It was root, root, root for the home team as twenty-one thousand fans descended on BC Place Saturday in anticipation of the third and final meeting of the regular season between Vancouver Whitecaps FC (10W-9L-6D) and the LA Galaxy (12W-9L-4D) with a crucial spot in the playoffs at stake. Excitement was at a high at the start of the sold-out match (the fifth sell-out this season for the Whitecaps). By the end though, ’Caps fans did not have much left to cheer about as their beloved team would go on to lose 1-0, trailing the Galaxy for most of the match.
Action on the pitch started with a bang— and not in the Whitecaps’ favor— as Galaxy striker Landon Donovan tallied his seventh goal of the season after firing a long shot past keeper David Ousted just three minutes into the first half. The Galaxy would not need to make another shot on goal for the rest of the match as a tightly organized defence shut down any and all attempts by Vancouver to even the score, including a number of close calls from Kenny Miller and Kekuta Manneh in the second half. While Manneh may not have tallied any points this time, he continues to show great potential and with time and practice, the 21-year old forward (he turns 22 on Sunday) will someday make a big name for himself in Major League Soccer.
Problems continued to plague the midfield as Daigo Kobayashi was benched in favor of Matt Watson on the left flank after lacklustre performances, though Kobayashi would later see action after coming on to relieve Darren Mattocks in the seventy-forth minute. Mattocks, who started in place of Camilo (muscle tightness; participated in reduced training), last made it into the starting eleven for the Whitecaps in the previous home game against the Galaxy back on May 11th.)
Matt Watson exhibited healthy enthusiasm and involvement as always but failed to produce much on-field chemistry with teammates Gershon Koffie and Nigel Reo-Coker and was subsequently subbed out at the forty-five minute mark. While there are no major complaints warranted about either Koffie or Reo-Coker’s performance at midfield as of late, both men seemed a touch off their usual game Saturday (no pun intended), drawing yellow cards in the second half. Reo-Coker will now miss the next match against Chivas USA after being handed an automatic one-game suspension due to accumulation.
At the time of this article, the Whitecaps are one point out of playoff contention, sitting in sixth place after FC Dallas picked up a point in a 2-a-piece draw against San Jose but risk falling even lower in the rankings when Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders FC and Portland Timbers face off Sunday. The Whitecaps meanwhile have a week to regroup and prepare for their next match against Chivas USA (September 1st) before setting off on a three game road trip. Many questions remain in the meantime. Will Jay DeMerit make his long expected return? Will the problems in midfield be worked out while there’s still time? Most importantly: Can the Whitecaps reclaim their spot in the playoffs before the point gap grows too wide?
Only time will tell. Luckily for the Whitecaps, there’s still a bit of that left in the season.