Another year is over. So that can only mean one thing – it’s time for AFTN’s ninth annual end of season awards, as we look back at Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2019 season and some more aspects from the North American footballing landscape.
For the ‘Caps, it was a year to forget both on and off the pitch.
The season is in the history books now, nothing can be changed, so let’s look back at the best and the worst, the highs and the lows, and the joys and frustrations from Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2019 season, and some other aspects of this season in North American football.
Don’t agree with some (or all) of our choices? Great! Let us know who would have got your votes in the comments below.
Part One featuring our first ten awards ran on Thursday, so here’s the final ones to be handed out. You can also catch up with our choices from previous years in the links below:
WINNER: CAVALRY FC (0–0 Canadian Championship draw 10/07/19) – The best away performance was clearly the win in LA against the Galaxy in the penultimate match of the season. That game got our ‘Game of the Year’ after all. But for this reward, when we can, we like to have it as the best away game someone from the AFTN team was at or an awayday with special meaning. This year’s winner ticks both of those boxes – the Canadian Championship quarter-final first leg match up against Cavalry FC at Spruce Meadows in Calgary.
The game was crap. The second leg even worse! But it was a historic occasion as the Whitecaps faced Canadian Premier League opposition for the first time and for a converted horse venue, Spruce Meadows is a fun and quirky footballing venue. It’s got character. Nice to see in this modern age of lego build stadiums. We loved our trip there and we’ll be doing a full Groundhopping feature on the stadium later in the year. If you get the chance to go and see a match there, the CPL Championship game for example, then we highly recommend that you take it. Just watch out for snow!
2018 winner: Toronto (2-1 win that ended TFC’s season – 06/10/18)
2017 winner: Dallas (4-0 surprise first win there on 29/07/17)
2016 winner: Seattle (2-1 win on 19/03/16)
2015 winner: Seattle (3-0 trouncing – 01/08/15)
2014 winner: Seattle (Cascadia Cup clinching 1-0 win – 10/10/14)
2013 winner: Seattle (Cascadia Cup clinching 4-1 win – 09/10/14)
2012 winner: Orlando (preseason Mickey Mouse Cup win!)
2011 winner: Portland (in general)
QUOTE OF THE YEAR
WINNER: MARC DOS SANTOS ON VAR AND CATS! – “VAR comes along, it’s like if you marry this girl that has a cat, the cat’s coming with the girl man. VAR is part of it now and you have to stick with it. VAR is part of our lives”.
Marc Dos Santos is a quote machine. There are so many of his classics from this season that it’s really hard to pick just one winner, and I’m sure some will feel there was better than the one I’ve picked, but this cat one just really stuck with me as being hilarious, especially considering how much VAR screwed the ‘Caps over at the start of the season. A precursor to this quote was MDS talking about how he didn’t want the Whitecaps to win the VAR Cup! Did they? Or was it a cupless season all round?
“We’re first place in VAR in the MLS, for sure… but I don’t want to win the VAR cup.
It’s like if you marry a girl and she has a cat, the cat’s coming with, man. VAR is part of our lives, now…”
MDS’s take on penalties and VAR is the best part of this interview. 😂😂 https://t.co/9oEJ5uOI8p
— Laura Mills (@laurameme) April 2, 2019
2018 winner: Russell Teibert – “It’s not a part of our make up to give up, and that team gave up. We gave up and it’s unacceptable”
2017 winner: Spencer Richey – “I thought Tim Melia deserved to win it to be honest, but I guess my mom has more Facebook friends than his”
2016 winner: David Ousted – “If you want to fight on a football pitch, how about fighting on a fucking Saturday”
2015 winner: Russell Teibert – “It’ll be a match up with 11 men, all humans”
2014 winner: Andy O’Brien – “They keep chanting my name for some reason. I don’t know why it is!”
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”
HAIRCUT OF THE YEAR
WINNER: JASSER KHMIRI – He may have only seen 90 minutes of actual football action, but that only gave the Tunisian more time to do his hair. With those amounts of locks, you need all the time you can get to wash and blow dry it. Could do without the top knot he often has, but that aside, it’s luscious, even bringing some swoons of delight from some media at training!
