Archive for the ‘Whitecaps FC’ Category

VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Daily Hive for my story on who is expected to return next season for Vancouver Whitecaps FC, and who’s likely to headed in another direction.

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Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs Real Salt Lake on Sunday, October 6, 2019. Photo: Har Journalist

VANCOUVER, B.C – Whitecaps FC’s three-match unbeaten streak has come to an end, just like their season. Needing a win to try and secure a home playoff date, Real Salt Lake came into Vancouver and earned a convincing 1-0 victory over Whitecaps FC. A B.C. Place crowd of 18,378 was on hand to watch Whitecaps FC close out the season.

Real Salt Lake will head home with a 16-13-5 record, and 53 points. Coach Freddy Juarez will prepare his side for a winner take all playoff match against the Portland Timbers.

Whitecaps FC conclude the 2019 season with a 8-16-10 record and 34 points.

Vancouver solidifies last spot in the MLS western conference, and 23rd overall in the MLS table.

“Salt Lake played a playoff game.” Whitecaps FC Coach Marc Dos Santos said post-match. “They were deep and dangerous in the counter. We deserved a goal, we deserved at least a point. We did enough for that in the second half. We didn’t have the spark, a little bit of luck especially some balls that Yordy got in the box and could’ve laid it faster. Erik Godoy, big chance. Michaell Chirinos, big chance, so that’s the game.”

Whitecaps FC’s longest tenured player, hopes to be back next season.

“We all know statistically how this season went,” Russell Teibert explained. “If you dig deeper and you look deeper, this was a season of ups and downs. But, we’re building something here. This was always a rebuild year, and we’re going to continue to grow. That’s the message with this team, we will continue to grow. We know we have stuff to work on, and we’re going to do that. We’re going to address those things in the offseason.”

Damir Kreilach put the visitors in front in the 28th minute and they never looked back. In his final MLS regular season match, Nick Rimando made five saves to earn his 154th MLS clean sheet.

The 40-year-old, Rimando finishes his MLS career with a record of 223-174-117.

Poor defensive coverage from Whitecaps FC helped Real Salt Lake set the tone with a first half goal. In his second start at right-back, Erik Godoy was late to close down Corey Baird. The U.S. national team product, sent in a cross. Kreilach was able to get in behind skipper Doneil Henry, and he converted a header off the pitch to make it 1-0 Real Salt Lake.

Whitecaps FC were pressing early in the second half as they looked to secure an equalizer. Michaell Chirinos was by far the most dangerous Whitecap. The 24-year-old was a lively spark on the wing, and he created a pair of quality scoring opportunities.

The Honduran product forced Rimando into a spectacular diving save in the 55′ minute. Moments later, Chirinos darted into the Real Salt Lake box, and hammered the ball off the far post. Chirinos was a man on a mission, but Rimando was up for the task.

Whitecaps FC Academy player, Georges Mukumbilwa, made his MLS debut as a second half substitute. The 20-year-old, Winnipeg native, has been a pleasant surprise this season with Vancouver’s Development Squad team. Mukumbilwa injected some pace into Whitecaps FC’s lineup, as they mounted an effort to square the match at one apiece.

Vancouver’s dismal season came to an end with a lacklustre performance at home. Real Salt Lake was a hungry side, in search of a home playoff date. They came into B.C. Place and got the job done.

Whitecaps FC will head into the offseason facing several questions.

“Next season,” Dos Santos said. “After a year like that, just imagine the work and the commitment happening right now in the back scenes. The commitment, the work, the pieces that are happening in the back scene, the thought process, the moves are huge right now. As the coach, I’m with the GM, the owners, the staff. The only thing in my head right now, from the bottom of my heart, is the people that are coming to the stadium every day and support this team. We have to give back.”

Vancouver Whitecaps FC Starting XI: Max Crepeau; Ali Adnan, Derek Cornelius, Doneil Henry(C), Erik Godoy; Russell Teibert, Andy Rose, 80 (Georges Mukumbilwa), InBeom Hwang; Michaell Chirinos, Theo Bair, 60 (Yordy Reyna), Tosaint Ricketts, 60 (Fredy Montero). 4-3-3

Real Salt Lake Starting XI: Nick Rimando; Donny Toia, Nedum Onuoha, Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera; Kyle Beckerman(C), Everton Luiz; Corey Baird, 88 (Marcelo Silva), Albert Rusnak, 83 (Kelyn Rowe), Jefferson Savarino, 83 (Jefferson Savarino); Damir Kreilach. 4-2-3-1

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Whitecaps FC Development Squad Centre-Back, Gianfranco Facchineri on Friday, October 4, 2019. Photo: Har Journalist.

VANCOUVER, B.C – You can never have enough defenders, especially at the centre-back position. Every top football club needs a commanding, confident anchor at the back. Finding that type of defender is easier said, than done. Vancouver Whitecaps FC could be on the verge of developing a rising superstar centre-back with the brightest of futures.

