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  1. "The first 25 to 30 minutes against SFU, they gave us a good challenge," Koch told AFTN after the Oregon match. "Then I think our guys figured things out and picked it up, came out and put in a good performance the rest of the way through. "Today, and I give Oregon State credit, for the majority of the 90 minutes they made us question ourselves at times and made us have to go out and actually problem solve on the pitch. Having said that, I give our guys credit. It wasn't a great performance but they figured it out, they got themselves a result. We win and we should move forward now to the season in good confidence and feeling pretty good about ourselves." Oregon State started the match strongly, going ahead just two minutes in, as the 'Caps defence were being given a testing time. But they saw off the pressure and Spanish winger Victor Blasco tied the score up in the 16th minute, after his shot was deflected in off a Beavers defender after some fantastic build up work from Ben McKendry, who had broken up an Oregon attack. The Whitecaps finished the half the stronger but Oregon State came out refreshed for the second half and went ahead for a second time six minutes in when they headed home a corner. But the 'Caps regrouped and then controlled the rest of the match. WFC2 captain Tyler Rosenlund tied things up again in the 65th minute when the ball came to him on the edge of the box from a corner and he drilled a fine shot into the bottom left hand corner of the net. You got the feeling that a WFC2 winner was coming and it did with six minutes to go, when McKendry went on a run and played in Blagojevic, who took a touch before burying it past Whitecaps Residency alumni Nolan Wirth. McKendry and Blagojevic had linked up well, and that was one of the positives to take from a mixed performance, that didn't see too many players stand out on the day or stake a claim for themselves in next week's starting eleven. The WFC line-up for the game was as follows: Spencer Richey; Ethen Sampson, Jackson Farmer, Craig Nitti, Jordan Haynes (Chris Serban 57);.Mitch Piraux (Alex Marrello 77), Tyler Rosenlund, Victor Blasco (Jovan Blagojevic 69), Ben McKendry; Brett Levis (Sahil Sandhu 69); Caleb Clarke (Mackenzie Pridham 57) Preseason is in the history books and the WFC2 squad now have a week to focus and prepare for their inaugural USL match next Sunday. Seattle Sounders 2 will provide a stiff test for the Whitecaps at Starfire next weekend. The Sounders kicked off their USL season on Saturday night with an impressive 4-2 win over Sacramento Republic in front of a sold out home crowd of 2,951 fans. All six goals game in a frenetic second half. But after a preseason which has seen his squad quickly gel and start to show the makings of an impressive attacking side with fierce competition for places, Koch is heading into the USL season in confident mood. The tough part is actually now nailing down what his starting eleven is going to be. "I think we're in a good place, " Koch told us. "We have a good group of players They're enthusiastic, they're motivated, they're fit, they're ready. We have a good grasp on how we're asking them to play. At this stage it's now trying to figure out exactly what the starting line-up is going to be. "If you ask me right now, I have no clue, because it's not just looking at our group that we have right now, it's also about trying to manage the player pool that the group has within the club. But the group that we have here have been working very hard for us and I'm very proud of them so far and I'm excited to work with them going into the season." Exactly what players from the MLS squad Carl Robinson will want to get regular minutes right now is the unknown quantity in all of this. Several have featured in the preseason matches and training scrimmages, including centrebacks Christian Dean and Tim Parker. While they, and others like Marco Bustos (who is currently injured) and Kianz Froese, will move freely between the two squads, we also expect to see Andre Lewis announced as being loaned to the USL team for the season. This frees up both a roster and international spot, allowing Robinson to finally sign Robert Earnshaw. But as Koch told us before, competition for places on the team is fierce and he has a couple of players battling it out for every position. We expect Marco Carducci to get the initial nod in goal, although Spencer Richey has been pushing hard. They may share starts to begin with but Koch has told them both that the best keeper will win out in the end and make the starting spot his. Carducci can still play for the U18s in USSDA action, as he was away doing this weekend. The defence is a toss up right now, with so many players pushing. Jackson Farmer has looked very good in camp in both the right back and centreback positions and we're fans of what Chris Serban can bring to the team in either full back role. The two centrebacks could change from game to game with four guys, including new addition Craig Nitti, all wanting and needing minutes. Captain Tyler Rosenlund should fill one of the DM roles and whether it will be Mitch Piraux or Ben McKendry beside him will have to be seen. All three can also play other midfield roles. Brett Levis has featured regularly in the preseason games but I think he may miss out on a starting spot initially. Victor Blasco may have done enough against Oregon State to see him starting on the right, with Jovan Blagojevic coming on as a sub, although it is Blagojevic who has the contract right now. Marco Bustos will play the number 10 role when fit, but there's a few others who can step in there right now until he is. Up front, for me, Mackenzie Pridham has shown much more than Caleb Clarke these past few games, although Clarke did do well against Seattle. Pridham banged four goals in against SFU and hit the bar against Oregon State, and that one looked like it had crossed the line. We all know what Clarke can do, he now needs to start showing it. So a lot for Koch to think over this coming week. But whoever ends up taking the pitch at Starfire next Sunday, the WFC2 coach is confident they'll get the job done and the 'Caps will get their new USL era off to a successful start. "We're going in to Seattle," Koch said. "They played last night and won, so they've picked up three points already. They've got that first game, first jittery nerves, out of the way already too. But we've got a good week [ahead]. We'll put in a good week of training in together, go out and give it our best shot. We're feeling good about ourselves, so there's no reason why we can't go there and win the three points."
  2. THE GOOD Overall Team Health The biggest concern every preseason is to make sure the team makes in out with no injuries and a healthy team for the long gruelling MLS season. Other then a few knocks for Mauro Rosales and Erik Hurtado, the team goes in to the season with a overall healthy team. Even Gershon Koffie has recovered nicely from his bout of flu at the beginning of the preseason. With a completely healthy line-up it gives Robinson his full arsenal of talent for his opening day clash with TFC. With a 4-2-3-1 formations, the Whitecaps should have a starting day XI of: Ousted; Beitashour, Waston, Kah, Harvey; Teibert, Laba; Rosales, Morales, Manneh; Rivero. THE AVERAGE Pa Modou Kah's Defensive Ability Yeah he scored two big goals for the Whitecaps in the tournament down in Portland and the coaching staff and supporters will take that all season long, but with Kah partnering up with Kendall Waston it leaves the Caps open to attacks up the middle from opposing strikers. The problem is both centrebacks play an attacking up field style. Kah was caught out of position a few times this week, being too aggressive in his defensive play. Last season with Andy O'Brien, the team had that defensive player they knew would always be in the right place at the right time. Kah and Waston will have to learn how to play off one another to make sure that doesn't happen too many times during the season. THE BAD Lack Of Goals Six goals in five preseason games against MLS opponents. That is not good enough to make the playoffs in the tough Western Conference this season. If Robinson wants an extra 25 goals this season they have work ahead of them. With newly acquired striker Octavio Rivero starting this season as the lone top striker, there will be a learning curve. It may take 7-10 games for him to learn how to play the MLS style of game, how to play off defenders and adjust to the physicality of the league. Is this the season where Darren Mattocks re-finds his scoring touch? Can he be that secondary striker that can get 7 goals this season? Will he still be here by Saturday? The Whitecaps will need secondary scoring this season to have any success. They will need these strikers to put away their chances. That has been a problem with Mattocks the past few seasons.