2018 winner: Brek Shea – dread full
2017 winner: Yordy Reyna’s Sideshow Bob Look
2016 winner: Erik Hurtado’s silver surfer
2015 winner: Christian Dean’s Bride of Frankenstein streak
2014 winner: Russell Teibert’s Playoff special
2013 winner: Tommy Heinemann’s Werewolf look
2012 winner: Greg Klazura’s Shaven Locks
2011 winner: Eric Hassli’s Mohawk
HERO OF THE YEAR
WINNER: STEWIE THE STARFISH! – Last year we gave this award to the CPL as a whole, for instilling some much needed hope into Canadian footballing circles. This year’s winner is part of the league. He’s not a player. He’s not a coach. He’s not even an administrator. He’s a mascot. The best one we’ve seen in North American football. Take a bow Pacific FC’s Stewie The Starfish!
It’s not been a great season on the pitch for Pacific, but off it, in person and on social media, Stewie The Starfish has been an entertaining superstar, guaranteed to put a smile on your face! If you haven’t seen his antics, remedy that now. My wife has no interest in football and loves him. I think it’s cos he’s purple and those googly eyes. What’s not to love?!
A late contender was detective extraordinaire Coleen Rooney for her outing of Rebecca Vardy for allegedly selling stories about her to the English tabloid press. That gave everyone one of the best every days in football twitter, and well done to her. Still don’t know why she’s stuck with Mr Potato Head though all this time!
2018 winner: The Canadian Premier League
2017 winner: Kendall Waston
2016 winner: Alan Koch
2015 winner: Pa Modou Kah
2014 winner: Carl Robinson
2013 winner: Carl Robinson
2012 winner: Young-Pyo Lee
2011 winner: Joe Cannon
VILLAIN OF THE YEAR
WINNER: VAR, OR RATHER HOW IT IS IMPLEMENTED IN MLS – Okay, maybe this is just a lazy one, as obviously they’re villains when, rightly or wrongly, they rule against your team and can be heroes when things go in your favour. And it’s not actually VAR itself that we’re mad at (although personally I’d be fine to be without it at all and let the game still be dictated by human successes and errors). No, for this award, we’re talking about how the system is implemented in MLS.
There is no doubting that the Whitecaps were screwed out of points at the start of the season. Not helped by PRO coming out days later and saying that the video review had got it wrong on a couple of occasions. That should not be happening. Is that human error? Is it pressure to change a call because VAR has been initiated? How much does ego come in to it?
Apologies after the fact don’t cut it. It’s unlikely that those lost points would have made any difference to the Whitecaps, but it could have. It could have given them some much needed momentum early in the season. It also affected other teams playoff positioning and points totals as they benefitted from blown calls. Something needs to get done to fix this and, for me, the only answer is centralizing the decision making. You’ve seen how smoothly, on the whole, it works in the English Premier League and how well it’s communicated to fans and broadcasters. We badly need that here.
2018 winner: Gianni Infantino
2017 winner: Clint Dempsey
2016 winner: MLS Disciplinary Committee
2015 winner: Ricardo Salazar
2014 winner: Mark Geiger
2013 winner: Will Johnson
2012 winner: David Ferreira
2011 winner: Tommy Soehn
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY AWARD
WINNER: TERRAN CAMPBELL – Initially we thought of South Korean striker Ui-jo Hwang for this one. The 27-year-old had been playing in Japan with Gamba Osaka since 2019 and had been lighting it up at international level with Korea, hitting 10 goals in his 29 senior caps so far. The ‘Caps made him an offer, but the lure of Europe was too much and he joined French Ligue 1 side Bordeaux instead. Let’s be honest, most players would make that same decision. He’s made eight appearances for the French side so far, scoring two goals and adding one assist. How would he have fared here? Well without a midfield to back him up, it’s hard to see him lighting it up in the few months of this past MLS season that he would have had. Beyond that? Impossible to say, but I personally feel the ‘Caps can do better. Let’s see if they do.