Gianfranco Facchineri has been training with Whitecaps FC’s first team on and off since mid-August. The 17-year-old Whitecaps FC Development Squad player hasn’t put a foot wrong since earning minutes with Vancouver’s top group.

“It’s been an experience I’ll never forget,” Facchineri explained to Har Journalist. “I’ve loved every second of it, I’ve learned more training with them in the past last little bit, than in years of not training with the first team. It’s been a great experience, and I’m really really thankful for it. Hopefully they’ll be more experiences to come with them.”

While some teenagers might be worried about making a mistake, or getting beat one on one, that’s not the case with Facchineri. He has exceptional instincts, composure, and an astute mentality that you simply can’t teach. He’s not at all rattled by sharing the training pitch with names like Fredy Montero, Yordy Reyna, and Ali Adnan.

“There’s always a little bit of nerves training with older guys,” Facchineri admitted. “Especially these guys, you grow up watching some of these guys on TV. There’s obviously nerves, but the thing is, when you’re out there playing football, it doesn’t really matter. If you’re doing what you love to do, there’s no nerves whatsoever.”

The Windsor, Ontario native, isn’t being treated with kid gloves. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Facchineri is starting to get some ribbing from Whitecaps FC veterans. He views any advice as positive encouragement that will help.

“Obviously, there’s going to be some difficulty playing with these guys. If you make a mistake, they’re going to let you know that you’ve made a mistake. It’s not Sunday league, they’re going to let you know that you messed up, but that’s what you want. They’ve all welcomed me with open arms. They’ve all been really really helpful.”

Earlier this week, Facchineri was named to Canada’s U-17 World Cup squad. While that alone is a great feat, he will also wear the captains armband. Canada will train in Argentina from October 11 – 22.

Canada will kickoff Group A action on Saturday, October 26 against the hosts, Brazil.

“He’s developing nicely.” Vancouver Whitecaps FC Development Squad Head Coach, Nick Dasovic said.

“First and foremost, he’s a great character, good kid, honest, works hard.” Dasovic added. “A team leader, and he’s growing as a player. Marc’s (Dos Santos) had him in with the first team, and he’s liking some of the components he has. He’s somebody that’s willing to grow with the football club. He’s still got a long way to go. The biggest thing for him is his humility. He’ll train with Marc, and he’ll thank him for training. It’s small little details that show he’s a good person.”

Might there be a future first team MLS contract on the table for Gianfranco Facchineri?

Whitecaps FC Coach Marc Dos Santos wasn’t about to spill any tea.

“He has a physical presence about him,” Dos Santos explained. “He has a very good mentality. He’s a good kid, wants to learn. It’s still early to asses him in an MLS reality. It’s going to be a good experience for him at the World Cup playing in such a tough group. Brazil, Angola, and New Zealand, it’s not going to be easy. We want to see how he goes about things there. Hopefully it will push him up to be one of the kids that joins us in preseason.”

In his first full year with the Whitecaps FC Academy, Facchineri has already taken home an award. On September 24, he was named 2019 BMO RESP Academy Male Player of the Year. His father, Antonio, flew in from Ontario to see his son take home the honour.

Whether he’s in Vancouver or elsewhere, Facchineri’s goal is to be a professional footballer.

“My goal in soccer, in general is to have a career in the game that I love,” Facchineri explained. “If that career can come with the Vancouver Whitecaps, I’d love it. I watch Doneil Henry, Derek Cornelius, (Erik) Godoy, play. Watching all those guys play, it’s great. I hope to be one of those guys one of these days.”

Growing up in an Italian household, Facchineri looked up to football greats like Gennaro Gattuso, and Giorgio Chiellini.

His favourite player is a Napoli born legend.

“I watched the 2006 World Cup with my family,” Facchineri said. “They had Fabio Cannavaro. He’s always been an idol for me. I have a couple of posters up in my room.”

Gianfranco Facchineri is a Whitecaps FC prospect to keep an eye on. He could be MLS bound, delivering crosses, marking opponents, and dishing out meaty tackles before you know it.

In the mean time, he will be loading up on his favourite Italian pasta dish.

“My Nonna’s penne, if I’m being honest.”

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VANCOUVER, B.C – Whitecaps FC will be looking to end the season on a high note when they host Real Salt Lake on Sunday at B.C. Place. Vancouver comes into the season finale riding a three-match unbeaten streak thanks to a wins over the LA Galaxy, Houston, and a draw vs Columbus Crew SC. If Whitecaps FC can earn a result against playoff bound, Real Salt Lake they will have reached a season high, four-match unbeaten streak.

Over the course of the final month of the season, Whitecaps FC have taken on a spoiler role.

In that process, Vancouver may have found a hidden gem on the back-line.

