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Red-hot goalkeeper relishes the top job

Franks's long-term goal is firefighting, but for the now he's keeping his cool in net


Wednesday, May 11, 2005 Page S8

BURNABY, B.C. -- Mike Franks hasn't given up a goal in three full games, which still doesn't qualify the towering goalkeeper for the unbeaten Vancouver Whitecaps from exemption of often biting criticism by coach Bob Lilly.

During practice this week, Franks was openly reprimanded by Lilly for where Franks moved the ball during an informal scrimmage at the end of the two-hour session. Lilly then called all players together, further explained his viewpoint and clearly got his point across before ending the workout.

Franks and the Whitecaps are learning to cope with the sudden outbursts by Lilly, a no-nonsense type who has changed the team's style of play, starting with from where the ball is moved from the back end.

The Whitecaps have scored only one goal -- on a penalty against Rochester -- but are unbeaten in the United Soccer League First Division with a win and two ties as Lilly reshapes the on-field product.


"Things have been good for me because we're pretty organized defensively," the 6-foot-5 Franks said. "I haven't had too much to do, not near as much as you'd expect."

The Edmonton-born Franks, 28, won the starting position in training camp ahead of German keeper Josh Wicks and Serbian Srdjan Djekanovic.

Franks is more experienced than the other 'keepers after playing in The Netherlands for PSV Eindhoven and later for the Scottish side Hibernian.

He got used to a faster pace of game overseas and can make adjustments quickly, even to the insights of Lilly.

"We defend with 11 guys and Mike has been a big part of that," Lilly said.

"He's been solid. He knows if he can deal with crosses and make the one or two big saves, we can get a clean sheet every time he steps out there.

"He has to provide leadership back there because of the nature of the position. Mike communicates well and understands the game through his experience. He's also being pushed by two young, hungry players."

Franks moved to the West Coast at an early age and was raised in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond. He soon learned that if he wanted to play soccer past the youth phase, he'd have to be a central defender or 'keeper.

"When I was younger, I looked up to Peter Shilton and Gordon Banks from England as my goalkeeping idols," Franks said.

"Back then, I wasn't the quickest guy or the fastest, but I was tall and pretty good with my hands, so this position was right for me.

"The coach we have now keeps you on your toes and makes sure that you're never sleeping. It's not unusual to get yelled at, not unusual at all."

Franks works closely with goalkeeping coach Mike Toshack, a specialist from Prescott, Ont., who worked on the same staff with Lilly for two years in Montreal with the Impact.

It was the stocky Toshack who provided Franks with the nickname Big Bird because of his height and curly hair.

"Mike has a lot of experience in goal that we want to bring out so it can help the team this year," Toshack said.

"He's really bought into what we're doing defensively."

Toshack has been training Franks since February, working extensively off the field breaking down video and reviewing techniques and situations.

"At 28, Mike has small areas for improvement, more tactically than anything else," Toshack said. "My job is to keep all the 'keepers sharp, giving them goals to achieve each week in practice."

Toshack, who spent 10 years at St. Lawrence University in New York as a coach, left Massachusetts Premier Soccer in Boston to become the goalkeeping guru of the Whitecaps organization.

"With the way that we play here, Mike should be able to make the saves that we need from him," Toshack added. "He can handle high balls and crosses into the box. Our guys have a lot of confidence in him."

Toshack continually works with Franks to improve his throws and goals kicks, with Franks hoping to stay injury-free for a change this season. He played only 10 games last campaign because of a hand injury.

Franks turned professional with Vancouver in 1997 and returned to the organization in 2002, only to suffer a broken arm.

His long-term goal off the field is to become a firefighter.

But for now, he's satisfied with putting out the few hot opportunities that develop near the Whitecaps goal area.

Vancouver plays next on Sunday against the Charleston Battery, 1-1-2, at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby.


Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Mike Franks has not been scored upon in three games, or 270 minutes, eclipsing the team record of 186 goalless minutes to open a season set by Paul Dolan at the beginning of the 1992 Canadian Soccer League schedule.

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Guest Jeffery S.

For a kid born in Vancouver, not sure that it is right to call Srdjan Serbian. In any case, looks like neither of the subs will get much playing time this year, with the Caps being ultra-defensive.

I am planning to see two home games in August, though not looking forward to scoreless draws.

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Vancouver Thunderbirds 0

Whitecaps FC Men Reserves 2

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Town Centre Stadium


The Whitecaps Reserves raised their record to 2-0-0, thanks to a 2-0 win Thursday evening over the Vancouver Thunderbirds. There were Whitecaps playing at both ends of the pitch in this game, as Serge Djekanovic, the backup keeper for the Whitecaps first team, got the start for the Thunderbirds, and did well to keep the game close.

The Whitecaps controlled the balance of play in the first half, and only good saves by Djekanovic, off a powerful free kick by Brian Vanschagen and a hard low blast from Kinglsey Jones, kept it scoreless. The Thunderbirds' task was made even harder just before the break, as they were reduced to ten men when Mike Elliot was sent off for his second yellow card of the night at 42'.

The Whitecaps increased the pressure in the second half, and were soon rewarded. At 58', forward Alex Elliott broke down the left and sent a low cross to Andrew Corazza who rifled it first-time from 15 yards for his team-leading fourth goal of the young season. Ten minutes later and the Whitecaps doubled the lead, as a cross from the right from Stephane Leslie made it all the way over to Massumi Turnbull at the edge of the box on the left, and he calmly took a touch to control before firing a low shot into the corner.

The Thunderbirds' best moments came late in the game, as they pressed for a goal of their own, and created several good chances. However they couldn't beat goalkeeper Dennis Kindel, who came quickly off his line to palm away a shot on a bouncing ball from Martin Ferriera-Pinho, then turned back a blast to the near post in close from Luke Sandilands, and finally made a spectacular diving grab on a shot from Ben Decosse.

It finished a 2-0 win for the Whitecaps Reserves, who next play the Okanagan Challenge on Saturday, May 14, in a 3pm start at Coquitlam's Town Centre Stadium. Admission is free.

Whitecaps Reserves: Dennis Kindel - Paul Ballard, Leo Nash, Diaz Kambere - Massumi Turnbull, Brian Vanschagen, Kingsley Jones, Nico Marcina (Jag Gill 80'), Stephane Leslie - Andrew Corazza (Matt Ormerod 70'), Steve Frazao (Alex Elliott 37')

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