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mjaferrie

[FM18] Genetically, we are behind. Can-a-di-any better?

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30th December 2016

Gene collapsed into an armchair in the living room of the small flat he had just bought his mother, in Smallingerland, and switched on the tele.  He sighed... the last few weeks had been a whirlwind.

Gene had been a sensation of Dutch football, snapped up at a young age by German giants Bayern Munich where he'd burst onto the scene as a 17 year old, and some even dared to whisper his name in the same breath as the legendary Johan Cruijff.  This was to be the man to revolutionise the Dutch national team, which had seen an incredible decline in recent years.  He made 15 appearances for his country, scoring two goals from midfield, but a horror injury had ultimately ended his career aged only 20 years old.  The football world was fickle, he'd already been forgotten, and now he was back where it had all started.

He looked down at the picture next to him, the only photograph his mother had of who she said was his father.  He chuckled, and then sighed again.  Growing up, she had told him that this man was 'Scott McBride', captain of the Scotland team that lifted the World Cup trophy in 2058.  As a child, he had been fascinated by stories of this mystery man from the future.  As an adult?  He realised to his horror that his mother actually thought it was true.

Regardless, the story had inspired Gene.  It had driven him to a career in football himself, and he had always held a special place for the Scotland team in his heart - even though the first game of football he could remember was Holland's 6-0 drubbing of the Tartan Army in a European Championship playoff when he was only 6 years old.  Therefore, the news that Gordon Strachan had left his position as manager of the current Scottish national side was an interesting prospect for the young Dutchman.  The press were saying the job had to go to a Scot, that it should be someone with experience, but what the hell.  Gene registered his interest.  The job was never going to be his anyway, and he'd already had several positive meetings with Greg Kerfoot and Rachel Lewis at the Vancouver Whitecaps about taking their vacant position, he had nothing to lose.

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3rd January 2017

'Hello, Gene Van Kouvre?  This is Patrick Tol speaking'. 

'Sorry, who?' 

'I am to be your personal assistant at the Whitecaps sir.  I'm sorry to bother you, I know it's late in Holland.  The thing is... We are slightly concerned about news from Europe this afternoon about you being appointed Scotland manager.'

'What?!' 

'Yes sir, apparently they took Strachan's comments about 'Genes' quite literally.. they don't seem to be up to much, the SFA.'

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1 minute ago, Makoto Nakamura said:

All the Scots need is a diet of maple syrup, simple really. Best of luck with this! :D

Thanks!  I've had a lot of fun getting my head around the MLS over the last week or so, and wanted to start over with my save and document it here.  I've also had an itch to manage the Scottish national team after the farcical ending of Strachan's tenure, so hopefully I can keep on top of both in this save.

Here's my options in terms of how we set up tactically, both with the Whitecaps and Scotland.  The first tactic is an almost carbon copy of the set up I used at Celtic towards the end of FM17.

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In true Dutch style, I'm going with a 4-3-3.  Attacking, Fluid.  Shorter passing, play out of defence, drop deeper, tighter marking, roaming from positions and prevent short GK distribution.  I want to play a possession game with the front three all closing down and starting the defence from the top.

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Our second tactic has exactly the same instructions as the first, but I wanted our shape to reflect how Celtic have been playing IRL.  The left back bombing up while the right back moves inside to form a back three.  This is essentially the same as our 4-3-3, just with slightly different positioning.

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This is for when all hope is lost and we need to play a direct game to get a last ditch equaliser, or winner.  The WM on the left should be on support.

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Just now, BoxToBox said:

Love that Canadian/Dutch connection.

A Dutchman with German citizenship, managing a Canadian team in an American league, and the Scottish national team.  Of course...

1029234c85ddb9744b9c64f0b2176d43.png 

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3 minutes ago, mjaferrie said:

A Dutchman with German citizenship, managing a Canadian team in an American league, and the Scottish national team.  Of course...

1029234c85ddb9744b9c64f0b2176d43.png 

Now, to fix the genetic thing, you need to only play Scots that are misappropriated Africans, like all the good countries do. Finish the national merry go round

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36 minutes ago, BoxToBox said:

Now, to fix the genetic thing, you need to only play Scots that are misappropriated Africans, like all the good countries do. Finish the national merry go round

:brock: Looking forward to Karamoko Dembélé making his debut in FM19 or 20!  

In terms of rules for this save, at national level I toyed with the idea of not calling up anyone taller than 180cm, but I think I'm going to go with just a simple run with the National side as I don't want to overcomplicate the save and end up chucking the Scotland job.  At club level though, I will not pay money for any new signings.  The only players I can bring in will be signed from either our academy or then through the March/December drafts and the Superdraft.  At the end of this first season we're going to have to deal with the expansion draft as well with Los Angeles FC coming into the league.  I'll have to select 11 of my players to protect, leaving the other 19 open for selection by the newcomers.  Hopefully we can get through it without losing any key players.

