(Author’s Note: I had a long debate with myself about whether or not to use this recap as an opportunity to speak out on some points noticed about the game. I’ve always tried to walk the line, recapping matches as they happen, instead of risking this into a soundboard for any rants; as I’ve said before, I am no coach or expert and have no suggestions about what the team needs to do, so please don’t interpret this as me “bashing” the Whitecaps. That being said, I feel the need to comment on a few things, so bear with me this time).
Maybe it was fatigue from the road. Maybe it was fate. Whatever the reason, the same team that blanked the Montreal Impact last week was not the same that took to Bell Pitch on Saturday, as Vancouver Whitecaps FC (11W-11L-8D) saw their shutout streak snapped by a powerhouse Real Salt Lake, who reclaimed first place in the Western Conference, (15W-10L-6D) and given many Whitecaps fans young and old pause for concern; MLS Cup playoffs now seeming but a distant dream.
Real Salt Lake made the trip to Vancouver with a majority of their regular lineup remaining behind to rest up for their upcoming US Open Cup final against DC United. It didn’t seem to be much of a problem, as the team slipped through Whitecaps defense and netted the only goal of the entire match at the ninth minute. From there, RSL all but dominated throughout the remainder of the match, keeping the Whitecaps pinned in their defensive third, stealing the ball away from Jordan Harvey who at times, seemed to be the only defender making a push up-field into Salt Lake’s territory, too much of an individual effort, there needs to be a bigger team involvement.
The Whitecaps haven’t opened scoring at home since shutting out the San Jose Earthquakes back on August 10th, going 3W-8L-6D* when the opposition team scores first) and have only made the first goal in two of the last nine games. This is not the sort of performance to be expected from a team trying to make a final push for the playoffs this late in the season. Drawing three yellow cards does not help either. And with all due respect to Jordan Harvey, the booking he earned for shoving an RSL player was just stupid, in my opinion. It vaguely reminds me of the red card handed to Jun Marques Davidson back in July, an unnecessary penalty at the wrong time. (Okay, I know. Any yellow/red card is unnecessary for the team’s performance).
Tommy Heinemann made his second consecutive start in place of Kenny Miller, who’s currently out with a strained groin, having not participated in any training this week, while Russell Teibert and Camilo were re-inserted into the starting eleven. Teibert made what might be argued as the Whitecaps’ best attempt on net in the thirty-fifth minute.
The only player whose performance didn’t concern me was David Ousted, who continues to prove his dedication to the team, stopping every shot possible (the lone RSL goal notwithstanding), and even coming out of net twice in stoppage time, adding to the final Whitecaps push in the closing seconds. I have nothing bad to say about Joe Cannon or Brad Knighton, both men are very talented, capable players, but Ousted has not caused much (if any) concern or worry for me since debuting against the Timbers in August. I’m glad he’s on our side.
Is there still any point in hoping for post-season action, or is it time to just wait until next March when the 2014 season kicks off? My answer, in spite of what I’ve written here, is a firm “Yes!” I still believe there’s a chance the Whitecaps can make it into the playoffs. How? Well, winning the final four games of the season seems the obvious solution, but admittedly easier said than done. It remains to be seen how the dynamics of the situation can be worked out in the Whitecaps’ favor, but I’ll still keep hoping for a last-second comeback. I’m the optimist, (and possibly part of a minority, I admit), I just never like to rule anything out until the end, contrary to all the critical opining. Stranger things have happened.
Vancouver remains home for another week to take on the Portland Timbers next Sunday in a highly anticipated Cascadia match. Look for the preview coming later this week.