A heartbreaking end to Vancouver Whitecaps’ season in Dallas on Wednesday night. No matter how much time passed before we ran our annual ‘End of Season Awards’ this year, it would still hurt.
But the ‘Caps did themselves proud. Their second playoffs in three years, their first ever CONCACAF Champions League place clinched and back to back Cascadia Cups. Add in their highest ever points total in MLS and lowest ever number of losses, and it’s been a pretty damn good year.
Still, it could have been better and you are left with a lot of “what ifs”, especially around just what could have been achieved if they’d actually got a proper striker.
It’s all over now though for another season, so it’s time to look back at the best and the worst, the highs and the lows, and the joys and annoyances from the Caps’ 2014 season.
Don’t agree with some (or all) of our choices? Great! Let us know who would have got your votes in the comments below.
And catch up with our choices from previous years:
Like last year we decided to open up some of the main awards to AFTN’s writers and podcasters. The AFTN committee. So Aaron Campbell, Jay Duke, Steve Pandher, and myself came to a points decision on ‘Player of the Year’, ‘Young Player of the Year’, ‘Goal of the Year’, ‘Game of the Year’ and ‘Save of the Year’. All the rest of the awards were picked by myself (and some with the help of Steve). So without any further ado….
AFTN WHITECAPS PLAYER OF THE SEASON :
WINNER: PEDRO MORALES
AARON – Pedro Morales. Mesmerizing and key player.
JAY – Matias Laba – You can count the amount of poor outings Laba had on one hand. His ruthless tenacity and intelligent play allowed the defenders behind him to play more comfortably and the attackers in front of him play more freely. While Morales played well in spurts, he didn’t put his stamp on the game nearly as often as Laba did.
MICHAEL – Matias Laba – Pedro Morales was amazing this year and so important to the Caps’ success, but I just feel that Laba was the more consistent and was on his game more often than not. Pedro’s game was very up and down. Laba’s was solid.
STEVE – Pedro Morales – Was directly involved with more than 50% of the club’s goals. Vital considering there was no clear striker on the team. Laba is a very close second.
PREDICTAPOOCH – Pedro Morales – We can’t have a tie so we gave the casting vote to Predictapooch. He chose Pedro. We think because the Caps’ talismanic captain has as much fun knocking balls around as much as he does.
2013 winner: Camilo Sanvezzo
2012 winner: Joe Cannon
2011 winner: Camilo Sanvezzo
AFTN WHITECAPS YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON :
WINNER: MATIAS LABA
AARON – Matias Laba. Immense defensively. Key contributor to the clean sheets.
JAY – Matias Laba – I had to go and double check and make sure, but Laba is indeed still only 22. His intelligence and consistency belies his years. He will surely be a star for years to come. Honourable mention to Russell Teibert, who rode some early struggles to finding form in the middle of the park.
MICHAEL – Matias Laba. See my vote above! My runner up is Sam Adekugbe for coming in and looking the part whenever required. As Robbo said, the club have something special in him. Looking forward to seeing him more next season.
STEVE – Matias Laba – Laba was the second best player on the Caps and at 23 he has a long future ahead of him in Vancouver.
2013 winner: Kekuta Manneh
2012 and 2011 winner: Caleb Clarke
WHITECAPS GOAL OF THE SEASON :
WINNER: ERIK HURTADO v SEATTLE (24/5/14 – 2-2 home draw)
AARON – Sebastian Fernandez to tie game in stoppage versus RSL in 2-2 away draw in April. Great strike, crucial goal.
JAY – This year, my pick for goal of the year comes from a bit of an unlikely place. When you think of technical trickery, Erik Hurtado doesn’t exactly come to mind, but the goal he scored against Seattle on May 24 was a massive one. Not only was it against bitter rivals in a Cascadia Cup match, he even helped during the build-up. He came back to help maintain possession, then gave the ball back to Morales and Fernandez to work forward, and then completed two clean cutbacks in succession, leaving both Ossie Alonso and Djimi Traore jock-less and dazed.
MICHAEL – I’m going to go for that Hurtado goal as well, but some of Fernandez’s long range strikes were tremendous and the team build up for some goals as well was impressive. If only we could have seen a few more of all of those though.
STEVE Sebastian Fernandez vs Seattle July 5. It was a nice strike from outside the box. More importantly it was their first win at home against the Sounders in MLS as well being their only win between June 2 and August 10.