The biggest challenge from the off is going to be squad building.  Here's the rules in terms of who can be in my 30 man roster for the upcoming season.

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It's concerning that we are $10k over the salary cap.  This means I'm either going to have to use General Allocation Money (GAM) to bring down some of the salaries, or then move on a few players.  We're also at our international player limit, while we look pretty thin on the ground in terms of homegrown and youngsters in our squad, with only Alphonso Davies taking one slot so far.  We do actually have 30 players in our roster, David Edgar is out for 13-15 months however and can't be registered, and unfortunately I'm probably going to just have to absorb his salary for the upcoming season.  Let's have a look at the squad:

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Fredy Montero, Matias Laba and Brek Shea are our three designated players, however Montero will head back to China at the end of this season.  We have a lot of wide men!  Holy ****, 12 wingers.  We also have a number of players with seriously worrying levels of determination, work rate, bravery and natural fitness, which tells me this is not a squad that is going to turn up to the fight.  Several of these guys can be moved on, hopefully we'll be able to bring some guys up from the academy and fill those reserve slots. 

Edited by mjaferrie

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Loving the introduction and premise... '58 twas a glorious year! Shame it ended in such tragedy, though...

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1 hour ago, ManUtd1 said:

Loving the introduction and premise... '58 twas a glorious year! Shame it ended in such tragedy, though...

Haha, thanks.  Hopefully we can channel the spirit of '58! :D 

March Waivers

We're at March 1st, which means it's roster submission day!  Of the squad I posted above, Brett Levis, Andrew Jacobson, Erik Hurtado and Nicolas Mezquida don't make the cut.  They go into the March waiver draft which happens tomorrow.  We've had a couple other permanent departures, with Ben McKendry moving to Indy Eleven on a free and Kendall Waston making a £750k transfer to Birmingham.  We've brought in four youngsters from the academy and White Caps 2, so we have two spaces left in the squad for our two picks in the waiver draft.  If I don't find, or can't get, anyone I like the look of, then two more players will be promoted from the academy.

Our first pick is the 18th overall, so I'm not confident of getting any decent quality in after the first 17 teams have made their first choices...

We get to our pick with 13 teams opting to pass in the waiver, this means they also won't be able to make a pick in their second draw.  We've gone for former Houston, DC United and Atlanta United centre back Bobby Boswell.

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He's a reasonably good, no messing about, centre back and after Waston's move to England we needed a new defender.  He actually comes into the squad as is our new best centre back.

Our second choice is Columbian midfielder Diego Chara who replaces Ben McKendry in the squad.

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Again, he's now our one of our best picks in the heart of midfield and he has some decent stats and a fairly pro. personality - so both of these guys will be handy in terms of tutoring our low determination/professionalism youngsters.

Of our four players who we put into the waiver, Nicolas Mezquida signed for Orlando City, while Brett Levis, Andrew Jacobson, and Erik Hurtado didn't find a new club.  Bobby Boswell's £3800 p/w salary though pushes us over the salary cap limit, so we've used some of our GAM to push down his salary impact and bring us below the threshold.  Here were all of our ins and outs this.... eh... thing that isn't a transfer window.

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Ian Marples is a 5 star PA right back who I brought up to the first team with the intention of booting out Jake Nerwinski, and then I subsequently forgot to let Nerwinski go in the March Waiver so I now have 3 right backs.

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Simon Norman and Tim Irving both play on the wings, so don't really solve our claustrophobia in that department, but closer analysis shows that most of our players are pretty versatile and can play in multiple areas, so it shouldn't be too much of an issue - Irving will play more in central midfield.  Both are 5 star PA prospects.

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Last but not least is David Norman, a 4PA defensive midfielder with all the green arrows.

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So here's how the squad looks as we head into our first game against Philadelphia Union on Sunday.

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March 2017

I mentioned earlier that I forgot to take Jake Nerwinski out of our roster for the March waivers, well apparently I can put him on the waiver list anyway and after not being picked up by any teams he has now been released from our squad.  Some day I will get the hang of the MLS :D Anyway, that means I can call up Bob McKendry from the academy as a backup to Fredy Montero up front.

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Hopefully he can make a few appearances this season.

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We've started the season in pretty good form, with three wins from three.  The match against Philadelphia looked to be heading for a 0-0 draw, before 85th and 89th minute goals gave us a 2-0 lead.  They pulled one back in the 90th and fortunately we held on.  Against Toronto though, we had a jump out of the chair moment as Brek Shea coolly slotted away a penalty in the fourth minute of added time to give us a 3-2 win.  The same man had only equalised two minutes earlier, as we spent most of the match losing 2-0.

