From the Pigeon Loft: Supporting our Keepers

From the Pigeon Loft: Supporting our Keepers

Max Crépeau signed a contract extension for Vancouver Whitecaps on Tuesday in a deal that keeps him here for the next couple of years. This is exciting to me, because as supporters, we have a close relationship with our keepers. They spend half the match standing in front of us, and they are as valuable as a forward when it comes to securing three points.

Max’s signing prompted me to think about the history of Whitecaps keepers from a supporter’s perspective and over the years we’ve had some beauties.

Jay Nolly (97 appearances 2008-2011, 1 rescued child, lifetime Southsider)

Jay was the first Whitecaps keeper I ever saw play. When I first stood in the Southside in 2008 at Swangard, “Jay Nolly’s Magic Hat” was the first chant that I can remember singing. My favourite memory of Jay was in 2010 when he rescued a toddler who had wandered on to the pitch. During the match a small child wobbled out from the southeast corner on to the pitch and made his way into the penalty box. Nolly had one eye on the game, which the ‘Caps were mercifully keeping pinned down at the other end, and one eye on the toddler. When there was a break in play he scooped up the kid, who was by now in the six yard box, and return him to his fretting parent. On his return to the goalmouth he was greeted with “You’ll never beat Jay Nolly.” Since then match day security hasn’t improved much.

Joe Cannon (59 appearances, 1 round of beer, 0 cannon shots, 2011-2013)

Nolly’s trade to Chicago during the disastrous Tommy Soehn era from June to October 2011 meant that experienced MLS keeper Joe Cannon became our starter. Joe was an adventurous keeper on the field, and he was loved by supporters in Vancouver. His reputation was sealed early on when he agreed with AFTN’s proposal to be shot out of a cannon. In February 2011, while the Whitecaps were heavily marketing the beginning of the MLS era, the hashtag #ShootJoeCannonOutOfACannon began trending. Joe himself tweeted that “If we can get 10k people, I would seriously have to consider shooting out of a Cannon!!” The campaign was on, accompanied by a banner in the Southside and a “Whoooooooooaaaaaa BOOM!” chant on all of his goal kicks. Alas the event never came pass and the only cannon Joe got shot out of was the retirement cannon, stepping away from the game in 2013 after David Ousted was signed. For years afterwards we still chanted “BOOM!” on goal kicks. Memorably, Joe once bought the entire assembled mass at Oscars a round of beer after a particularly horrible loss at Empire. Legend.

Brad Knighton (28 appearances, 2012-2013)

Knighton was the back up to Cannon starting in 2012 and while he didn’t get much action behind the veteran, by 2013 he was coming into his own and he began to make his impression on us. He’s a solid keeper (and still plying his trade in MLS, currently with New England). In 2013 when the writing was on the wall for Joe we started falling in love with Knighton a little and Ousted’s arrival caused some consternation. Supporters form sentimental attachments that almost always colour our perception of a player’s raw skill. There was hot debate about the injustice of replacing Knighton at the time, and Ousted’s slow start for us didn’t help things. Sorry Brad.

David Ousted (150 appearances, 2013-2017, lifetime Southsider, player Pigeon, 1 round of shots)

The best keeper we ever had was also one of the most loved. Although he signed in June of 2013, his first MLS start was away in Portland in August, a game I was at. We drew 1-1 on a Jordan Harvey header and Ousted began his tenure with our club. Ousted saw us through the best era of the MLS Whitecaps and was at either end of our greatest and most heartbreaking Voyageurs Cup finals. Ousted kept a clean sheet in the second leg of the 2015 Final against Montreal to win us the Cup and in 2016, his collision with Kendall Waston that resulted in Will Johnson’s last second winner crushed 28,000 hearts and lost us the Cup at home.