2013 winner: Camilo Sanvezzo v Portland (6/10/13)
2012 winner: Darren Mattocks v Toronto (11/7/12)
2011 winner: Eric Hassli v Seattle (11/6/11)
WHITECAPS GAME OF THE SEASON :
WINNER: 1-0 AWAY WIN v SEATTLE (10/10/14)
AARON – Vancouver 1 Colorado 0. Big goal by Waston got them into playoffs.
JAY – There were a few candidates this year, but it has to be the 1-0 away win in Seattle. With so much on the line, and given injury and suspension problems, the 1-0 result which clinched the Cascadia Cup and kept the Whitecaps in control of their playoff destiny was a real season defining moment.
MICHAEL – Portland 3 Vancouver 4. For sheer drama this had it all. Going one down, storming back into a 4-1 lead, then letting in two late goals and squeaky bum time. Plus it was the first MLS win down in Portland. I also think it gave the whole squad the belief that they really could compete with the best in the West and do something this season. The stramash at the end of the game was just the cherry on top of a wonderful cake!
STEVE – 1-0 away win over Seattle on October 10th. Unexpected win over rival on the road which helped capture Cascadia Cup and spurred them on to make the playoffs.
2013 winner: v Seattle (9/10/13 – 4-1 away thrashing of Sounders)
2012 winner: v San Jose Earthquakes (5/5/12 – 2-1 win at BC Place)
2011 winner: v Kansas City (2/4/11 – 3-3 draw at Empire Field)
SAVE OF THE YEAR :
WINNER: DAVID OUSTED v NEW ENGLAND (22/3/14 – 0-0 away draw)
AARON – Ousted in stoppage time off Torres to get the Caps into the playoffs against Colorado. Not the most difficult save he had to make this season, but the most important.
JAY – While Ousted has been short on truly jaw dropping saves this year, and has been successful due to his positioning and aggressiveness (sometimes making saves well outside the box,) none was better than his save in the third game of the year in New England on March 22 where he had to reach behind him to push a glanced header from a corner kick from tucking in under the bar.
STEVE – David Ousted vs New England on March 22nd. Great reactionary save from a header off a set piece preserving a 0-0 draw.
MICHAEL – I am shockingly bad for not remembering saves, so just going to go with Steve and Jay on this one!!
2013 winner: Marco Carducci double save v Victoria Highlanders (28/6/13 – Thunderbird Stadium, PDL)
No award in 2011 or 2012. New award last year
WHITECAPS TO WATCH IN 2014:
WINNER: MARCO BUSTOS – Marco is hungry for success. He’s taken on a leadership role as captain of the U18s for the 2014/15 USSDA season. He’ll officially become a member of the MLS squad in January and has responded by banging in 13 goals in 9 games for the U18s this season. He has no fear and will be keen to not just make up the numbers in the MLS squad.
2nd: Kianz Froese – Kianz will look to build upon his one MLS appearance this season past. He may get most of his opportunities to impress at USL Pro initially but makes no bones about it, he is ready now for MLS and will lead the charge of the new generation of Caps young ‘uns.
3rd: Dario Zanatta – Dario has moved up to the U18s this season after being on fire and leading the scoring for U16s last year. He played at the higher level last year and Caps are keen to see how he develops over the next two years. Has already hit 10 goals in 9 U18 appearances this season.
I also want to make a special mention for Mitch Piraux who has impressed me at training from the preseason camp in January up to the last weeks of the season. He has developed his game phenomenally the last two years and will be a star in USL Pro next season.
2013 winner: Sam Adekugbe
2012 winner: Ben Fisk
2011 winner: Caleb Clarke
HERO OF THE YEAR :
WINNER: CARL ROBINSON – Ok, this is a weird feeling, but we’re giving it to the head coach. Carl Robinson won the title last year for his work with Camilo, Teibert and others. This season, without wanting to be too much of a suck up, how can you not give it to the man who delivered the treble – a playoff place, a Champions League spot and the Cascadia Cup? He’s also developed younger players and build a harmonious squad of character. There could only be one winner.
2013 winner: Carl Robinson
2012 winner: Young-Pyo Lee
2011 winner: Joe Cannon
WHITECAPS UNSUNG HERO OF THE YEAR :
WINNER: ANDY O’BRIEN – A new award for this year and it deservedly goes to Andy. He’s quietly gone about his business this year from the minute he turned up at preseason camp looking leaner and hungrier than ever, to his commanding performances alongside Kendall Waston down the stretch. Very solid on the pitch but more importantly what he provides off the pitch, especially to the young players, is invaluable and something most people don’t get to see. The squad love him and we hope the Caps keep him around next season in both a playing and a coaching capacity. He’s also a pleasure to speak to and we really could chat away to him for hours at a time.