Into the international break!

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Scotland

A major advantage of starting in the MLS is that we begin the save back in January 2017, with the possibility of getting Scotland's qualifying back on track.  I'm not sure if I forgot to click on the option to use real life fixtures, or if it's not possible in the Beta, or what's the deal... but anyway, our group is the same whereas the fixtures are a bit different.  We have played 4 matches in the group so far, winning three and losing one, and I start my managerial career with a home game against England.  Here's our first Scotland squad:

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I'm delighted that Scott Brown has chosen to reverse his international retirement - annoyingly FM18 starts with Scott Brown being retired from international duty despite him reversing that decision IRL around a year ago. 

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4 minutes ago, BoxToBox said:

Impressive signings on the waivers.

 

Thanks, hopefully they can hit the ground running.  

Our match against England was a depressingly Scottish way of losing.

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We had the better chances of the match, with England going 2-0 up from two set pieces early in the game.  We brought on Scott Brown, Chris Martin and Russell Martin in the second half to change things up and go more direct, and were rewarded with a cracking goal as Broony set up Callum McGregor just outside the box.  Unfortunately he then went and got himself sent off 5 minutes later after being caught out of position and we couldn't get the elusive equaliser.

Callum McGregor, Liam Palmer and Liam Lindsay made their debuts against England, and Murray Wallace and Ryan Fraser were brought in to make their debuts in a friendly against Algeria.

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A scrappy match with our young guys getting a bit of experience, after Stu's early goal I thought we could be in for a thriller but the next 88 minutes were pretty dire :D

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April 2017

A bit of a mixed month.  Our win over LA Galaxy broke our consecutive wins record, as the surprise strugglers slump to 17th in the Supporter's Shield table.  Back to back losses against Real Salt Lake and Seattle Sounders, teams we really should be beating at this stage, was followed up with a brilliant 3-0 win over Portland.  I dropped half our first team for the match after poor performances against Salt Lake and Seattle, so it was good to see 5 youngsters step into the team and claim victory.  We finished off the month with a trip down the only road in Canada to face Montreal Impact, and got sent packing as they raced into an early 2-0 lead.  

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Here's how the conferences, and the Supporter's Shield table are looking after two months.

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13 minutes ago, mjaferrie said:

Our win over LA Galaxy broke our consecutive wins record, as the surprise strugglers slump to 17th in the Supporter's Shield table.

Believe it or not, but they've finished dead last in real life.

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3 minutes ago, BoxToBox said:

Believe it or not, but they've finished dead last in real life.

I saw that, mental!

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5a018c5aa69e9_CBCSports.thumb.jpeg.ea220c852dfc3d80deeb7051f4dfebe7.jpeg

'Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the Canadian Championship semi final where Vancouver Whitecaps face Toronto FC in the first leg here at the BMO Field.  We're live with Gene Van Kouvre, recently appointed manager of the Whitecaps, who seems to be settling in to his new surroundings in British Columbia'

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'Gene, can you explain your line up for us tonight, there's a couple of rare starts in there?'

'Oh sure, buddy!  We've got Aly Ghazal and Nosa Igiebor coming in for their first starts of the season, they weren't too happy aboot their playing time so I was like 'Oh sorry aboot that'.

'Eh...'

We set up in our 4-3-3, while Toronto come at us in a kind of 3-4-3.

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I'm a bit worried that their 3atb are going to keep the threat of Montero up front for us pretty much nullified, he's by far our best player.  I've told our players to exploit the flanks as hopefully we can take advantage of our greater numbers in wide areas.

Half time arrives and we are still scoreless in Toronto, but it doesn't really reflect the play.  They have been absolutely dominant in our half, with most of their play surprisingly coming down their right flank - our FB on attack as dropped to support to try and counter that.  

75th minute, completely against the run of play, Fredy Montero opens the scoring!  .... but not for long.  In the 79th minute Toronto get an equaliser through Jozy Altidore and the match finishes 1-1.

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Pretty lucky to escape this tie with a draw.  Toronto were on top for the majority of the game, and our only serious effort on goal went in.  We have to be better in the return leg in Vancouver next week.