  3. REPORT: Vancouver Whitecaps preseason was wrapped up in a gloriously sunny Portland on Saturday afternoon with an uninspiring 1-1 draw with Chicago Fire. The 'Caps had already won the Portland preseason tournament for the second straight year heading into the game and they turned in a performance that felt like there was nothing on the line, whereas a place in next week's starting line-up against Chicago should have been on everyone's minds. A first half header from Pa Modou Kah, his second in two games, looked to have won the game for Vancouver before Shahdon Winchester's low long range drive in the final seconds saw a share of the spoils. Vancouver went for another strong line-up, with Mauro Rosales and Erik Hurtado not dressing for the game having picked up knocks over the week's action. Chicago also went for a near opening day line-up, as both teams hoped to nail down some final team chemistry before the season hopefully gets underway next Saturday. The game was being played at a pretty pedestrian pace in the opening stages before Chicago's Quincy Amarikwa nearly brought the game to life in the 8th minute with a shot that forced David Ousted into a diving save. Ousted was called into action again in the 17th minute, producing an instinctive one-handed diving save to keep out a Kennedy Igboananike header off a cross. Vancouver had possession but were struggling to do anything with it, and looked to be missing the creative output of Rosales out wide. They won a corner at the half hour mark, which was eventually cleared out to Russell Teibert. The Canadian's fierce shot looked like it may fly wide but it went on a straight course to Pa Modou Kah's head and the Norwegian grabbed his second goal off the game when his header wrong-footed Fire keeper Sean Johnson. 1-0 to the Champions! The Caps now had the edge and Nicolas Mezquida got past his man in the box before drilling a shot that Johnson had to turn around his near post for another corner, which this time came to nothing. The half then played out to an uneventful end. You could say typical preseason fare, but we've seen a lot better from the Whitecaps up to this point. The second half continued to be pretty uneventful. Vancouver had the best chance early on when Octavio Rivero played a low ball across goal that just begged for Pedro Morales to put it away but the 'Caps captain made a poor effort at it. The Whitecaps made their first few changes of the match in the 62nd minute and moments later the ball fell to Chicago's Lovel Palmer in front of goal, ten yards out, from a corner but he blasted his and over. Vancouver went up the field and Octavio Rivero should have doubled their lead when he was played in by a nice Kekuta Manneh ball but the Uruguayan hit the ball straight at Johnson as he tried to lob over him and it went out for a corner. There's was a mini flare up after Manneh tackled Fire DP Shaun Maloney, Chicago's players taking umbrage at the Gambian standing over the Scot as he lay on the ground. The Caps had a couple of chances with 15 minutes remaining. First Morales tried to round the keeper and score, but was thwarted, before Rivero blasted a Sam Adekugbe cutback wildly over. With time running out and it looking like another win for Vancouver, Chicago sub Shahdon Winchester grabbed a draw for the Fire with almost the last kick of the game, drilling a low shot from the edge of the box past Ousted. So a 1-1 final and while Vancouver will be happy to have finished the tournament undefeated, it was a pretty lacklustre performance at times and not ideally what Carl Robinson would have been looking for going into the last week of preseason camp. There were a few highs in this game but overall it's been a good week for the Whitecaps. Competition for places is fierce but you would have expected some of the guys to have done more in this game to try and force their way into the reckoning. FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 1 - 1 Chicago Fire VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Steven Beitashour, Kendall Waston, Pa Modou Kah, Jordan Harvey (Sam Adekugbe 62); Matias Laba, Russell Teibert (Gershon Koffie 62), Nicolas Mezquida (Darren Mattocks 62), Pedro Morales, Kekuta Manneh; Octavio Rivero [subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Christian Dean, Tim Parker, Diego Rodriguez, Ethen Sampson, Marco Bustos, Kianz Froese, Ben McKendry, Caleb Clarke, Robert Earnshaw] CHICAGO: Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Jeff Larentowicz, Eric Gehrig, Joevin Jones; Chris Ritter (Matt Polster 72), Shaun Maloney, Matt Watson (Michael Stephens 68); Harry Shipp (Kingsley Bryce 82), Quincy Amarikwa, Kennedy Igboananike (Shahdon Winchester 68) [subs Not Used: Jon Busch, Alec Kann, Greg Cochrane, Patrick Doody, Collin Fernandez, Albert Edward] REACTION: CARL ROBINSON On the last game of preseason and the performance: "Overall I think we've had a very good week of work. Obviously conceding in the last minute is never nice. It's happened to us before and I'm sure it'll happen to us again. We looked a bit tired at the end but it was important I got some guys 90 minutes, which is why I didn't make any extra changes. I'll give them that one." "In the first half I didn't think we played as well as we could. I thought we were a little bit slow and sloppy at times. The last 15 minutes of the first half, when we played the ball correctly, we cut them open. Again we missed a couple of chances but we're creating chances so I'm not too worried about that." On losing that goal: "We were just too spread out in the last few minutes. We looked tired, especially the last 15 minutes. It happens. It was a good finish. Kendall was obviously on a yellow card and he tackled and the ball ricocheted. I don't think it was good skill, I think it was luck. It was a good goal. The boy scores goals and it was a good finish. Sometimes you have to hold your hand up." On the adventure that is a Pa Modou Kah performance: "I said we need to find goals, didn't I?! We found two from him." On whether Octavio Rivero needs more time to get up to speed: "I think most of my players won't be 100% fit and if any manager tells you that all their players are 100% fit then I think they'll be telling porkies because you need match minutes and you need competitive match minutes because as good a game as that was, or as poor a game as that was, today against a MLS team, it's not the real thing." On the game livening up after the substitutions: "Three subs come on today. Sam, Koffie and Darren and were fantastic, in their attitude but also their playing. They're knocking right on the door to start games. I've got some good decisions to make." Any concerns that the game a bit uninspiring at times with places on the line? "I think it was uninspiring for 90 minutes if I'm honest. I said to the guys at half time, it must be tough to play in because it was tough to watch. It was a fixture that seemed like it was the first preseason game. Actually it was the last preseason game, but it's been a long week for us, a long nine days. I don't hold that against anything. We'll be ready for next week without a doubt. Again, you can take the positives and say we scored, we were unbeaten but it was important that we got guys minutes and I've got some good decisions to make." On the line-up decisions now facing him: "I've got some great decisions to make and that's good, because I didn't have them last year." On whether any injury concerns lingering over Mauro Rosales: "No, no doubt, he's fine. I left it to him. I asked him if the season was to start today, would he be able to play, and he said yes, but I didn't want to take a risk as he's too important for me to lose first game." Did lack of creativity show important to team of Rosales?: "He's going to be missing in certain games this year through tiredness, through manager's decisions, through injury or suspension, so other players will get chances. Is he the type of player we need in our team? Yes. We've got Nico that can play there. We've got a number of players who can, so I'm not too worried." What's the key focus now going into the last week of preseason?: "Just tidying up a few things. There's a few areas I think we need to improve on which we were a bit slow and sloppy on today, but we'll get to work on that next week because we haven't really touched on them. Set pieces. We're a threat from set pieces now, so we'll tidy up on that. I'll just make sure that they're ready and happy going into next week's game because if my group plays when they're happy and with a smile on their face, then they're enjoyable to watch." Does he expect a strange week with CBA negotiations up in the air?: "No, week as normal. I'll see you guys Monday and we'll go from there." JORDAN HARVEY Where does he see the team at going into last week of preseason?: "Looking back at the game against Portland, not necessarily this game, but the Portland game, I thought everybody looked good, I really did. There are a few things we need to sharpen up on but other than that the intensity was there, the energy was there and I think come March 7th the energy will be there and everyone will be ready to go." Is Kah the new defensive goalscorer on the team?: "Yeah, preseason, two for two. He's getting his head on everything. Set pieces, him and Kendall should be a wrecking ball in there, so it'll be nice going forward." On what Waston and Kah will mean to his goalscoring chances: "With those two guys on set pieces, it'll open up a lot more opportunities and for me, it's also that second ball. Hopefully I can get my head on a few this season, but if those guys are going to get their head on the ball, I'm going to pick up the pieces hopefully." How strange a week will it be with all the CBA negotiations? "We're going to approach it like any other week going into a game, but yeah, we're going to have that in the back of our heads and hopefully we can come to an agreement." "All the bargaining committee members from each team will be flying in [to DC], so that's really all I can go on from that."