Jasser Khmiri, made his MLS debut on Sunday against the Galaxy, and he did not look out of place. The ‘Towering Tunisian’ played with poise, pace, and power. Khmiri had his timing down, and his instincts looked terrific.

Whitecaps FC Coach Marc Dos Santos was not at all surprised by Khmiri’s performance.

“Guys, look, we watch players,” Dos Santos started to explain. “It would unprofessional on my part to watch a player and then bring him here, and say ‘Oh, I’m surprised that he’s good’. It would be very unprofessional. We watched him, we watched games. We sent a staff member to Tunisia. We knew that there was a lot of interest from French clubs, and Belgium clubs. He had a problem in his knee, when we brought him here. We took that risk, other clubs didn’t want to take that risk. Our performance group did a fantastic job with him. We know his qualities, the qualities of Jasser, he has very good height. He’s very good in the air, both attacking and defending. He’s comfortable on the ball. He’s a fast player for his position. He’s very aggressive, so positionally he could still grow. He’s an aggressive player, he’s young, and it’s his first game with the club.”

The 22-year-old, Khmiri, was paired with MLS veteran, Doneil Henry. The Canadian international could sense the hunger, and anticipation from his defensive partner. Henry helped make sure Khmiri, kept his composure, and stayed focused.

“It was good,” Henry said. “I know when a player has been out for that long, he’s hungry. I was kind of nervous going into the game. When you’ve been out that long and you haven’t played in any warm-up games, and you go against a front-line like the one we played against, it’s not easy.

I just wanted to coach him throughout the game, and make sure he wasn’t overly excited to go into tackles. You can get burnt or do something wrong. Jasser was excellent for the game, I’m happy. I read that he had nineteen clearances, that’s amazing. It’s a good start for Jasser and there’s a lot to continue to do, and I just want to help him.”

The Galaxy boast one of the top attacking squads in all of MLS. Anytime you can pencil Zlatan Ibrahimovic into your lineup, you have a chance to win, and win big. Khmiri wasn’t fazed by the bright lights, and big names at the other end of the pitch.

He battled with Zlatan, and managed to frustrate the Swedish striker. As close as the Galaxy came, they were never able to take control of the match. Vancouver won 4-3 thanks to a stoppage time winner from Michaell Chirinos. The play that sprung Chirinos, and In-Beom Hwang was setup by Khmiri, who won the ball in his own defensive half.

“We wanted his first game, for him to feel right away what MLS was about,” Dos Santos explained. “I think he was a player in the ninety minutes that understood his role, helped, jumped a lot with Ibra. Challenged a lot with him in the box. We knew a lot of the things from the game against the Galaxy would be crosses in the box, that’s why we wanted to make sure, Doneil, and Jasser would be there to cope with that, and I think they did a good job overall.”

Have Whitecaps FC found a new top centre-back duo for next season?

“Yeah, that’s down to the coaches,” Henry said. “Like I said, while I’m playing, I just want to help the boys out, and be a leader. Just leave the rest to the coaches, and the club.”

Marc Dos Santos wasn’t willing to discuss his centre-back duo for the 2020 campaign.

“I don’t know, no, I don’t know. I don’t know, let’s see how things develop.”

Fans might see Henry and Khmiri in action when Vancouver takes on Real Salt Lake on Sunday. The visitors will be looking to lock up a home playoff date, while Whitecaps FC will look to ‘screw’ another MLS opponent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Pro Soccer USA for my Concacaf Nations League story on Canada Soccer.

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VANCOUVER, B.C – Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s season is winding down, but there’s still some excitement, and wonder to be found. Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles will likely mark the Whitecaps FC, and MLS debut of Jasser Khmiri.

Vancouver will travel to California for a matinee affair with the LA Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park. Whitecaps FC come into the match riding a two-match unbeaten streak thanks to a home win over Houston, and a draw vs Columbus.

The 7-15-10 Whitecaps FC squad will switch from a defence of four, to a three or five at the back formation. The ‘Towering Tunisian’, Khmiri, is a strong candidate to feature in Vancouver’s back-line.

“Likely, a lot, likely a lot.” Coach Marc Dos Santos told Har Journalist following training on Friday.

What can Whitecaps FC fans expect to see from the 22-year-old, Khmiri?

“He’s young, he’s a young player that’s been one year out,” Dos Santos explained. “I have to control expectations around him. He’s a fast player, he’s technically good on the ball. On the ball, he’s simple. The quality of his passes is pretty good, strong in the air, aggressive on the man. That’s his main characteristics.”

“We have to put into consideration that he’s been a year out,” Dos Santos added. “He’s recovered now, and his first game is in LA against the Galaxy.”

“We’ll make sure to have him play with no pressure,” Dos Santos continued. “(There’s) no mentality that it’s going to be the game that’s going to set who he is, no, no. There’s a big chance that he participates.”