We’ve gone closer to home for the award this year though, and another forward, Terran Campbell. The Whitecaps Residency alumni had been part of the ‘Caps system since September 2011 and his performances in the academy had earned him a USL deal in August 2015. Appearances were patchy, as was the way with WFC2, but Campbell seemed very much in the ‘Caps plans, being loaned to their new affiliate Fresno FC for the 2018 season after WFC2 was no more. The affiliation was pretty much a disaster from a Whitecaps perspective and Campbell left the ‘Caps fold to sign for Pacific FC for the inaugural CPL season this year.
And man, has he lit it up, scoring 11 goals so far this year, impressing many along the way. He currently sits one back off the CPL Golden Boot race with two games to go and has come on leaps and bounds as a player cutting a confident figure in purple. Would he have progressed and taken his game up a level with Whitecaps in MLS? Let’s be frank, probably not and he probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do so. So for him it was the best move. Still disappointing to see him move on though.
2018 winner: The Playoffs – so, so close
2017 winner: Alessandro Hojabrpour
2016 winner: Kei Kamara
2015 winner: Dario Zanatta
2014 winner: The missing link – a new striker (sound familiar?!!)
2013 winner: Alain Rochat
2012 winner: John Carew
2011 winner: Robbie Savage
MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT
WINNER: BOOING BOB LENARDUZZI AT THE 1979 CELEBRATION – Some people don’t like Bobby Lenarduzzi. I get it. He’s been the Whitecaps blame dog for seasons, much of it self inflicted by the continuing shambles that is the club’s front office, but much of it also aimed at the wrong person. This year, hostilities towards him amped up amidst the women’s abuse scandal that plagued the ‘Caps this spring.
There would never be a good time for such a scandal to break, but the timing was particularly terrible as it came during the celebrations of the 1979 Soccer Bowl win. Celebrations in which Lenarduzzi was clearly going to play a large part.
When the majority of the squad flew in to Vancouver in May to celebrate the win they were brought on to the pitch before the Toronto match in pairs. Lenarduzzi was roundly booed as fans couldn’t separate any failings in his current role from what he achieved as a player in the biggest moment in the club’s history. It was disappointing and embarrassing and I felt for everyone involved, especially Bobby. Should you put aside your feelings about him for one day of celebration? I feel yes, others, I know, vehemently disagree! It was just a shame to see/hear.
2018 winner: The 6-0 demolition in Kansas City
2017 winner: Shot shy Seattle playoff series
2016 winner: Fabian Espindola Clusterfuck
2015 winner: Playoff blanks
2014 winner: The Camilo Saga
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: THE SLOW RESPONSE TO THE ABUSE SCANDAL – But talking of the women’s abuse scandal, the club’s initial handling of it all resurfacing was disgraceful. The whole thing is still rumbling on without any satisfactory conclusions, but at least the whole matter was referred to an independent body for a review. The initial three months period many were led to believe the results would be published in have passed, coincidentally just as most people’s interest in the ‘Caps will have faded until next March.
As more allegations came out around how things were handled by the club over 10 years ago, the worse the club looked. You can also add in the assault that took place in the Residency a couple of years back and the information coming out about hiring a coach who had been previously fired in England for racists comments to players. An initial wall of silence was eventually smashed down to some extent by fan protests and walkouts from both Whitecaps fans and visiting supporters. Interviews were given to select media only about it all and while many want heads to roll, it feels like it’s just going to be business as usual in the front office and that’s disappointing.
If the review shows that there were serious errors by the Whitecaps and/or governing bodies and there is no actual accountability as a result, then that’s will also be utterly disgraceful.