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  5. REPORT: Another game in Portland, another win. It's getting all so predictable! A Vancouver Whitecaps side made up of fringe players and youth put in a dominant first half performance and a shaky second in a 3-2 victory over Norwegian side Stabæk at Piggy Park on Wednesday evening. First half goals from Nicolas Mezquida and a Darren Mattocks brace set them on their way and there was no looking back, although the 'Caps failed to add to their tally in the second half and were pegged back after conceding two sloppy goals. Mostly, it was just what Carl Robinson wanted to see, fight and hunger from the fringe guys, giving him some things to think about, but the poor defensive display in the second half and the number of overall squandered chances will be a cause for concern. Stabæk had looked not too bad at times on Sunday against a very poor looking Chicago Fire side and had a few forays forward in the opening exchanges of this game before Vancouver took control. Mezquida opened the scoring in the 14th minute, running through unmarked to get on the end of a delightful Marco Bustos ball and poking past Stabæk keeper Mande Sayouba with aplomb from the edge of the box. Vancouver nearly doubled their advantage minutes later when Erik Hurtado fired a rocket just over that had Sayouba at full stretch. That second goal did come in the 22nd minute when Diego Rodriguez was flattened in the box after some pushing and shoving on both ends. Mattocks stepped up to fire home from the spot with ease and it was 2-0 'Caps and already looking like game over. Stabæk fought back though and much of the next phase of the game was played in the Whitecaps half. As the half ticked down, Paolo Tornaghi was forced to come up with the save after a 'Caps giveaway but Vancouver made it 3-0 moments later in the 44th minute when Mattocks grabbed his second with a nice finish from a quick break from Mezquida and Ben McKendry. Any thoughts that Vancouver were going to now go out and run up the score were mistaken and it was actually Stabæk who came out in the second half meaning business, after making a string of changes at the break. Tornaghi made a great reaction save in the 53rd minute as the Norwegians continued to press but the 'Caps responded and Mattocks nearly grabbed his hat-trick with a great lobbed effort from an angle that was spectacularly turned over by substitute keeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. In what was looking like a familiar pattern, Tornaghi once again came up with the big save to keep Stabæk off the scoresheet on the hour mark, before Mattocks was denied his hat-trick when he was played in brilliantly by Mezquida by another great stop from Sandhu. Hurtado was next to come close to adding a fourth for the 'Caps in the 64th minute, after another great ball from Mezquida, before Stabæk finally got the goal their play deserved. The goal came from a penalty, after Diego Rodriguez was adjudged to have committed what looked at first glance a lazy foul in the box, but at second may not have even been a penalty at all. Anders Trondsen made no mistake in firing past Tornaghi.,br> The goal signalled a slew of Whitecaps substitutions, as both sides swapped possession, with the Norwegians looking the more dangerous. Stabæk blasted a good chance over in the 78th minute before they Stabæk made it game on with nine minutes remaining when trialist Harold Gomez turned a low cross into his own net, although Emil Ekblom was all set for the tap in. That was to be all the action, however, and the 'Caps closed the game out without any further setbacks to make it two wins from two, with a game on Saturday against Chicago Fire still to come. FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 3 - 2 Stabæk VANCOUVER: Paolo Tornaghi; Ethen Sampson (Jackson Farmer 84), Diego Rodriguez (Tim Parker 68), Christian Dean, Sam Adekugbe (Harold Gomez 80); Gershon Koffie (Mitch Piraux 80), Ben McKendry (Kianz Froese 68), Nicolas Mezquida, Marco Bustos (Robert Earnshaw 68), Erik Hurtado (Ruben Anchico 80); Darren Mattocks (Caleb Clarke 84) [subs Not Used: Marco Carducci, Spencer Richey] STABÆK: Mande Sayouba (Gurpeet Singh Sandhu 46); Morten Skjonsberg (Cornelius Benscik 46), Ville Jalasto (Andreas Hanche-Olsen 79), Nicolai Naess, Birger Solberrg Meling (Daniel Granli 46); Luc Kassi, Cole Grossman, Anders Trondsen (Emil Dahle 79); David Estrada (Erik Haugstad 68), Giorgi Gorozia (Thor Lange 46), Kamal Issah (Emil Ekblom 46) REACTION: CARL ROBINSON: Overall thoughts on the game and performance: "i think in the first half we played very well, we took our chances and the game's about taking your chances. We did that. We played some excellent stuff at times. When you make changes towards the end then obviously the rhythm gets upset. "Stabæk are a good team. They're very organised. Bob's got them fantastically well drilled. They pressed like hell and we had to play quickly today. It was good for the young boys to learn how to do that because the peak teams aren't going to let you play and they certainly didn't. They went from the first minute to the 90th minute pressing us. Yes we made mistakes but at times we cut through them as well." On the play of Darren Mattocks: "He was outstanding and the play of Nico as well in those two forward areas were both outstanding. I keep saying to him if you put the hard work you'll get the rewards out of it and today he got the rewards. He looked sharp, he looked energised, he got his two goals and he maybe should have scored one or two more. He was good to watch." Three goals, but disappointed that they didn't take more of their chances?" "You can look at it like that. Obviously winning the game is important. It's preseason but if you don't play to win there's no point playing the games. It's nice to get three goals because you always want to win, but there were a number of chances missed. We know that and that's why we're working on it every day and we're on the training field every day to improve, and we're needing to improve that area." On balancing dealing with young players when they don't perform well or make mistakes: "My job is to allow them to make mistakes and not jump on them and not criticise them, but of course give them constructive criticism about what they need to do, but also encourage because you can slog a horse till it's dead but I don't want to do that and I won't do that with my young players because if I do, I'll set these young players back a season or two and I don't want to do that." On the physical nature of the Whitecaps right now: "Listen, in any walk of life, nice people tend to get walked over unfortunately. It's professional sport. You can be as nice as you want off the field, but when you step on the field, you're fighting for your living. I want to stress that here because if we want to be a winning club and win and compete for MLS Cups, we've got to get that winning mentality in us. It takes time, you can't get it overnight, but bit by bit, the training has improved. The guys want to win in training