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Canadian Championship Semi Final, Second Leg

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We're at home for the second leg, and we bring youngsters Bob McKendry, Alphonso Davies, Simon and David Norman, Tim Irving and Ian Marples into the starting line-up.  It is quite possibly suicide in such an important game of the season, but they did well in ending a losing streak earlier last month so we put our faith in the youngsters again.  Immediate concern is Toronto going for a WB on attack on their right hand side, having played him on a defend duty in the previous game.  They had most of their joy down that right flank and it looks like they're looking to take advantage of us having two attack duties on our left flank and ultimately opening up a lot of space for them to counter on that side.  de Jong drops to a defend duty, Marples is up to attack and Alphonso Davies is switched to support.  Hopefully we can keep it tight.

Two minutes played.

The Whitecaps have a corner on the left hand side.  Alphonso Davies plays an inswinger which meets the head of Igiebor!  He looks to have hit that wide... but Boswell is there in time to smash it past Irwin between the sticks.  GOAL!  Vancouver take the lead through Bobby Boswell!

Half Time.

The match is following a pretty similar pattern to the first leg.  Toronto haven't been having as much time on the ball in our half, which is good, but they are still rocketing up that right hand side... We've only had one shot on target, Boswell's strike in the third minute.

74th minute. 

Altidore inside to Cheyrou, who plays it back out wide to Altidore.  Altidore to the overlapping Delgado... Delgado cuts it back for Bradley!!!  An absolute thunderstrike from Michael Bradley from outside the box and Toronto are level!

Damn.  I switched Alphonso back to an attacking duty on the IF role, and we've been absolutely punished for it.  You can see here how when we lose the ball they can absolutely slice through us on the right, with Davies caught waaaaaay too high up the pitch:

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Toronto had 4 players easily able to exploit the space because Davies didn't track their wing back.  We have 15 minutes left to play, and we are level 1-1 and 2-2 on aggregate.  The next goal will do it...

3 minutes left to play.

The ball is over the back of the Toronto defence and Moor cleans it up.  Montero closes down and Moor plays an awful ball straight to Vancouver substitute Yordi Reyna!  Reyna heads it down for Montero who hits it first time... GOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLL! The Whitecaps take the lead again and surely it's all over!

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So, so, so lucky to get away with that.  We were by far the poorer side in both legs, and we're going to have to work on our tactic a bit for the future, having the two attack duties on the left flank is just leaving us way to open to counter attacks.  We'll play Montreal Impact in the final.

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May 2017

Aside from our Canadian Championship victory over Toronto FC, we also had four games in the league to deal with this month.

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We started strongly, but the division's top team Sporting Kansas City ran riot in Vancouver.  It could have been 5, 6, or 7 but David Ousted was a hero between the sticks for us.  The game against D.C. United was also a disappointment, as we came back from behind to lead 3-1 before capitulating in the final stages of the match.  These results leave us 2nd in our conference, and 5th overall.

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Scotland

I've also named my 23 man squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Slovakia and a friendly against Argentina.  I've taken the opportunity to freshen up the squad a bit, with Anthony Ralston, Liam Cooper, Jason Cummings, Harry Souttar and Jordan Archer in line for a first cap.

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Enjoying this. MLS doesn’t make sense to me, so hoping this might help it sink in as I read along.

All I know is when I play in one of the Scandinavian leagues, I find some young gems who have been released on waivers!

Best of luck.

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June / July 2017

After a couple of patchy months in the league, we were so close to an unbeaten summer!

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Massive wins over Chicago Fire and New York City, as well as a tight game against our rivals Portland.  FC Dallas scored with 15 minutes to play to end a great run of form.

We've had another couple of departures from the squad, Aly Ghazal and Christian Bolaños weren't happy with their playing time so Ghazal has gone to FK Austria Wien for £1.2m and Bolaños was put on the waiver list.  He didn't find a new club in the MLS and has since joined FC Utrecht in Holland.  

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As you can see though, I'm at my limit in terms of Off-Budget and Reserve players, which means I can't promote any more youngsters from the academy for the time being, unless I loaned some currently in my squad to Whitecaps 2.  This is going to be a massive frustration in seasons to come, as academy players don't count towards the salary cap until they reach 24 - which means I'm going to be limited to 10 academy players in our 30 man roster per season.  Ideally then I'd have a first and second 11, and then 8 further slots to allocate to youngsters. 

Scotland

An absolutely massive victory for us in this international break as we claim a 4-1 victory over Slovakia, thanks to a standout performance from Leigh Griffiths.  Two goals and two assists from the Celtic striker puts two points between us and third placed Slovenia, and we look to be making progress in our group.  The board want us to at least make the playoffs, so I have my work cut out.

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4 minutes ago, withnail316 said:

Enjoying this. MLS doesn’t make sense to me, so hoping this might help it sink in as I read along.

All I know is when I play in one of the Scandinavian leagues, I find some young gems who have been released on waivers!

Best of luck.

