Whitecaps in good hands with another Dahha newbie

“The goalkeepers, they have this label (label) like they’re crazy. But the goalkeeper isn’t crazy, they’re brave.” — Youssef Dahha, Whitecaps Goalkeeping Coach

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He would not be far from anointing Youssef Dahha “The Master”. He’s a true goalkeeper whisperer, a man who shapes and molds raw young players into rugged professionals.

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He shows them the ins and outs of the position, delivered with his Moroccan passion in Arabic, English, French or Italian – and instills in them competence and self-confidence.

So when Isaac Boehmer was selected to start Sunday’s Vancouver Whitecaps game at Portland – the second time this season they had to field a new academy player between the sticks – the Vancouver Whitecaps goaltending coach Caps was, predictably, indifferent.



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“My confidence is there. One hundred percent,” he said, holding his hand up to head height.

“It’s like when you do your homework and you go to school (and pass) the exam. You don’t doubt because you know you’ve done your homework very well.

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“For me, the game is an exam and every day is a homework.”

See? The teacher.

His work has come into the limelight due to the group of snake-bitten stances that always seem to suffer the most serious injuries. Max Crepeau’s broken thumb, trampled by Seattle’s Handwalla Bwana; Thomas Hasal’s fractured shin and concussion, the latter courtesy of Kyle Beckerman’s boot, as well as broken fingers this season; Cody Cropper is transformed into a giant red pretzel after colliding with Javain Brown.

In all, since the start of 2019, the Caps have missed eight different goaltenders.

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When Hasal came out after taking which had all the outward signs of an intentional Beckerman kick in September 2020, he said this: “I think every position has to have its own kind of bravery, but when you make us put our heads where the guys put our feet, people say it’s a little crazy. “

Dahha players are asked to do more than typical North American-trained goaltenders, who tend to stay closer to the goal.

Instead of being pure stoppers in the American football mould, its guards are practically central defenders, who also play with their hands. His proteges need to be equally adept at moving the ball with their feet and directing the defense as they make reaction saves. He calls it a blend of European technical and tactical styles with North American athleticism and stature.

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“Guardians, they have this label (label) like they’re crazy. But the guardian is not crazy; they are brave,” said Dahha, who will turn 50 next month.

“The keeper has to defend the space — and the net. The goalkeeper must be aggressive in space. That’s why we have (a few) injuries like that, because the goalkeeper is in traffic with the players.

“They have to play very well with their feet. You have to build like a number 10. You have to build, not just play ball. So the goalie, you have to be very, very smart.

He made Crepeau one of the best goaltenders in the league and did the same with Evan Bush. He played a big role in the professional rise of Canadian international Greg Sutton. Its goalies have won league awards at every level, from the Ottawa Fury of the USL, the Montreal Impact and the Whitecaps of MLS, to CONCACAF play.

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Who’s next on her talent treadmill? Boehmer and Max Anchor, who made their MLS debuts in May when Cropper and Boehmer were in COVID-19 protocols, will be No. 1 and 2 respectively for Sunday’s game. Both have risen through the ranks of the team’s development.

“That’s why we have an academy. This is the reason why we want to develop players,” said head coach Vanni Sartini. “The good thing is that these guys have the opportunity to … take this opportunity and take this opportunity.

“I think Isaac did really well in the 45 minutes he played in Cincinnati. I think it’s going to be tougher this game, because it’s one thing, it’s ‘OK, we throws you in the game’ and you don’t have time to think about it or think about it too much. He’s a young man, so I think our task will be to make him feel comfortable (as much as possible) And the guys next to him (will) protect him, to do his job the way he knows how to do it, and play well.

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Evan Bush juggles soccer balls with goalkeeper coach Youssef Dahha during Montreal Impact training at Montreal's Olympic Stadium in 2016. Bush's relationship with Dahha has been one of the main reasons why he agreed to join Vancouver in 2020.
Evan Bush juggles soccer balls with goalkeeper coach Youssef Dahha during Montreal Impact training at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium in 2016. Bush’s relationship with Dahha has been one of the main reasons why he agreed to join Vancouver in 2020. Photo by John Mahoney /Montreal Gazette

Dahha, the teacher, also protected his players. Sometimes protecting them from themselves.

“Example, Maxime. I fight. We are fighting. He cried because I don’t want to play with him. Why? We work for many years to have an opportunity. Sometimes you have the opportunity, but we’re not always ready for that opportunity,” said the Belgian-born Canadian, who grew up and played professional football in Morocco.

“If I put on the goalkeeper and he hurts, his chance is over. I do not want that. I don’t want my goalkeeper (to play) just one game, one season. I want my goalkeeper to play 10 years, 15 years. And that’s what I did with Bush, with Maxime.

“When I feel (they are) ready for this opportunity, I give it to them. With Isaac, I know he is already ready for the opportunity. We have been working together for three years now.

“I’m not an arrogant guy, but I’m a confident person. My work speaks for itself. Don’t worry, we’re good in the net.

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Joan J. Holland