and obviously when it comes onto games, it festers on to that. It's an important factor." Is he worried that the team will get the "dirty" tag and that may affect referee's perception of how they play? "Nah. Nah, not at all. I just want the team to play when we have the ball and when we don't have the ball I want us to try and win the ball back. It's two sides of the game that you need to try and do." On Ben McKendry's performance and giving him the start: "Ben's been excellent. He's a very talented, tidy footballer. He keeps the balling moving very well and after watching Stabæk play against Chicago in the first game, they pass and move the ball very well, as you saw again tonight. I wanted us to do that and I thought that [ben] was the right decision." What are you looking for from Saturday's game?: "It's the last game from us in preparation for the season, hopefully. We go in with the same mindset. We've got to be in the right frame of mind coming in to the Toronto game, so Saturday we'll try and win the game again. We'll try and do things right. We'll try and pass the ball, we'll try and win the ball back quickly when we can, which we've done very well in the first two games. And we'll enjoy the game. I think you'll see my guys there play with a smile on their face and we'll do that, as we did last year. Yes we'll win games and unfortunately we'll lose games along the way, but they'll be a happy group." What kind of team can be expected against Chicago on Saturday?: "I've got a few boys banged us, so I'll see how they are. With a mind on Toronto I'll try and play a strong team. Will that consist of the team that played on Sunday? I'm not sure yet because some of them have knocks, so we'll wait and see. Two or three of the young kids were outstanding today, so don't be surprised if you see one or two of them in." It may just be preseason but what would it mean to win back to back Portland tournaments? "Winning's a habit. Say what you want, whether it means anything or not, but I want to win everything I'm involved in. Whether it's to win at cards, a game of darts or heads or tails. So any chance you get the chance to win something you want to take that and we get the chance to win this." DARREN MATTOCKS On the game and his performance: "Good game, good result. The team did really good. I'm just focussing on the team right now. That's the big thing. Two games, two wins, that's really positive this preseason." What scoring two goals means for his confidence: "It's good but I'm always going to be confident. But all the work I've been putting in this preseason, it showed and that's a good thing, but I'm not going to get ahead of myself. After all it's just preseason, but hopefully I can translate tonight into the rest of the games in the preseason and into the season." On nearly getting his hat-trick: "I thought I had it but he was very athletic. He did a great job. I got to give the goalkeeper credit to pull that one out." On the performance of Nicolas Mezquida: "Nico is just a fantastic player. I love playing with him. He works extremely hard. Working with someone like that, not just Nico but the team in general, we were a pretty young team tonight, but we showed guts, we showed character." On letting a three goal lead slip: "Up 3-0 and we win 3-2, but three points is three points. It's something we could work on, doing better to finish the game, but we're not going to get too critical and say we lost two goals." On what he learned for developing his game on his two recent training stints in Europe: "I think getting my teammates in the game more. As a number 9, you've got to hold the ball really well to get your teammates involved. In England and in Turkey, that's one of the big things I took. So yeah, going forward, I think that's definitely going to happen and I'll improve my game." What does he feel he has to do now to get a starting spot and more minutes? "I think you know the starting eleven already, huh?! [laughs] I'm not worried about being a starter, I'm worried about working hard for the team. And hopefully if that's what it takes to be a starter, then sure." On being hard to ignore if he scores two goals in games and plays like he did tonight: "If the entire team plays like this, it's going to be really hard. That's a good thing for us but that's a bad thing for Robbo!" [laughing again before people slaughter him!!] CHRISTIAN DEAN On the overall game and team performance: "I think the game was a perfect example of what our younger team can do. Going out there against a young team that was about the same age as us was good. It was a chance for us, especially against European competition, to show what we can do. It was another first team opportunity for everybody on the field. i thought we showed we can play. We got a little bit unlucky with the goals, obviously. I thought overall we played really well as a team." On the difference in the performances between the two halfs: "The first half we came out with a lot of energy then second half we gave up two goals. It's kind of hard, you get a little stale when you think you're ahead. We became kind of too confident and we gave away a PK, not really sure it was a PK, but it happens. Then after that we kind of got back in the game."
  6. THE GOOD Pedro's Passes We saw a clinic in the first half of the game. He was on point with all his passes up the middle, over the top and through to the wing passes for Kekuta Manneh, Octavio Rivero and Mauro Rosales. He was able to hit them in full sprint and if it wasn't for the Portland keeper being so active outside his defensive box the Whitecaps would of had two or three more great scoring chances. It looks like the three months off this offseason has Morales healthy, rested and refreshed. THE AVERAGE Octavio's Finish Rivero had some great runs this game, we saw the same thing down in Tucson. But he did lack calmness and finish in the 18 yard box. He was trying to make that one extra move that gave the Timber defenders a chance to knock the ball away from him. On the bright side he did play well with Morales and looks like once they are in sync they will be a power pair in MLS. THE BAD Centrebacks Seeing Yellow We all saw that coming. Kendall Waston and Pa Modou Kah both earned a yellow card in this game. This will be a big story this season. There will be suspensions, which means Diego Rodriguez, Tim Parker and Christian Dean will likely all be getting MLS minutes. Waston was lucky he didn't pick up a second yellow a few different times. He played at his physical level that you love to see from him. You have to take the missed games due to suspension if you want him to play at this level. He was just physical enough where Portland forwards where concerned to go up against him in the box. Kah has a history of yellow cards and it won't change now that he is in a Whitecaps kit. Both he and Waston have to be smart when they play with each other to make sure they don't hurt the team by both of them being reckless. He did show some great defensive ability in the box and stepped up big with the game winning goal.