Thanks for reading!  I'll admit this is my third time starting a save with the Whitecaps in FM18 - I tried a couple of 2-3 year runs to get my head around everything before starting to document it on here.  The competition itself is fairly straightforward - you play 34 games that count towards the Supporter's Shield, your own conference and the Rivalry Cups, and then there are separate cup competitions for the American and Canadian teams.

The biggest thing for me to get my head around was squad building and using the trade deals you can make tactically - after my transfer deals I only have 4 international players in my squad so I have no need for 10 international slots.  They've all been traded to other clubs for Superdraft picks and GAM, as I'm not letting myself sign players in any other way than from the drafts these slots are precious.  You can also use the GAM towards your players contracts, so if you've got someone pushing you £1k over the salary cap, you can bring that down in their contract screen.

At the moment I'm up to 7 picks for next January's superdraft, so hopefully I can get in a few decent prospects.

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Marco Bustos has been sent off to Whitecaps 2 for the rest of the season because he's a moany, unprofessional, pain in the a... so welcome Matt Craddock!

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August 2017..

... was a shitshow.  

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Somehow my job security is at 'untouchable' mostly due to the dressing room atmosphere being at 80%, and the dynamics look like:

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... 24 support me and 4 have no opinion.  None oppose me. 

Canada so happy.

Regardless, despite a disastrous month on the pitch which saw us lose the Canadian Championship final to Montreal Impact, we still sit 2nd in our conference and are up to 3rd in the Supporter's Shield.

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Sporting Kansas look unstoppable. Who are their top players, if you don't mind

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5 minutes ago, kidthekid said:

Sporting Kansas look unstoppable. Who are their top players, if you don't mind

Not at all!

I'm going with their top five players who have made more than 10 appearances in the league:

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Some decent players, but they are slightly over performing this season - the season preview has them down to finish 5th.  Then again, the preview thinks LA Galaxy will win the Supporters Shield and they're way down in 17th so...

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September / October 2017

We upped our game in the last two months of the season, only losing once away to our rivals Seattle Sounders - which confirmed their victory in the Cascadia Cup.

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Sporting Kansas City's 1-1 draw against us was enough to see them clinch the Supporter's Shield by 11 points over runners up Toronto FC.  We finish up 5th in the overall table, just missing out in a spot in the Western Conference Semi Final after coming third in our conference.  We'll have to earn that spot through the Wild Card, where we've been drawn against Seattle, a team that have beaten us in all three of our competitive encounters this season.

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In the one-legged Wild Card we face Seattle Sounders at home while San Jose Earthquakes come up against Minnesota United.  The winners of those two ties will progress to the Western Conference Semi Final to face Sporting Kansas City or FC Dallas, who qualified automatically to the semis thanks to their 1st and 2nd place finish in the conference.  The winners of each semi final tie will face each other in the Western Conference Final.

The Eastern Conference follows the exact same format, and the winners of each conference's final will then face each other in the MLS Cup to decide the champions for the season.

Scotland

We played five times in September and October, as ties against the likes of Malta gave us a chance to bring some new faces into the squad.  Kieran Freeman, John Souttar, Liam Cooper and Jason Cummings all pulled on the Scotland shirt for the first time against the whipping boys of Group 6 and earned a 3-0 victory in  Malta.  Unfortunately a 2-0 defeat in Slovenia meant the pressure was on in qualifying, as we required victory in both of our final matches against Slovakia away and Lithuania at home to make the playoffs. 

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A month later we warmed up with a 2-1 friendly defeat at Hampden against Roberto Martinez's Belgium, before beating both Slovakia and Lithuania 3-1 to secure a playoff place against Wales.

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Can we reverse the course of history with a victory over Chris Coleman's men in two weeks time?  Wales are currently ranked 18th in the world, while our recent good form has seen us rise to 27th.  

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MLS Wildcard 2017

Philadelphia Union and Orlando City are through to the Eastern Conference Semi Finals to face Toronto FC and Atlanta United.  The Union raced into a 2-0 lead over New York Red Bulls, a late Sean Davis strike merely a consolation effort for the Red Bulls as the match finished 2-1.  It was a carbon copy in Orlando City's 2-1 victory over Chicago Fire, with two goals in two minutes before a 93rd minute consolation goal.

Today we face off against Seattle, who have beaten us 2-1, 2-0 and 2-0 this season in our three encounters.

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Seattle Sounders have a 4-1-0 record in the last 5 matches playing a deep 4-4-1-1 formation while ours is at 1-3-1, the journos have us down as ever so slight favourites but I'm not convinced.

The lineups are announced: 

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And we're off...