Both of those matches were the most emotional games I’ve ever witnessed at BC Place. It’s widely felt that Ousted was poorly treated by the Whitecaps and after the 2017 season was over, he signed on with DC United. The end was bitter and sad and supporters never got a proper chance to say goodbye, so just before he left, the Southsiders organized a party in his honour. Danish sandwiches were served, and his signed two stick was on display. He showed up, shared some stories and bought everyone a round of shots, thus firmly securing his place in the league of legends.

Paolo Tornaghi (14 appearances, 1 cryptic meme, 2014-2017)

Paolo Tornaghi was a specialist backup keeper. We hardly ever saw him in the three years he was with us, but when we did, it was toiling away doing his job in the Voyageurs Cup or subbing the odd time Ousted was unavailable. We always greeted him in warm ups with an operatic “Paolo Tornaghi!”, as you do with Italian players. I’ve always appreciated the role of a good back up keeper, one who can do his work in the limelight but be ready when called upon. Tornaghi was that guy for me. When he left in 2017 during the Great Goalkeeping Cleanout Of Quality Keepers he left supporters a not so thinly veiled message imploring us to “Make whoever is on the field wearing your colours and in the offices accountable to you.” Words to the wise.

Stefan Marinovic (36 appearances plus 2 in the Southside, 2017-2018)

Marinovic’s last game before joining the Whitecaps in 2017 was a respectable performance for New Zealand against Germany in the Confederations Cup. His arrival meant the end for David Ousted, whose tenure was cut short more by contract issues than playing issues. Marinovic came in as a starter, finished 2017 and played through most of 2018 except for times when he was away on international duty or recovering from injury. He was known to Instagram followers as the owner of a stuffed Golden Retriever that he photographed all over the world, and when he was rehabbing his injury he came and stood with us in the Southside for a couple of matches. I think he’s the only player who has ever done this, and all the more power to him as he was a very shy and retiring guy. He had one match at Bristol City this off season, and is now back in New Zealand with the Wellington Phoenix, who, like us, play in another country’s top league.

Brian Rowe (10 appearances, 25 chants, 2018)

Another cult figure, Brian Rowe was supposed to be the reliable back up to the international starter, but was probably much the equal of Marinovic when it came down to it. For whatever reason, Rowe became the target of the Southside’s affection and the “We all want to see a team of Brian Rowes” became a chant, and during our more dire stretches of 2018, every Sousthider chant seemed to have its unique Brian Rowe variation. To this day, there are adherents of the Brian Rowe religion scattered through the Southside and they are evangelical in their zeal.

The ones who got away: Marco Carducci and Spencer Richey

Marco Carducci played two matches for us in the Canadian Championship, one of which – his debut – I saw, away at Toronto in 2014. Carducci stood on his head in that game and the only guys who scored against him were Jermaine Defoe and Michael Bradley. We lost 2-1 but it was a pleasure, as it always is, to see a young Canadian make his debut for our club. I watched Marco over the past three seasons for Calgary Foothills against TSS Rovers and then, as we all saw, for Cavalry FC as they knocked the ‘Caps out of this year’s Canadian Championship. He’s a good young keeper and I find it impossible to cheer against him.

Likewise Spencer Richey, who mostly endeared himself to supporters through his stellar play for Whitecaps FC2, although he had five appearances for the first team including our historic first appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League, securing a clean sheet in Trinidad and Tobago against Central FC.. Like Joe Cannon he has a strong Twitter game and like David Ousted, he’s well read and curious about things off the pitch. He and Max were neck and neck for the best keepers in the USL Championship last year, and it always boggled my mind that we let him go.

Max Crépeau and Zac MacMath

I’m pleased for Max. He has grown as a keeper even during this horrendous year, and he is poised to eventually assume the national team number one jersey. He is one of the few new guys that we knew when the season began, and in a year when there is nothing to play for, getting behind Max Crépeau has given the despondent Southside something to look forward to week after week. It’s great having MacMath in the side as well, a keeper I always thought was underrated in MLS, but on strength of form now it’s clear the gaffer’s confidence is in the Canadian and I hope he knows we’re at his back too.

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