  7. REPORT: Vancouver and Portland served up a fiery friendly on Sunday night in their first game of the 2015 version of the Timbers annual preseason tournament. Two sending offs, eight bookings and 43 fouls later, a first half Pa Modou Kah header was what separated the teams on the scoresheet, as the Whitecaps kicked off their defence of the tournament with a 1-0 win. The Whitecaps went for a strong starting line up, and one that wouldn't look too much out of place against Toronto for First Kick, and their performance did their cause a lot of favours. Portland certainly started the livelier and looked the more dangerous side, but Vancouver had a few forays forward of their own. The Timbers had a good chance in the 16th minute when the ball broke to Alvas Powell just inside the box but the Jamaican blasted wildly over. A minute later he had a similar opportunity but with the same end result. Vancouver were coming more into the game and looking dangerous up both wings. They were also looking physical with both Kendall Waston and Pa Modou Kah putting in some crunching tackles. Portland's midfield has already been hit hard with injuries to Diego Valeri and Will Johnson, and they suffered another blow in the 26th minute when Ben Zemanski was stretchered after going to ground away from the action. Kekuta Manneh was getting the better of Powell on the left side of the pitch and he got past his man once again before whipping in a dangerous ball to the back post but there were no takers. The Whitecaps got the breakthrough their play deserved in the 31st minute when Kah rose unchallenged against his former team and powered home a perfect Mauro Rosales cross Neither side were able to carve out any real chances for the remainder of the half and the 'Caps headed in happy with a one goal advantage. The second half continued in a high pace and with some feisty tackles flying in from both sides. Clear cut chances were at a premium however, with the best of them falling to Vancouver. Manneh continued his good work from the first half and drove over the bar six minutes in, then came close again as the hour mark approached when he got on an excellent ball from Pedro Morales. The game had shown signs of boiling over and so it came to pass in the 60th minute when Rodney Wallace picked up a second yellow for kicking out at Waston. With Portland reduced to ten men, Vancouver tried to turn the screw, with the best chance falling to substitute Erik Hurtado in the 70th minute. The Whitecaps were controlling the game fairly easily but David Ousted had to act quickly to parry a fierce Dairon Asprilla rocket in the 86th minute. As the minutes ticked down there was still time for some sparks to fly. Nicolas Mezquida went flying into a challenge on Diego Chara with two minutes left on the clock. The Colombian went as if he'd been shot and rolled around like he was trying to put out a fire. Mezquida picked up a yellow for the challenge and so did Portland's captain Liam Ridgewell for mouthing off at the ref. In the confusion, the fourth official pointed out to the referee that that was Ridgewell's second booking and Portland were down to nine men for the remaining few minutes. As Vancouver took the ball to the corner flag, Maxi Urruti chopped down Manneh at the corner flag. The young Gambian was incensed at the needless challenge way after the final whistle and had to be calmed down by Kah. So a great win, in what was a fantastic game of football. May not have been pretty at times, but it's games like this, with the fight, passion and intensity, that will help grow the game in North America. Just wait till the real action starts. FINAL SCORE: Portland Timbers 0 Vancouver Whitecaps 1 PORTLAND: Adam Kwarasey; Alvas Powell, Nat Borchers, Liam Ridgewell, Jorge Villafana; Darlington Nagbe, Diego Chara, Ben Zemanski (Jack Jewsbury 25), Rodney Wallace; Gaston Fernandez (Dairon Asprilla 64), Fanendo Adi (Maximiliano Urruti 72) [subs Not Used: Andrew Weber, Norberto Paparatto, Jeanderson, Danny O'Rourke, Nick Besler, George Fochive, Michael Nanchoff, Schillo Tshuma] VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Steven Beitashour, Pa Modou Kah (Diego Rodriguez 66), Kendall Waston, Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba (Gershon Koffie 76), Russell Teibert, Mauro Rosales (Erik Hurtado 58), Pedro Morales (Nicolas Mezquida 76), Kekuta Manneh; Octavio Rivero (Darren Mattocks 76) [subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Sam Adekugbe, Christian Dean, Ethen Sampson, Robert Earnshaw, Marco Bustos] REACTION: CARL ROBINSON On the game and what this means for the actual league meetings between the teams: "It's hard to tell, but a good game of football today, I have to say, by two good teams. These games are never going to be easy. These games are never going to be friendlies and it showed today. Obviously there were one or two sending offs in the game but then from our perspective we scored and obviously won the game, but more importantly we played pretty well when we had the ball." On being in control of the game in the second half: "The only disappointing thing I have is that we didn't manage to get the second goal because I think we deserved it and warranted it with our play. Unfortunately it didn't come and that's stuff we've got to work on." Play of Kekuta Manneh and how different he looks from last season: "He's been excellent. A very mature performance from the young boy today especially. He's come back in preseason in the right frame of mind. He's come back with the bit between his teeth. He's fit, and you see today, when he's fit, he's happy, and he performs like that. My job is to try and keep him like that for 34 games this season." On what Manneh needs to do to play well but also hit the back of the net: "There will be performances this year where he doesn't play as well as he did tonight and he'll score two goals and I'm sure everyone will say that he's this and he's that. But when he plays like that, that's all I want him to do. Because when he plays like that he'll score goals and there's no reason why he can't get a number of goals this year. Confidencewise, he's playing with confidence. And he's fit and he's happy. If you've got your players happy, then they'll perform to the levels that they should do. My job is to do that." Was that the Kah hat-trick - card, goal, calming Kekuta?! "That's perfect. We'll have some fun this year, won't we?! We'll certainly have some fun." On the card danger of Kah and Waston playing together: "It will. I thought there were areas for improvement, as there were with all units of the team. They're strong. A very strong pair. And Diego coming on as well. That was a decision because I didn't want to lose Kah because I thought the referee was a little card-happy maybe, sending people off. I didn't want him evening things up, so it was a decision I made. But they will get booked this year. There's no doubt about it, because we've got good attacking players in this league and good attackers manage to deceive defenders sometimes. It's important I carry five [central] defenders and I've certainly got five good ones." What did he learn about his group from the game? "That we're tough. That physically we were able to deal with a tough match away from home. Every match is going to be like this away from home. We've got to be able to fight and dig and scrap and run, but play our football at the right times and I think we did that, especially going in at half time 1-0 up. It was a much of a muchness kind of game, there wasn't much in it. We managed to get a great goal from a super ball from Mauro and Pa's header. The second half, I thought we were excellent. I really did. The change in numbers changed the dynamic of the game slightly but the performance was thoroughly professional." On Nico standing up to bigger players: "Imagine if he was Kendall's size what he'd do! He's brilliant. He has a heart of gold. You want guys like that in your team and we've certainly got a good group in there." On Rivero and the other new Caps getting a taste of the Cascadia atmosphere: "It's important for all the new guys coming in to realise what it's like to play [in Portland]. It's a great place to play. It's passionate, it's exciting. You hear supporters giving you abuse and things like that. You've got to get used to that." On plans and hopes for the remaining two games in the tournament: "I thought [the first game between Chicago and Stabaek] was a decent game. It was two very different styles of play within the game. We'll prepare for Wednesday's game because it's going to be a tough game. I'll decide what I'll do with the personnel there, but the guys that didn't play today will probably get a run out on Wednesday. I think it's an important game for us, against a very good Stabaek team as well." PA MODOU KAH On the perfect return to Portland