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11th minute

De Jong plays it inside to Telbert who plays it forward for Reyna.  Reyna is in a really deep position, just ahead of the centre circle.  He looks up and spots the run of Brek Shea on the left hand side.  Shea takes it past Fisher and plays it into the box for REYNAAAA!  GOAL!  Vancouver Whitecaps take the lead at BC Place.

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Half time and it's in the balance at 1-0.

We've had 3 shots on target from 5 in total, while Seattle Sounders haven't registered a single shot on target.  We're dominating possession with 61%, can we hold on for our first victory in our most important match against the Sounders this season?

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80th minute...

It's still 1-0 here at BC Place and OH that is a horror challenge on Brek Shea, he has to go off injured, but the Whitecaps have made all of their substitutions!  Can we hold onto our slender lead with only 10 men?

89th minute...

The Whitecaps are falling to pieces here!  The only scorer of the night so far, Yordi Reyna is also signalling to the bench.  The Whitecaps are down to 9 men! They've switched to a very deep 3-2-3...

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FULL TIME

We've done it!  We held on to our 1-0 lead despite the Seattle Sounders smashing our players to bits.  Brek Shea will be out for 4-5 weeks while Yordi Reyna is out for 3-4, which means they will not be available for the rest of our matches this season.

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We're through to the Semi Finals and will face FC Dallas over two legs, starting off with a home leg in Vancouver.  San Jose Earthquakes, who won their Wild Card against Minnesota United by the same 1-0 scoreline, will face Sporting Kansas City in the other Semi Final.

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Western Conference Semi Final 2017 - First Leg

A much changed line up thanks to injuries in the Wildcard and half my squad is knackered.  Fingers crossed...  Our last meetings against FC Dallas have been a 1-0 loss and 2-2 draw.  We're going to have to up our game again to get something out of these two legs.  

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37 seconds into the match...

That is a terrible mistake from Sheanon Williams! After cleaning up the through ball, he tries to play it back to David Ousted in goal, but instead gifts the ball to Colmán, the original target of said through ball.  It's a goal for FC Dallas.

28th minute...

Signorino with the throw in on the left hand side.  It's short for Diaz who plays a wonder cross into the box for COLMÁN!  That's the 50th league goal of his career and FC Dallas are 2-0 up in Vancouver!

45+1...

Laba feeds it down the line for Harvey, Harvey plays it into the box for Teibert, who plays a lovely ball for IBINIIIIII!!!!! Vancouver Whitecaps have pulled one back on the edge of half time!

Half time.  Colmán should have had his hat trick in the 44th minute before we raced up and got one ourselves on the counter.  It's 2-1, and time for the hairdryer treatment.

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48th minute...

Hollingshead with the throw in for Barrios.  Barrios plays it into the box!  LAMAH!  It's 3-1 to FC Dallas!  Gene Van Kouvre responds by bringing on three substitutes, the Whitecaps need to get it together here.

Oh and it's a fatal error of judgement by the Vancouver boss!  Just minutes later, Rosales is taken off injured and again the Whitecaps are down to 10 men with 40 minutes to play!

68th minute...

Acosta in the inside left, plays a beautiful through ball for Lamah.  Lamah holds up the ball and switches for Barrios.   Barrios plays the cross back into the box and Lamah is there to reach it!  4-1 FOR FC DALLAS!

Full time.

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Absolutely gutted, we gifted them an absolute stupid opener and then two goals from set pieces.  We had 59% of the ball and just couldn't make anything of it.  We're going to need to win by a four goal margin in the second leg to go through, or by 3 goals as long as we score at least 5...  We have been FM'd.  

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1 hour ago, BoxToBox said:

Brutal. :(

The worst thing is they had three injured players in their starting XI. We were awful from start to finish :seagull:

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Western Conference Semi Final 2017 - Second Leg

After our absolute hammering at home against FC Dallas in the first leg, I decided to give game time to our youngsters in the second leg - and they performed admirably in a much more evenly matched game which finished 1-1.

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If our first XI had actually turned up to the first match, we could have got something from this tie... 

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One of our youngsters makes 'signing of the season' - it's a bit annoying that you have to actually transfer (albeit for free) your young players from Whitecaps 2 or the academy to your first team squad.

So that's it for our first year in the MLS!  The media had us down to come 11th at the beginning of the season, so we exceeded expectations by finishing 5th.  Hopefully we can build on that for next year.  Fredy Montero leaves us at the end of his loan spell and heads back to Tianjin, while Jordan Harvey, Aaron Maund and Cole Seiler's contracts expire as I don't see them having a future here.  They'll go into December's Re-Entry draft, and hopefully we can pick up some decent replacements for them.