VILLAIN OF THE YEAR :
WINNER: MARK GEIGER– Just as it was looking like it was going to be a landslide victory for New Westminster council, the Geiger counter kicked in with all the votes. To lose a playoff game because you were outplayed or didn’t perform is fair enough. To have a playoff victory taken away from you because of a bad refereeing decision is heartbreaking and unforgiveable. I’m sure it’ll be remembered well the next time he refs at BC Place.
2013 winner: Will Johnson / 2012 winner: David Ferreira / 2011 winner: Tommy Soehn
TACKLE OF THE YEAR:
WINNER: MATIAS LABA (v DALLAS 4/10/14) – As the Caps fought for their playoff lives, every point was vital and three at home a must in the season run-in. Two goals up at home to Dallas, David Texeira broke through and looked certain to pull a goal back that could have changed the momentum of the game. But from nowhere, Mati Laba came flying in with a perfectly timed sliding tackle to save the day as Texeira was all set to pull the trigger.
A special runners-up mention has to go to Christian Dean for laying out Steven Lenhart preseason down in Portland, raising cheers and applause from fans throughout MLS.
2013 winner: Nigel Reo-Coker at San Jose (new award)
OF THE YEAR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD:
WINNER: DARREN MATTOCKS
Now, we would normally give a seasonal award but before he (surely) moves on to pastures new, we just had to give this year’s award as a special Lifetime Achievement award to Darren Mattocks for what was a spectacular season of misses and poor control in front of goal, leading to his trademark arched back and head in his hands in disbelief (or was that just exasperation?).
2013 winner: Nigel Reo-Coker (v Columbus) (new award)
BEST AWAYDAY :
WINNER: SEATTLE (10/10/14) – I know it’s kind of clichéd to pick winning in Seattle again, and it wasn’t my favourite away performance (that was the 4-3 win in Portland) but in terms of an awayday for the fans, this was the one. Going in as underdogs, and again with the Caps’ playoff hopes on the line, lightning struck twice and Kekuta Manneh struck once to secure the win. To have that performance when so many Caps fans had made the journey for a Friday night game (ridiculous btw, Cascadia derbies should always be weekend fixtures), and in front of a national TV audience in the US, was magical.
But I also want to make a special note for the preseason week down in Portland. Great for team bonding and great for fans wanting to get a nice little break or long weekend before the season gets underway. Good news for everybody is that they’re likely to do it again next year.
2013 winner: Seattle / 2012 winner: Orlando / 2011 winner: Portland
MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT :
WINNER: THE CAMILO SAGA – There was definitely a lot of fault on both sides, but the whole long drawn out saga was embarrassing for the Whitecaps and more so for MLS. Letting your star player go on a transfer when you’re trying to rebuild a team to challenge in MLS would have been bad enough, but to lose him in the way it played out was horrible. It just led to a lot of still unanswered questions as to how business was being conducted both in MLS HQ and the Whitecaps FO. There’s a lot we’ve heard off the record that doesn’t cover any of the three parties in too much glory here.
2013 winner: Jun Marques Davidson’s headbutt against Philadelphia
2012 winner: Failure to beat TFC in three games
2011 winner: The Empire grass pitch debacle
DISGRACE OF THE YEAR :
WINNER: LATE “FANS” – It’s a disgrace and an embarrassment that after four years on MLS football, sections of the crowd still can’t be in their seats in time for kick off. I’m sick of hearing that it’s a “Vancouver thing”, it’s garbage and it’s even worse and highly disrespectful when they can’t even be there in time for things like the ‘Ring of Honour’ celebrations. And people want to open the upper tier. Seriously? You want more fans like that to come in?
2013 winner: Losing the Voyageurs Cup by not having a man on the post
2012 winner: Sekeres and Price for reaction to “Fuck You Dallas” chant
2011 winner: Sportsnet
THINGS WE’D LOVE MLS TO CHANGE :
WINNER: THE STANDARD OF REFEREEING – Ah the old ones are the best and the two time winner comes back in for another triumph, and we didn’t even let Michael Bradley vote. This most likely would have won even without the playoff farce, but there’s been some horrible decisions again this season, and TFC fans and players will back us in that viewpoint. It was getting to the stage where you started to think that the replacement refs at the start of the season actually weren’t all that bad. Things have to get better, surely.