for him: "Soccer is a little bit bizarre sport because it's always something like when you go to your old club it always seems to be that you will score. I always watch the game on television and I tell my wife, how is it that when you always go back to your ex club, you score. It's just in the script I guess. On how he saw his goal: "That was a tremendous delivery from Mauro and when you have a guy like Mauro with his qualities and his crosses, it's a dream for any soccer player so he put it on the right spot and it was just for me to attack the ball and I put it in the net." On the intensity of a preseason game being like a league game: "The boys, we rolled up our sleeves and everybody fought. We fought as a team, which is very important. Everybody knows when you come down to Portland, they like to play, but for us, it's the preseason, but the season is a week away so we have to fight and work together as a team. Today we played well. Every game against your rival is competitive, so you have to be at your best and today we showed why we are Vancouver." On whether to celebrate against his old team: "If I score, I will celebrate, but since this is a preseason game, there's no need for celebration. If it was a regular season game, yes, I will celebrate because, with all due respect for Portland, I feel that when you play a game and you score a goal, you should celebrate." On Manneh and Hurtado not taking chances to add second: "For me, when you have those chances, you have to finish it because those chances are the decider of the game, whether you let them back in the game or not. So when you kill the game with 2-0, with ten men, then it's a lot more easier to play, so that's something we need to work on." How comfortable does he feel already playing with Waston? "The big man is a beast. When you have a guy along like that, it's good for the back line. Both of us are aggressive players but we know how to play football, so far it's just about keeping working, getting the chemistry, the chemistry's going good. Both of us are willing to and we listen to each other and we make each other better everyday, which is important. You also have Christian Dean and Diego Rodriguez in the background, so no place is safe, so every day you got to show your best in training." KEKUTA MANNEH Did that feel like a preseason or a regular season game out there? "Obviously it's a preseason game but we don't take any game lightly for the preseason. The preparation starts from day one. It's just like any other big game for us. It's just like we're fighting for the playoffs, so it's important for us that we play the right way. We've been saying all year, do things right, make sure we perform. It doesn't matter what game it is. There's no friendly game for us. It just felt like we're in the season." On his own strong performance: "Unfortunately I wasn't able to manage to score a goal. It's just one of those things. I just need to keep my composure, try to finish it next time and just go back to the drawing board and practice work on that. I thought the team played really well considering it's an away game and we're trying to get ready for the season and trying to fit in the new players that we have too. I thought they were fantastic. They fitted in really well. Obviously we need to work on some stuff for everyone but I thought it looked great tonight." On Kah's headed goal: "We've been working on it and I feel that we're going to score a lot of goals from set pieces because we've got those big guys on the team now. So goals are going to come from different places now." On the difference between him last preseason and this: "I feel great. Thanks to the medical staff and the staff here. I've been working with them in the offseason and you can definitely see it paid off. I feel really fit. I was never really tired for the whole game today. It was great."
  8. "The group are very lively, they've very competitive," Robinson told reporters after training on Thursday. "They're disagreeing on certain things, which is good, but they're talking and when you have a young group of players it's important that they communicate with each other respectfully. "We're coming along slowly, but nicely. If we can add one or two more into the picture then that will help us as well." So just how close or how far away are the Whitecaps from where he wants them to be right now? "I'm probably never where I want to be, in relation to the group and how good we can be," Robinson told us. "I don't think any football manager, unless he wins the Champions League, will ever say he will be. "Are we in a much better place this year than we were last year? 100%. Without a doubt. We're more organised, we're more planned. Most of the group have come back this year as well. We've added key additions, which is always important, but we've kept the core group together. "So we're not far away. Will we be up to speed come the first game of the season? No, we won't be 100% fit but we weren't last year and we managed to get off to a good start, so we are working towards that. When we will reach peak fitness, I don't know. Will there be more additions, yes, there certainly will. When? I don't know, but we're always a work in progress." The Whitecaps featured four trialists down for their first preseason trip of the year down in Tucson a couple of weeks ago. Although there will be some new faces down in Oregon as well, it's not likely to be ones in the first team reckoning. "There's a couple of guys coming in, basically to have a look at them for the USL team, so we'll add a few numbers there," Robinson said. "There's no-one really on trial at the moment that I'm looking at for the first team because the guys I maybe have on our radar, you won't be able to get on trial." No-one apart from Robert Earnshaw that is. The Welshman is the only Tucson trialist to have stuck around. As he told us last week, he'd love to call Vancouver his new home and impart some of his knowledge onto a young Whitecaps' strikeforce, but as with many things in MLS when it comes to contracts, things are not just that easy. "There's been communication between me and Earnie every day," Robinson is happy to admit. "There's a number of factors that come in to that. There's what's our priority position and I think you know we've got another priority position first, which will depend on how much money we leave open for another spot, but also the CBA. "We don't know what's going to happen there with the cap and things like that, so we'll just keep it open-minded about that, but the communication happens every day. Until we need to make a decision, or he needs to make a decision, then we'll keep it moving forward." The priority position that Robinson talks about is that of the left wing. The Whitecaps have no real natural left winger. Sure they have a number of players than can play there, like Nicolas Mezquida, Kekuta Manneh, Erik Hurtado and Darren Mattocks, but that role is not a natural one, or a preferred one, for any of those guys. Although he won't come right out and say it, you can tell that Robinson would love to have the chance to keep an experienced player, and a proven goalscorer, like Earnshaw around if he can make it happen within the salary cap. To fill the left wing role with the calibre of player that Robinson wants will take money. To do that and keep Earnshaw around, will take some creative accounting and the likelihood of moving one, maybe even two, of the higher earners on. Standing in the way right now of any of that happening is of course the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) talks between the league and the players. Both parties still seem far apart, but until the new CBA is signed, sealed and delivered, the Whitecaps, and every other team in the league, simply don't know what they're dealing with financewise and rosterwise for the current season. How much can they spend? Will there be an additional DP spot? What other weird rules will come into play that we'll only hear about when Seattle, LA or Toronto add a new player? With all this in mind, how much does the CBA wrangling and the uncertainty of what may lie ahead mess with Robinson's plans for strengthening the current squad? "It doesn't upset me too much because I always prepare for the worst case scenario," Robinson told us. "What I won't do, is I won't put the club at risk for next year and the year after because there's no need to do that. "If you're building, which we are, it's important that you pre-prepare everything and I've got plans for six months, 12 months, 18 months, 24 months ahead. If I think it's right for the club to bring in a player then I certainly will do it. If it means me being over the salary cap but I think it's the right thing to do, then I'll certainly do it and I'll try and make adjustments other than that with it. "So it doesn't