The next major event to look forward to is the Expansion Draft, as we welcome Los Angeles FC to the league for next season.  I'll have to select 11 of my roster to 'protect' - meaning they won't be open to selection by LAFC - while the remaining players will be eligible to be drafted by the league's newcomers.  Fortunately they can only sign 5 players in the expansion draft, so we may be lucky and avoid losing any players altogether.

Here's a round up of the competitions for the season:

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Scotland

It's time for the World Cup European qualifying playoffs against Wales!  We kick off the first leg at home.  I've actually already started the match, and am 10 minutes in, when I realised I hadn't started this update.  So!  Wales come into this match playing a sort of 3-5-2 or 5-3-2 depending on your outlook on life.  It looks like this:

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I want to be able to nullify the threat of their two men up front, especially the talismanic Bale.  It's also concerning that they have Joe Allen as a Mezzala in behind him - I love and hate at the same time that you can see the opposition's roles and duties now.  Allen is going to be running into the channels and exploiting the half spaces while Gareth Bale on a CF role roams around and does whatever the hell he wants.  Excellent!  Meanwhile on the other side we have to worry about Ben Davies bombing up the flank and Ramsey roaming around doing whatever the hell HE wants.  Excellent!

So I've switched things around a bit to try and counter this.  Here's our formation and lineup for the match:

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The idea here is that in possession, Robertson and Freeman will come inside and give us extra bodies in midfield, while Berra, Cooper and Martin offer a three man defence.  When Wales have the ball, we drop to a 5 at the back which will hopefully counter Wales' numbers in attack.

One big disadvantage to our system is that Martin keeps playing Wales' strikers onside, but our numbers at the back are dealing with it pretty effectively.

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Here we are in an attacking move and you can see how wide Berra and Cooper are at the back, while Robertson and Freeman are just ahead of them in the centre circle.  It is giving us good control of the wide areas, as Wales only have their wing backs getting into those positions, and the Inverted Wingbacks are giving us a shield in the defensive midfield area and helping to always have an extra man on either Vokes or Bale.  There is now 16 minutes on the clock and we have had 68% of possession, with most of our chances coming from Oliver Burke on the left hand side.

It's now half time and I haven't seen a single highlight with Wales attacking me - I wanted to screenshot our defensive positioning but that hasn't been possible :lol:

It's still 0-0, we've had 65% of possession but we're being let down by our finishing - only 3 shots on target from 14 total.  Fortunately Wales are being restricted to pot shots from distance and have managed zero shots on target from a grand total of 4.  Here we go into the second half!

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47th minute...

Freeman with the throw on the right hand side for Ritchie.  Davies manages to nick the ball off him but his first touch is poor and Griffiths wins the second ball.  Griffiths is on the edge of the box.  He plays it inside for Andrew Robertson who's raced up the middle of the park.  Andrew Robertson!! OH that's hit the post!  There's a scramble in the box as Chester, Davies and Walsh all struggle to clear the ball.. Leigh Griffiths comes clattering in and SLIDES THE BALL INTO THE NET!!!!  SCOTLAND 1 - 0 WALES!

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51st minute...

Robertson is charging up the middle of the park, a sight we've seen so often in this match.  He dinks it out to the right hand side for Stuart Armstrong, who plays it back for Matt Ritchie.  Matt Ritchie plays it inside for Andy Robertson, but he's dummied it and the ball moves left for Leigh Griffiths who's lurking outside the box.  Griffiths rounds his man and plays in Oliver Burke who has wonderfully beaten Wales' offside trap!  OLIVER BURKE MAKES IT TWO!  Scotland score two in the space of four minutes and this is training ground stuff!

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Finally we have an attacking move from Wales to talk about.  We're in the 56th minute and Gunter has just punted it up the park for Gareth Bale, but he's running into a compact back 5 of Scotland shirts, with Barry Bannan just behind him.  Wales are opting to keep six men back with Leigh Griffiths, meaning Scotland have nine men to deal with only four Welshmen.

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Barry Bannan keeps up the pressure on Bale who plays it left for Vokes.  Davies at left wing back and Gunter on the right have decided to get forward and join the attack.  Vokes plays it out wide to Davies but there are now six Scotland shirts in the box and his cross is cleared easily.

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58th minute...

Wales are still playing in the same formation, but they've switched around their midfield three to try and unlock some space further forward.  Gunter brings down Oliver Burke who is deep in Scotland's own half.  Andy Robertson plays it quickly to Matt Ritchie just ahead of the centre circle.  Ritchie short for Armstrong, who cuts back and plays it across midfield for Barry Bannan.  Bannan plays a wonderful chip over to the left for Oliver Burke who is racing into the penalty area!  Burke takes the ball down and cuts it back FOR ANDY ROBERTSON TO MAKE IT THREE - NIL!  Scotland are cruising!