2nd: Reward clubs with strong academies – I loved that Carl Robinson could include Residency talent in his Voyageurs Cup squads. I’d also love that to be possible in MLS to reward not only clubs that have strong academies, but also the young players that deserve some credit for working hard in the youth ranks. I’m used to what we have in the UK. If a youth star impresses and works hard, he can get a shot in the first team without a pro contract. Same in MLS would be fantastic and also give managers a slight gauge as to how they look at that level before offering them a full MLS deal.
3rd: Transparency of rules– Last year’s winner drops to third but is still highly relevant. There’s still a lot pundits and fans don’t feel they fully know about what goes on behind the scenes in MLS. This year, blind draws was the latest thing to have people shaking their heads in both disbelief and bemusement.
2013 winner: Transparency of rules
2012 and 2011 winner: The standard of refereeing
THE WILLIE JOHNSTON “DID THAT JUST REALLY HAPPEN?” AWARD :
WINNER: NIGEL REO-COKER – Now, I know what you’re thinking, it’s the bike rack incident isn’t it. Well…. in part. Sitting out due to his unfortunate defeat in a bout with Vancouver’s finest inanimate object, the camera pans to him during the game against Houston in March and there he is either explaining how to open a bottle of champagne or having a happy ending moment. I just happened to glance up at the TV in the press box as they showed it and it was a wonderful WTF moment. So bike rack or gesture? It was a toss up (see what I did there?), but either way, Nigel is a deserved winner of this award.
2013 winner: Three goals in 140 seconds in Caps v Portland match
2012 winner: Darren Mattocks aerial goal in Toronto
2011 winner: Eric Hassli’s double jersey sending off celebration
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY AWARD :
WINNER: THE MISSING LINK – A NEW STRIKER – One of the big “what ifs” from the season. If the Caps had been able to replace Kenny Miller and Camilo with a proper, proven striker at some point of the season, what a difference it could have made to the Caps. Some of those 14 draws could have been wins, more points of the board could have taken them out of the knockout game and get them that home playoff tie. It certainly wasn’t for the lack of trying. Robbo’s filled us in a little off the record as to the efforts he went to try and fill that void. For me, that’s what ultimately cost our season being over right now. But the good news is that it will be remedied next year. And expect not one, but two, quality strikers to come in. One of them being a DP. Could be an interesting trade coming up within MLS too (I know, tease!)
2013 winner: Alain Rochat / 2012 winner: John Carew / 2011 winner: Robbie Savage
QUOTE OF THE YEAR :
WINNER: ANDY O’BRIEN – “They keep chanting my name for some reason, I don’t know why it is!” – Now Robbo’s come up with a few classics this year that I’ve loved. A lot of UK phrases too that I nod at and others look confused, so I always like that! But I went for this quote from Andy O’Brien because it just summed up what the dressing room and team spirit was like this season. He was talking about the South American players being the “life and soul” of the locker room and explaining that they keep chanting his name. He was genuinely bewildered as to why. Weeks later, the Caps released a video of the players getting on the plane to Dallas and sure enough, there they all are chanting his name!
2013 winner: Nigel Reo-Coker’s comments on Dallas’ divers
2012 winner: none awarded
2011 winner: Tommy Soehn – “It doesn’t take much to turn a team around”
THE “PLEASE JUST SHUT UP” AWARD :
WINNER: PEOPLE WANTING THE CAPS TO OPEN THE UPPER TIER – I just don’t get it. Now, first off, I do get and support opening up the bottom tier. Even a gradual increase from 21,000 to 24,000 to finally 27,500 makes total sense, but the upper tier? Come on. As mentioned above, the majority of fans you’re going to attract in are the casuals. Sure that’s how they then become regular but, on the whole, BC Place has a great atmosphere but issues with all section participating. Why do you want to let in more of those that just want to be entertained and are there for a “show”? Keep the atmosphere strong, the demand high and if people can’t get tickets to the big games like Seattle, then fuck them. If they’re that keen, let them buy game packs and see the other games too.
2013 winner: Media who can’t grasp concept of football decisions being made above the manager
2012 winner: Old media fuddy duddies who just don’t get football crowds
2011 joint winners: Craig MacEwen and Martin Nash
HAIRCUT OF THE YEAR :
WINNER: RUSSELL TEIBERT’S PLAYOFF SPECIAL– When we first started this award it was all just a bit of fun, now it seems like a whole lifestyle for some of the Caps players. Some work, some don’t (Erik Hurtado’s E and $ was horrid). We’re going to give it this year to Russell Teibert, who sneaked in with a late man bun with a back shaving of the Caps logo for the Dallas playoff games. Impressive. Still seems like a waste of hair to this bald man though!
