(Author’s Note: Owing to the circumstances, this article will serve as a joint recap and preview).
Season-high record setting and a Cascadia Cup victory were not enough to keep the train on track, as Vancouver Whitecaps FC (12W-12L-9D) watched the playoffs slip further away Saturday in a 3-2 loss to fifth-place Colorado Rapids (14W-10L-9D). The loss officially eliminates the Whitecaps from the 2013 playoffs and has many fans calling for change (but we’ll discuss that another time).
Things started off in the Whitecaps’ favour, the starting line-up remaining unchanged from the historic 4-1 shellacking of Seattle the previous week. Rookie Kekuta Manneh did not appear to be finished after his historic hat-trick against the Sounders, getting a few great opportunities early in the first half while a defence-driven Colorado (4-2-3-1 line-up) looked to keep the Whitecaps forward line at bay before watching Manneh tally his sixth goal of the season at the thirty-two minute mark with a long-ranged shot into the top-right corner of the net.
Fan favorite Camilo also added another notch in his belt, scoring his nineteenth of the season on a penalty kick midway through the second half, evening the score again while making it all the more likely that Vancouver’s beloved Brazilian will be winning Whitecaps Player of the Year.
There are two sides to every coin. While defence was noticeably more active in clearing the ball, especially on Colorado corner kicks (Jay DeMerit continuing to show good, aggressive play since returning from injury), and the pair of goals certainly didn’t hurt, the team was out-performed, managing to convert only three of their attempts into shots on goal, compared to Colorado’s six and the out-possessed in mid-field (Daigo Kobayashi looking no better for wear).
It was also very disappointing to see Carlyle Mitchell drawing such a stupid penalty in the Whitecaps end, essentially handing Colorado the equalizer late in the first. I’ll forgive him for misjudging the header, leading to Colorado’s 2nd goal in the fifty-first minute, but that penalty did not have to happen. (I know some Whitecaps fans out there might disagree with me for saying that and welcome, but watching the replays over and over, I was not impressed).
Instead of reverting to zombie mode (keeping the ball in midfield, slow to produce many, if any scoring chances) as the team has been guilty of in the past when down, Vancouver attempted to create some opportunities in the second, but by the time Colorado took the lead again 3-2, the wind appears to slip through the sails with no further luck coming for the Whitecaps for the rest of the game, even with Kenny Miller making a return to action as a last-second substitute for Jun Marques Davidson.
And that’s A Wrap: Looking Ahead to Sunday’s Season Closer
I’ve been asked if I think there’s even a point to being excited about Sunday’s home finale. Even if they finish off the season with their thirteenth win, the Whitecaps will still remain at least three points back of Colorado. The team will also be without Jordan Harvey, who was booked for a foul and will be forced to sit out the game due to yellow card accumulation.
May I be frank for a moment? From some of the outrageous comments (sorry) I saw across the social-media universe after the game, I asked myself the same question, half-expecting to see a lot of bandwagon-eers reaching for Canucks apparel over the next week. (And no, that’s not a zing against the Canucks!) Keeping in mind of course that trying to find constant happy, uplifting content on Twitter is a lot like trying to hit a hole-in-one while blindfolded.
Having said that, if anyone out there has seen the video of the collective supporter groups welcoming the team home after Saturday’s game, you will agree I think that the love for the Whitecaps burns as strong as ever, and the “experts” on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (and God knows wherever else), are but a minority. That doesn’t mean that change isn’t needed in order to improve next season. Maybe it means a change in office personnel, the roster, the coaching staff, it’s hard to say. I don’t claim to have the solution— I’m a supporter, not a statistician. Such details are beyond my understanding and care, if I’m honest. I still support the team, win lose or draw. Whoever’s coaching or captaining it. (Please God; say that Jay DeMerit will still be around for a little while!)
With all that out of the way, yes of course there’s a point to Sunday’s game. There is sure to be a buzz in the crowds as the Cascadia Cup makes its first visit to B.C. Place in the hands of Vancouver supporters. Seeing Miller play for even a few minutes is a good sign, maybe we’ll see more of him on home turf this weekend.
It is also worth noting that with his goal Saturday, Camilo is now only one behind Chicago’s Mike Magee and Montreal’s Marco di Vaio in the race for the MLS Golden Boot. Knowing the Magician, the possibility remains that Camilo could cap off his best season in a Whitecaps jersey to date by clinching the award, dependent on how the aforementioned (current) leaders fare in their team’s respective games. Sunday also marks Fan Appreciation Night, and after missing the playoffs, look for the team to try and make it up to the thousands who pack B.C. Place for every home game.
If for no other reason, Sunday’s game against the Rapids is still a game. Games are a good time. And good times are something I’m always in favour of.
Kickoff on Sunday is scheduled for 5:00PM Pacific Time. Sportsnet ONE will again air the game, along with TEAM 1410 radio covering all pre and post-game coverage.
Once again (unashamedly): Go Whitecaps!