Whitecaps FC doom reputation with the dark arts of Blas Pérez

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Image: Vancouver Whitecaps

I don’t care if he drew the winning penalty against a hated rival, as he did on Saturday against the Seattle Sounders. I’m still not a fan of Blas Pérez.

It probably has something to do with memories like this of the pain Pérez has inflicted over the years:

If you’ve never heard that name before he became a Vancouver Whitecap during pre-season, know that Pérez’ reputation precedes him.

He’s something of a character, to put it lightly, and Major League Soccer is certainly not lacking for characters. Heroes, villains, and comedic relief are peppered throughout MLS’ 20 teams. Heck, even the teams themselves have a degree of character and personality to them. No, really.

The most striking example in recent memory of a team with an instantly recognizable persona was the San Jose Earthquakes’ “Bash Brothers”/”Goonies” phase led by the iconic forward corps of Chris Wondolowski, Alan Gordon, and Steven Lenhart. The ‘Quakes of that era were unmistakable. Their “Goonies never say die” battle cry drove them towards the 2012 Supporters’ Shield, led by Wondolowski’s seemingly endless supply of goals, Gordon’s unshakable late-game prowess and the curly-haired Lenhart’s defender-infuriating antics up to, and including the occasional game-saving goal. Injuries and coaching changes eventually ended the era in 2014. Still, it was a memorable time that captured the imagination of not just the California soccer scene but the majority of MLS.

Meanwhile, north of the 49th parallel, the Vancouver Whitecaps will be lucky if they end this season with a moniker other than the “Upper Cascadia Dive Team”. The ‘Caps as a whole do have a character – and it’s certainly not a heroic one.

Vancouver has been dogged by a nasty reputation – sometimes deserved, sometimes not – as a flopping or diving team since they entered MLS in 2011.

From Camilo (traitor) to Sebastián Fernández to Saturday’s tip-toe through the turf by Christian Bolaños’, the antics of a select number of players continue to tarnish the image of the team as a whole. We can argue all day whether or not this year’s team deserves such predetermined notoriety. It doesn’t matter. The narrative is that Vancouver players are dirty, diving scum and every questionable incident makes that reputation harder to shed, deserved or not.

Why, then, would the Whitecaps braintrust bring Blas “Super Ratón” Pérez into the fold?

Spin it however you like: Pérez brings league and international experience; he’s a good locker room presence; Carl Robinson has another tactical option at his disposal. No matter how you say it, it’s still Blas Pérez in a Whitecaps jersey – an antagonist joining a dirty squad, a pest joining the rat’s nest, a diver joining a team of divers.

Let’s go back to that winning penalty (2:19 mark of the video):

To be fair, compared to Bolaños’ sudden magnetic attraction to the ground, that penalty looks somewhat legitimate. A slide-tackle by a defender in the box against a forward on the run needs to be executed perfectly or not at all. Chad Marshall doesn’t get it exactly right and, with a little lean into contact and a tumble, Pérez has made referee Mark Geiger’s job easy.

(A quick aside regarding Geiger: that was a horrible game by a referee infamous to ‘Caps fans for similar bogus calls made against Vancouver. Geiger might not have hurt Vancouver’s reputation, but he certainly didn’t help the ‘Caps in that regard, either.)

Cue the post-game outrage from the always, uh, “excitable” (*cough whiny cough*) Seattle Sounders supporters and the narrative for the rest of the league is set yet again: the ‘Caps are a bunch of diving cheaters. For some, that’s not a big deal:

For others, myself included, it is:

I don’t feel any sense of pride or superiority knowing a team I support achieved something by cheating.

Again, that reputation is not necessarily deserved depending on the players in question. However, the MLS DisCo has already punished the Whitecaps twice in as many weeks, which suggests Vancouver’s reputation is in tatters even on a supposedly independent disciplinary panel. Add Pérez to the pile of prejudices and you can forget seeing the ‘Caps get the benefit of the doubt from an MLS referee any time soon.

Well, maybe if Geiger’s refereeing. Then again…

…probably not.

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Rituro Podcast DP of "From The Backline". Soccer and hockey fan. Lifelong gamer. Irrepressible nerd. #YYJ
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