2018 winner: The Whitecaps disciplinary problems
2017 winner: The Whitecaps front office
2016 winner: The continuing goalscoring woes
2015 winner: MLS scheduling
2014 winner: Late “fans”
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: TV coverage
THINGS WE’D LOVE MLS TO CHANGE
WINNER: TRAVEL WOES – It’s no coincidence that in the season before the current MLS players CBA expires, every team’s travel woes are being significantly highlighted. This season seems to have been one of the worst on record, with teams from coast to coast hit hard by flight delays, the lack or charters, and just the pain in the ass that travel across North America is in MLS and in general.
A club like the Whitecaps is hit particularly hard, but something needs to be done throughout the league and for us, the only real answer is mandated charters flights for certain long distance trips. If you want to attract quality talent throughout the league, it has to be an even playing field and we know some owners simply won’t spend on charters. The players deserve it and shouldn’t have to waste so much of their bargaining time trying to get it.
And if the MLS Commissioner is unaware that teams are currently using their allocated quota of charter flights, as Garber indicated when in Vancouver recently, that’s just simply shocking.
If MLS team distances was mapped over Europe. Gives you an idea of the travel challenges in the league. (via reddit) pic.twitter.com/RIum0vhWJ5
— Cristian Nyari (@Cnyari) January 10, 2019
2018 winner: The players’ CBA – value them more with a way better deal
2017 winner: The MLS Playoff system (we got our wish!!!)
2016 winner: The standard of refereeing (grand slam winner!)
2015 winner: The standard of refereeing (for the triple crown!)
2014 winner: The standard of refereeing (back from the dead!)
2013 winner: Transparency of rules
2012 and 2011 winner: The standard of refereeing
THE WILLIE JOHNSTON “DID THAT JUST REALLY HAPPEN?” AWARD
WINNER: ALI ADNAN’S MISSED PANENKA – I originally pegged this for the AFTN ‘Miss of the Year’ but this needed more “recognition” as it is an incident that still angers me to this day!
I’ll get this out of the way first. I hate Panenka penalties in general. It’s ridiculously arrogant and selfish and sums up today’s modern day footballer. Score it and it makes the TV highlight reels, miss it and it goes viral and you look an absolute clown. Just kick the fucking ball.
Yes, I’m an old grouch, an old school football romantic, and even if you accept that they can serve as an entertainment factor, they surely have a time and a place. A team coasting to victory perhaps towards the end of a game. What is neither the time nor the place for them is the first minute of a match when your team is looking for their first win of the season.
The Whitecaps season had got off to a poor start. Three straight defeats, followed by an uninspiring 0-0 home draw against Seattle was their March. They’d been on the wrong end of some horrible VAR decisions, as noted above. They needed something to turn their fortunes around. Some feel-good moment. And with LA Galaxy and their star player Zlatan Ibrahimovich coming to town, this would have been an ideal game for that to happen.
A penalty awarded in the first minute had BC Place buzzing. Up stepped Ali Adnan, only to hit one of the worst Panenka attempts you will see. It barely reached the goalline. Galaxy keeper David Bingham had time to go one, pick himself up, take a drink of water, then get down in the other direction to collect the ball. It was horrific.
Why did Adnan do it? For showmanship? Arrogance? To try and impress Zlatan? Whatever it was, it was stupid, selfish, and costly. Hopefully he’s learned from it, because if he tries it again, and misses, that will be unforgiveable.
2018 winner: Cristian Techera getting sent off for taking off jersey after scoring
2017 winner: Whitecaps FC’s twitter bigs up Atlanta’s scoring prowess
2016: Losing Canadian Championship in stoppage time
2015: Pa Modou Kah collecting medal on a hoverboard
2014 winner: Nigel Reo-Coker’s wanking gesture on national TV
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 “PLEASE JUST SHUT UP” AWARD
WINNER: AMERICAN SOCCER MEDIA WHINING ABOUT AMERICAN PLAYERS OVERSEAS – I don’t know why I still get annoyed by this. I mean, I’ve been here long enough now to know what they’re like. But the hot takes of American soccer media about US players and in particular how they are treated overseas still amuses, baffles, and annoys me in fairly equal measures. Not all of course, just some. The usual suspects.