2013 winner: Tommy Heinemann’s Werewolf look
2012 winner: Greg Klazura’s Shaven Locks
2011 winner: Eric Hassli’s Mohawk
THE MUSTAPHA JARJU “WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY” AWARD :
WINNER: NIGEL REO-COKER – Whoever negotiated Reo-Coker’s $446,500 guaranteed salary needs to be kept away from the bean counter this offseason. We liked what NRC did last year but said all along that he should only be brought back for the right money. This was not the right money in any way, shape or form. Maybe if he hadn’t have got that, he would have walked. Well good, it would have saved us embarrassing bike rack incidents and having that much money sitting on the bench getting splinters. A player earning that kind of money not only has to play, but he has to perform and earn it. The only good part of it was that it made trading for Mauro Rosales that little bit easier.
2013 winner: Darren Mattocks
2012 winner: Kenny Miller
2011 winner: The Empire grass pitch
THE PAUL BARBER “TALKING OUT OF YOUR ASS” AWARD :
WINNER: OMAR SALGADO – Okay, Omar didn’t really do too much talking this year but his actions spoke a lot on the pitch, especially at training. You can only hear that a player is sorry so many times before you start to feel he either doesn’t mean it or simply can’t change his ways. Too many training ground bust ups. He may be on his way to Tigres in Mexico or Caps may be looking for a trade in MLS. Either way, he’ll be gone soon and that’s best for all parties.
2013 winner: Darren Mattocks’ Jamaican TV interview
2012 winner: Media pundits disrespecting Caps achievement in reaching playoffs
2011 winner: Paul Barber
And that’s the end of our 2014 awards. So share your thoughts and award winners below. Who knows what next year will bring? Hopefully even more success for starters!
But we’re going to leave you with the AFTN team’s personal favourite moments and biggest disappointments of the season. Again, share your own ones below….
AFTN’S FAVOURITE MOMENT OF THE SEASON :
AARON – Opening night pounding of NYRB. Great start by Whitecaps and Pedro mesmerized us with his skill.
JAY – Without question, it was the Kendall Waston’s goal that clinched the playoffs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an atmosphere quite that electric in person. Right before the corner kick, every single person was on their feet, willing on the Whitecaps. And that says a lot for a city that doesn’t mind relaxing and staying quiet. And when the big man torpedoed over everyone to knock it in, it was the loudest and most jubilant I’ve ever seen BC Place.
STEVE – 2-0 win over San Jose on September 10th. It was a good win but what made it made special for me was watching Carl Valentine being inducted into the Ring of Honour. He was my dad’s favourite player and I was able to share the night with my son who was named after him.
MICHAEL – Mine’s is a little bit similar to Steve’s, minus the kid part! The 2-0 win over Dallas on October 4th was a wonderful day and in part it was because of the Dominic Mobilio ‘Ring of Honour’. I never had the privilege of seeing him play but as a keen football historian, I’ve read all about him. The video tribute brought tears to my eyes and the best tribute the team could give him was a fantastic win against Dallas in a must win game and was a key to them making the playoffs. My ‘Game of the Year’ above is also another special moment for me this year. Being at that 4-3 win over Portland and the excitement of everyone during and after the game was tremendous.
AFTN’S BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE SEASON :
AARON – Geiger with the bullshit handball call on Waston to end season.
JAY – While it’d be easy to say the absolute atrocity that was Mark Geiger’s penalty call in the knockout playoff game, it certainly wasn’t anything that the Whitecaps had any control over. So I’ll say my biggest disappointment was the complete collapse of Darren Mattocks. I was willing to give Mattocks a new start this year, and he started fairly well. However, it seemed that as soon as some adversity struck, Mattocks became unwilling to work his way through it. He barely developed in any identifiable area, and he regressed in most. There won’t be many tears when the Whitecaps see the back of Mattocks.
MICHAEL – The lack of goals, or rather the lack of a goalscorer staking a claim to be the regular starter and ‘the man’. There’s only so many times I can write about the Caps not scoring. If I had any hair, I’d have pulled it out. And as I said earlier, for me, this is what ultimately cost the Caps dear and has meant their season has now ended.
STEVE – 0-0 draw with Montreal on June 25th. Coming back from World Cup break and drawing a real bad and depleted Impact team was not only disappointing after the previous run of form, but put the Whitecaps onto another summer slump.