affect me really. It won't change my focus. I know it probably changes the player's focus, because they're trying to agree it now, but hopefully everything will get agreed and we'll move forward happy." The Whitecaps added some big names in Matias Laba and Pedro Morales to their MLS roster down in Portland last year. Unless the CBA talks get wrapped up pretty darn quick, then that's looking less likely this year. Vancouver won the Portland tournament last year and will be looking for more of the same this time around, but as fiercely contested as the three games will be, Robinson is most concerned with the performances of his players as the week goes on rather than the wins, although beating your Cascadian rivals is always nice. "I think even a Portland staff game might have some feeling in it, if I'm being honest!" he joked. "It's a pre-season game, it's a rivalry game, so results don't really matter but performances do. My players are fighting to get into the team, so I don't think there's ever a friendly game against Portland." As mentioned, there will also be an additional bonus game with the Whitecaps younger players taking on their Timbers counterparts on Saturday evening at 7pm in a closed doors match. The game will give them another chance to show Robinson that they are knocking on the door for MLS minutes. "I think it'll be good, but the only tricky thing of it is that the game is on Saturday, which is the day before the first team game. Ideally we would have liked it the day after, so that the guys that didn't play [could play]. So we're going to have to plan it properly. "But there will be guys who get extra minutes on Saturday that will be part of Sunday's game and there will be guys who play a lot on Saturday who aren't part of Sunday's game, and there will be guys who don't play on Saturday full stop. "So I will plan it so that we have four games in a week, which is important for all the squad, so they'll get plenty of minutes." Vancouver kick off this year's tournament against the hosts. Last year they wrapped up their against Portland. By that game Robinson had pretty much nailed down his starting eleven for the next week's MLS kick off against New York. Chicago are last up for the 'Caps this year, so will Robinson be hoping to have his first choice starters take the field in that game this time around as well? "Ideally, yeah," Robinson said before cautioning the players, fans and pundits alike. "As I keep stressing to the group, because people keep trying to find out who my starting right back's going to be, my starting left back, I can give you and idea but what happens if he gets to the day before the first game injured? "I want to keep the competition fair, and it is fair, but I also want to keep the group hungry. If you're in the starting team against Chicago, which is one week before the start of the season, then you can read into it all you want, but if you train poorly all week and you get injured on the last day then you certainly won't be starting. They're jockeying for places."
  9. Four trialists headed down to Arizona with the Whitecaps last week, but Earnshaw is the only one that is still sticking around. When Robinson brought him in he said the reason was twofold. The Welsh internationals go way back and Robinson wanted to help the prolific striker work on his fitness levels, while being in an environment that would allow the 'Caps coach to take a closer look at him in the process. Two weeks later, Robinson is still noncommittal, telling reporters on Friday that "We'll take a look at him and just see how it goes. There's no commitment from either end." From talking to both, you get the feeling that club and player would love things to work out. But with the new CBA still to be finalised, salary cap issues, and what to do with the current crop of strikers amongst other logistical aspects of signing a deal, you can understand both sides being cagey. There's a lot of work to do before we'll see Earnshaw running out at BC Place in a blue and white jersey. "It's too early to say, but really it comes down to when we sit down and where we are at that moment," Earnshaw told AFTN. "How long that's going to be, I'm not sure." As all investors know, past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Earnshaw has got goals everywhere he has gone during a distinguished footballing career. He's played at the top level for both club and country. But he still has to convince Robinson that he not only deserves a spot on the Whitecaps MLS roster, but that he'll also be a key contributing cog. That all starts with getting himself into top footballing shape again and that's the prime reason that Earnshaw is training with the Whitecaps right now. "For me, coming here was mainly about getting fitness because I'm probably ten days, two weeks, behind everybody else," Earnshaw told us. "I started last week where everybody else started before that. "I'm kind of catching up. This week, today, it felt much better. So it's really just trying to creep up on everybody else's fitness. It's getting there. I'm pleased with how last week went. Earnshaw met up with Robinson and the Whitecaps down in Tucson last week, playing 89 minutes over the three games against New England, San Jose and Houston. He didn't find the back of the net but the games gave him his first match minutes since October 2nd, as he strives to get back to full match fitness. "Arizona I thought was brilliant," Earnshaw continued. "Very good for me, very good for the team. Just to be around the guys, get a feel of the ball again and really just to pick up my fitness slowly. I actually felt better every day this week right up to today, so it's just that progress." The Welsh striker fits the mould of the player that the Whitecaps badly need for the young group of forwards that the club currently have. An experienced head, with a proven track record and the right attitude a veteran should be bringing to a dressing room. He wants to impart the knowledge that he's picked up from the game over the years. Earnshaw is clearly cut out for a mentoring role to the 'Caps young strikers but he doesn't want to put the cart before the horse and start talking too much about that, or the group, whilst not officially part of the squad. "It's funny. I can't talk about being here because I've not signed a contract, so it wouldn't be right for me to say this is how it is or this is what it needs. That's for Robbo to decide. I've definitely found myself over the last two or three years in that role anyway. But if it were to come about, it wouldn't be an unfamiliar role for Earnshaw, who has relished and enjoyed the development of that part of his game these past couple of seasons. "I find myself talking more. I find myself giving more advice. I find myself giving what I've learnt and what I think with more inexperienced players. I find myself kind of going into their mind a little but and saying 'I know you were thinking this but think about this' and giving advice. "I've found myself just going into that role anyway, so I'm definitely at that stage and I'm more open where I want to give out that experience. There's no point in me playing for, I think this is going to be my 18th season, and I still have loads of energy and want to play, but in the secondary role where you get to a certain point where you've gathered so much information, you find yourself that it's natural for me to give that out. "I feel that the reason that I've played 18 years is because I was willing to learn. I was learning off, I could roll off so many players that were a big, big influence on me. I was picking their brains, asking questions and for me, if that wasn't the case, I probably wouldn't be playing here now because I wouldn't have learned. When Kenny Miller headed back to Scotland last May, the Whitecaps attack fell on the shoulders of early twenty-somethings like Darren Mattocks and Erik Hurtado. Veterans like Andy O'Brien, and then later Mauro Rosales, tried to impart their knowledge to help the likes of them and Kekuta Manneh develop their games at the higher level, but what was missing was Miller's experience and in particular the reading of the game from a top striker's perspective. What runs to make, what to watch the defence doing, how to turn various situations to your advantage. The Whitecaps still don't have that and it's something that Earnshaw could certainly add and already has been. "Again, it's not for me to say about this team yet," Earnshaw told us. "But even here, the last ten days, I've found myself just wanting to give out the experience that I have got and I think it's only right for me because I enjoy that. I enjoy if someone comes up to me and asks a question, what about this or what was it like playing in the Premier League or all these different questions that have popped up over the last ten days or