They seem to think they are world beaters, better than players from elsewhere, and they can’t understand why they are not playing or featuring more with top European clubs. The latest poster boy for this is Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic. A player who has arguably gotten progressively worse as his career in Europe has gone on. But the (fake? clickbait?) outrage at him not starting for Chelsea or missing out on their Champions League gameday squads ticks all the amuses, baffles, and annoys boxes.
Pulisic has only featured in five of Chelsea’s eight Premier League matches so far this season after his mega $73 million transfer, starting just three. He has yet to score and hasn’t featured in any of their Champions League matches and many in the US soccer media can’t handle it.
Often they are living in past glories or claiming that a player is not being taken seriously because he is American. The arrogance is ridiculous at times (remember Grant Wahl’s American journalists ask the best questions from last year?). Get a grip. Get a reality check. And please, just shut up.
2018 winner: Supporters Group “statements” on social issues
2017 winner: The whole Whitecaps don’t spend money narrative – they do, they just do it badly
2016 winner: All the “We’re a young team” talk
2015 winner: Pointless journalism and click bait sites
2014 winner: People wanting the ‘Caps to open the upper tier
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: Poor TV commentators
THE MUSTAPHA JARJU “WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY” AWARD
WINNER: THE ALPHONSO DAVIES TRANSFER MONEY – A lot was expected from Vancouver Whitecaps this season in the transfer market after the influx of around $13 million from the transfer of Alphonso Davies to Bayern Munich. It didn’t happen. In fact the Whitecaps dropped to the bottom of the table in terms of spending in MLS this year when the promise was made at last year’s town hall that they were looking to be in the top third in the league.
Some money has been pumped into other aspects of the playing side of the business. Some will be spent on the new Technical Director. But fans want to see something tangible. Something physical. A top player or five. It didn’t happen and the promises are made again that next year it definitely will. Season ticket holders even got a note saying that the club had “money to spend”, a ridiculous public proclamation that should make for some interesting transfer and salary negotiations.
It’s not that the Phonzie money itself has been wasted per se. It’s that the chance for what it could have done has been. 2019 was a wasted opportunity as a result and it didn’t need to be. Spend it and spend it well. There will not be forgiveness if we are still here talking about this in a year’s time.
2018 winner: Having millions in salary on bench and in stands
2017 winner: The season and closing of WFC2
2016 winner: Russell Teibert
2015 winner: The ‘Caps ill thought out Cascadia Cup scarves
2014 winner: Nigel Reo-Coker
2013 winner: Darren Mattocks
2012 winner: Kenny Miller
2011 winner: The Empire grass pitch
THE PAUL BARBER “TALKING OUT OF YOUR ASS” AWARD
WINNER: CONCACAF – When CONCACAF announced the new qualification format for the 2022 World Cup in July, it was met with surprise, horror, and anger. I think fans went through the various stages to get to the final “what the fuck is that all about?” one.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, the new qualification format means that only the top six FIFA ranked nations will qualify for the Hex, with the remaining nations battling it out for one spot to enter a playoff to then enter a second playoff, for the outside chance of Qatar.
CONCACAF proclaimed the wonderfulness of their new format with a statement that included the following quote:
“It will raise standards of play to unprecedented levels and develop the sport across the region. Making the leading Concacaf nations stronger on the global stage, while giving our emerging footballing nations the chance to pursue their dreams of playing at a World Cup.”
No, you’re talking out of your ass and it will kill the World Cup dreams of many, many nations stone dead, rewarding teams who have done nothing much of late for past glories and punishing up and coming nations for not being better before now. It’s ridiculous, it’s wrong, and it sets the growth of the game in the region back, not take it forward.
2018 winner: The Kei Kamara dividing dressing room chatter after the season
2017 winner: Anthony Precourt
2016 winner: Peter Walton
2015 winner: Those wanting the upper bowl opened
2014 winner: Omar Salgado and his string of apologies for his attitude
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 2019 awards. Share your thoughts on the award winners below. Who knows what next year will bring? Hopefully a bit more success for starters!