Vancouver acquired the 6-foot-4, Khmiri from Tunisian Ligue club, Stade Tunisien on February 1, 2019. Khmiri is signed through 2021 with a club option for 2022. His first appearance as a Whitecap has been a long time coming. He has been on the shelf since November 2018 with a left knee injury. That includes knee surgery earlier this spring in Vancouver.

His possible inclusion in Whitecaps FC’s 18-man roster has come as a bit of a surprise.

“He’s done a fantastic job,” Dos Santos said. “It’s tough to do what he did mentally, working a lot alone, for a full season. We feel like maybe having him a minimum of 60 minutes on the field, and giving him another chance in front of our fans against Salt Lake, it could be good for him.”

How is the easily excitable Khmiri, approaching his first minutes in MLS?

“He’s calm,” Dos Santos described Khmiri’s perspective. “He played in sets that were not easy. He played in Tunisia, and you know when you experience that way, it’s sometimes 70,000 people. Aggressive types of fans, different than the North American fan. I don’t think that the stadium is going to fade him out, I think it’s going to motivate him.”

You can forget about Khmiri being two weeks away, his time has come, and now he’s just two days away from his debut.

You might even see some crunching tackles from the athletic, central defender.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Dos Santos said. “It’s going to depend on how he feels the next two days. There’s a chance, yes, but final decision, is not taken yet.”

If the final decision is taken, and Khmiri does start, how big of a test would it be to go up against the high-flying, playoff bound LA Galaxy, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

“It’s a great test for him, for sure.” Dos Santos said.

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VANCOUVER, B.C – As the MLS season draws closer to an end, teams are jockeying for key playoff positioning in both conferences. Whitecaps FC will not be heading to the playoffs. Instead of a potential run to the MLS Cup, Vancouver has taken on a spoiler role.

Whitecaps FC will head to California this weekend for a Sunday afternoon battle against the LA Galaxy, at Dignity Health Sports Park. Vancouver comes into the match riding a two-match unbeaten streak. A 2-1 win over Houston, and a 1-1 draw vs Columbus Crew SC significantly struck a blow to the playoff aspirations of both clubs.

“It’s kind of a positive note that we screwed with Columbus, and Houston,” Whitecaps FC’s Max Crépeau told reporters on Tuesday. “Honestly, if you can knock someone out, you do it. It’s good to actually get points.”

Vancouver’s number one goalkeeper has missed the previous two matches. Crépeau has been nursing a right ankle sprain. He picked up the knock earlier this month, while on international duty with Canada. Although he wasn’t healthy enough to start on Saturday he was able to back up, Zac MacMath.

Heading into Whitecaps FC’s final road trip of the season, Crépeau is good to go.

“I am, I am,” Crépeau beamed. “Life is good, if you see me in training, it’s because I’m 100%. Obviously it was a little bit of work to do on it, because it happened Friday, before the Cuba game. Now I feel really good.”

The 15-13-3, LA Galaxy currently sit 4th in the western conference with 48 points. Back to back, home victories over Sporting Kansas City, and the Montreal Impact have the Galaxy rounding into form.

If Whitecaps FC are going to disrupt the Galaxy’s momentum, it starts with containing the one and only, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. A task, that’s a lot easier said than done.

The imposing Swedish striker was a handful when Vancouver and LA met earlier this season. Ibrahimovic had a goal, and an assist in a 2-0 win over Whitecaps FC on April 5, at B.C. Place.

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If Vancouver is going to earn another result, they’ll have to stop more than just Ibra.

“Zlatan, even this weekend against Montreal, he’s really dangerous,” Crépeau said. “There’s good players around him too. Sometimes we focus too much on this guy, and we don’t even focus on the other guys. They have a lot of quality around him. We’ve seen it this weekend, he created two good chances for his team, just because he has the ball, and others get free.”

“I expect that Zlatan is going to be up to the task.”

In his first full season as a number one keeper, Crépeau has posted a 6-12-6 record. He has five clean sheets, and his 107 saves, are 4th highest in Major League Soccer.

The Greenfield, Park native, has saved Whitecaps FC’s bacon on numerous occasions this season.

Vancouver’s 7-15-10 record could have been much worse without Crépeau in net.

Having watched his teammates earn results against teams fighting for their playoff lives, Crépeau is eager to potentially return to take on the Galaxy. It would mean a great deal to finish the season on a high note.

“I’m with the boys, I’m with the group,” Crépeau said. “I want us to win, I want us to win the last two games.”

“Now it’s about doing the same with the Galaxy,” Crépeau talked about playing spoiler. “They’re in a tough spot, that they need to win everything. After that it’s finishing off against the last game against Salt Lake.”

Whitecaps FC will be ‘California Dreaming’ of an upset over Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy. The pressure is squarely on the LA Galaxy, Vancouver has nothing to lose.