so. "I enjoy if someone else can learn of me, if that's possible, and giving out that info to them so that they can get better. I really enjoy when I can see players really develop on the pitch and with the teammates around me, seeing the enthusiasm to learn but then actually get better on the field and then you actually see it. That's a great thing, especially when you're a teammate as well. I think one of the greatest things you can give out to a teammate is to give them confidence but you give them an experience or make them better and that's what I enjoy." It's an impressive attitude to have and one that not all players in the twilight of their career sometimes show. But that's the kind of character of players that Robinson wants in Vancouver and having known Earnshaw for some time, that undoubtedly one of the reasons why he feels it's been worth bringing him into camp for a look. So how has Earnshaw found his time with the Whitecaps so far, especially compared to his experiences in Toronto and Chicago? "Every team is different, definitely," he feels. "Just different philosophies, different ways of working. Little details are different. Generally the whole package is similar because MLS has great facilities. The teams really have a great platform to play in, to train in. So that's very good. That's what I enjoy. And it gives you a chance to get better on the field then because you're not worrying about certain details that are missing that are critical to once you go out on the field. "But things are good. I've enjoyed it here so far. I've been here just over a week and a half and I'm very pleased with how this group has worked. I think there's a good group here. I like the players that are here. Great ability, but very young. It's very early stages. It's very early for me to say this is how it is and this is how they are because they're very young. Not a lot of experience and needing that experience." Earnshaw has a rich goalscoring pedigree. He's scored goals wherever he's been and holds the distinction of being the only player to have scored a hat-trick in every division of English league football, along with the FA Cup, League Cup and internationally. All that's missing is a MLS hat-trick now and it would be good to see that happen in a Whitecaps strip. He's played in the Premier League and he's played on the international stage, earning 58 senior caps for Wales. With all that experience under his belt, he could have easily carved out the remainder of his career in England, especially helping out a multitude of Championship sides over the coming years. But instead, the Welshman wanted a change. New horizons and new challenges. And that's what brought him to MLS in 2013, joining Toronto FC. "At the time I felt that I needed the change," Earnshaw told us. "I needed to experience football elsewhere. For me, to develop as a player, and maybe to go into coaching one day, I don't know, but to develop as a footballer, I needed to experience it in different settings, different mentalities. "I went to Israel. I went to Maccabi Tel Aviv. That was great. In the three or four months that I was there, it was definitely a great thing for me. I actually learned probably more in the three or four months than I probably learned in four or five years playing in the UK. That's how rapid it was. "Also I wanted to come over to MLS because I enjoyed the league. I saw the league, I've seen it over the last few years developing. I've seen very good players playing in the league and it's a very good league to play in. I think people are taking notice of that now, but I took notice a few year ago, so that's why I came over. And despite now trying to lock down a contract with his third MLS club in three seasons, Earnshaw has no regrets about heading over to North America. "I've enjoyed it. Everything I've experienced over in the league is what I came to experience. For me, it's not about turning the switch off now. I want to get better, I want to score goals. I want to play for as long as possible and I want to enjoy it. "I still enjoy playing football. I still enjoy going out there. Today you see we're doing the running. It's tough, it's not nice. It's horrible! But it's what you're there for. It's what you enjoy. You know it's part of the game - getting fit, making yourself right, kicking the ball. All those things is everything I enjoy and that's why I'm here." Earnshaw continued his goalscoring exploits in MLS. His first season in the league was pretty successful considering who he was playing for, scoring 8 goals in 26 appearances for TFC. Toronto decided not to take up the Welshman's option for the following season, however, which must have come as something of a surprise for Earnshaw. "Not really," was his honest admission. "Traditionally Toronto always change the team, change the managers. It was half expected. It was just a case of whether we agreed or not and we didn't agree a contract, we didn't agree terms, so it wasn't right to stay. And also with the players that they brought in at the time, I didn't fit in to the salary cap. "The salary cap is what it came down to I think. Maybe if it wasn't for the salary cap, maybe I might have stayed, but sometimes that's what it comes down to and that's the difficulty sometimes in MLS - fitting your best players within your budget and that's the difficult part. "It's no surprise. That's how it is. I went to Chicago and I really enjoyed it there. The training was great. The club was brilliant I got a few goals as well, which is always nice, so I really enjoyed that. These things you just experience and go through. Sometimes you stay with a team for a long time and it's unexpected, sometimes you actually move when it's unexpected and that's just part of the game." After bumping around in 2014, Earnshaw ended up in a brief stint in Chicago, where he added another 3 goals in 5 appearances for the Fire, only one of which he started. Once again he's proved he can score wherever he goes, but how has he found playing in MLS and the level of the league? "I burst onto the scene really because I scored in my first game, I scored in my second game and I got a few goals. I've enjoyed actually playing in MLS. Physically, it's really demanding. I find myself really having to use the cleverness a lot more because I think that's one of the key things. "Sometimes I find myself not so much really getting up and down and running here, there and running a million miles all the way round. I find myself having to really think what's happening on the pitch and finding space and that's one of the key things that I've found my experience has helped me find goals in MLS. So that's been good. I've really enjoyed it and it would be great for me to carry that on and carry on scoring goals." Earnshaw is now hoping to get the chance to do just that with the Whitecaps. It's still early days and his training stint could really still go either way. A couple of goals in the remaining preseason friendlies and some friendly CBA terms would particularly help his cause. He still has that hunger and that desire to not only succeed, but also to keep improving his game. It's refreshing to see that in a 33-year-old and it's very similar to the work ethic and ethos we see week in and week out from Mauro Rosales. With his track record and experience, Earnshaw could easily head back to the UK and find a club but he's really keen to stay in MLS and the Whitecaps could be his next home. He's liked what he's seen so far and the opportunities that await him here are just what he's looking for at this stage of his career. "If I can first of all help my teammates, give people my experience of playing in Europe, then that's a great thing for whatever team I'm at. But also because I enjoy it. I enjoy the league. I enjoy being here. I've definitely enjoyed Canada, I've definitely enjoyed the US. "Like I said, for me, it's not a case of where I switch off and say I'm not going to learn anymore or I'm not going to get better or I'm not going to play any longer. For me, it's about playing longer, learning more. I want to be out, I want to be playing. I want to touch the ball and score goals and celebrate. All these things is what I enjoy, so that's why I'm here. That's why I play. The enjoyment of wanting to be out there and wanting to work hard and when that ball hits the net and the whole team gets around you. "Those are the things that I'm here for. It's really that simple. I want to be part of a successful team and be a piece within a group of players that achieves things. That's what you aim for." And let's hope he finds all that with the Whitecaps, for as Valentine's Day is upon us, Vancouver and the goals and experience that Robert Earnshaw could provide them with could indeed prove to be a marriage made in heaven.
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