lose money forever in this league. Reading between the lines of what Paul said -- and being careful not to put words in his mouth, the following is me reporting from other sources -- it's increasingly clear that the CanPL will launch in a way that very closely looks like MLS in its early years. The naive, purist reading this might not like this, but the reality is that some form of...let's call it collective...ownership is vital to getting through the early years.  What I've previously reported and have confirmed of late is that a major component of the CanPL business model will be equal shares (I'm told they will cost about $1.5 million for initial investors) in a marketing arm that will be similar in scope and purpose as SUM is to MLS. There's a good possibility that Don Garber's recent comments about opening a Canadian office of MLS is directly related to this part of the plan.  Will CanPL look exactly like MLS single entity? I doubt it. It will have the advantage of having 20 years of history to learn from. CanPL owners will know what did and didn't work in MLS 1.0 and will probably be a bit less centrally controlled than MLS was back in the early days. Just not as fully independent as some might like.  Lastly, Paul suggested that we will know much more about the league in the next 90 days or so.   That might be the most exciting thing of all.         
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