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59th minute...

Ritchie, inside for Bannan.  Bannan plays a through ball over to the right hand side where Stuart Armstrong has found some space.  Armstrong is passed his man, and another!  Armstrong is into the penalty area and cuts it back for OLIVER BURKE!  IT'S FOUR - NIL TO SCOTLAND!

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Without a doubt one of the most enjoyable matches I've played!  A huge result especially after our disappointing end to the season at club level.

I'm going to get some sleep, I'll put up a post-match analysis tomorrow with GIFs of the goals and match stats.  An incredible performance from the Tartan Army who have one foot in the 2018 World Cup!

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Scotland vs Wales - World Cup European Qualifying Playoff 1st Leg

'Scotland play easy-on-the-eye football in spectacular 4-0 victory over Wales'

Never thought I'd utter those words, but a phenomenal performance from Oliver Burke on the left hand side of a fluid attacking three led us to an incredible victory over Chris Coleman's Welshmen.

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A quick look at the heat map is all it takes to show how dominant in possession we were, with great control of the ball in Wales' half.

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But it also suggests some pretty wacky positioning of our players... 

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This is the average positioning of our starting 11, when we were in possession of the ball.  As a reminder, 4 and 5 are our CBs, while 2 and 3 are our right and left IWBs.  Number 6 is our Sweeper.  7 and 8 are our Central midfielders, with Stuart Armstrong (8) in the attacking mezzala role.  Number 9 is Leigh Griffiths, our lone striker.  10 and 11 are our left and right 'wingers', respectively.

Now... what the hell is going on with the positioning here?

Number 10 and 11, our left Inside Forward and right Advanced Playmaker, were set to swap positions during the match.  So, unfortunately, the average position shows them bang in the middle, as they spent equal amounts of time on the left and right flanks.  Using the sliders underneath the average position screen though, I can view our average positions between the start of the 2nd half and the 53rd minute, during which we scored our opening two goals. 

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This gives a much clearer picture of our positioning during the match, while at the same time also highlighting another issue with the 'average position' screen.  Numbers 8 and 11 look like they're playing on top of each other here, which wasn't really the case during the match.  Number 11 is an Advanced Playmaker, so he looks to cut inside during the match when he has possession of the ball to create opportunities for his team mates.  However, he has the instruction to Stay Wider while the team is in possession, so he offers a wide passing option.  Stuart Armstrong (8) is playing with almost the opposite effect.  He plays mostly in a central role, but he has been given the instruction to run wide when he has the ball.  This means while 10 and 11 will swap positions during different phases of the match, number 8 and number 11 effectively do this during play, and caused absolute chaos there on the right flank.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pitch Andrew Robertson (3), who was an IWB on a support duty, gets forward into a central midfield role to lend support while Stuart Armstrong bombs out wide.

Here, however, is our positioning without the ball during a period where Wales were building patiently and looking for an opportunity.  

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We are playing with a very aggressive line here, and you can see that our IWBs and the libero have fallen back into position to give us a solid back 5.  Stuart Armstrong though looks to be ignoring his defensive responsibilities - however, I have given him the instruction to close down much more and he was involved in starting the press from the front.  These leaves a large area for Wales to exploit, however we always had an extra man or two on both Bale and Vokes, which largely negated this threat.

This system has another significant drawback, which I've fallen foul to while testing the tactic in another save.  When a team counters quickly, the width of our two centre backs, with Andrew Robertson positioned high up the pitch, means there is a massive space in the middle of the park behind our sweeper for an opposition striker to exploit.  In these cases, I've changed the libero on attack to a simple sweeper on defend duty, and bring Andrew Robertson back in line with a defend as opposed to support.

Overall though, I'm delighted with how we were able to counter Wales' specific threats, and score some fantastic goals.  Here they are!

Griffiths opens the scoring...

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Burke beats the offside trap to make it two...

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Andrew Robertson gets his first goal for Scotland...

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And Oliver Burke grabs a brace!

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Second leg coming soon!

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World Cup Qualifying Playoff 2017 - Second Leg

Wales announce a shock lineup as they leave out star man Gareth Bale for Scotland's visit to the Liberty Stadium.  They've gone with a much more aggressive tactic, with both wingbacks looking to bomb forward and an aggressive three man midfield.  We've looked to counter that by sticking an extra man in midfield and going more direct, hopefully we can exploit the space Wales leave behind their midfield line.

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Half Time...

Not much to say about a boring first half in Wales.  They have 51% of the ball, 8 shots with only 2 on target.  We're doing well, defending in numbers, but only have one shot on target from three in total.  With only 45 minutes left to play though, Scotland look to be heading for Russia!  

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