If you had
Or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture
Or just let it slip?”
So said Eminem clearly in a premonition of what would play out in Vancouver Whitecaps two-legged semi-final against Seattle Sounders 15 years later. One shot was all the Whitecaps could muster over two playoff games against the Sounders. Abysmal some will say. It’s hard to disagree. But one thing we can all agree on, you’re not going to win if you do that.”
And they didn’t.
Vancouver went down to a 2-0 defeat in Seattle on Thursday evening. Two goals down both on the night and on aggregate, as Seattle simply outclassed an uninspired Vancouver side that got what they deserved – their season to end.
Clint Dempsey was the difference maker, as he has been so often in the past for the Sounders. A pair of second half goals killed the Whitecaps dead, and although they stayed in the match to the last couple of minutes, it was always hard to see them coming away with what they needed.
It started off promisingly, in the biggest will they, won’t they since Ross and Rachel, Yordy Reyna and Cristian Techera were good to start the second leg, after being on the bench for Sunday’s game with “knocks”. It always looked like a clear Robbo ruse, but he’ll probably never admit that!
Vancouver clearly had out their best and most attacking line-up. One still capable of defending en masse, but with enough offensive sparks to pounce on any slip or space left by Seattle.
The opening minutes were already more entertaining that Sunday’s borefest, but Will Bruin’s low 14th minute effort straight at Stefan Marinovic was the only threat to breaking the deadlock.
It was still all pretty cagey, with both teams aware of what one mistake could mean, but Seattle were moving forward well, sending a number of crosses into the box, which the Vancouver defence dealt with with ease.
Whitecaps’ hearts were in their mouth with ten minutes of the half remaining, when Nouhou went down in the box under a challenge from Jake Nerwinski. The ‘Caps right back was injured and had to be replaced by Jordan Harvey, but in the time treatment was administered, it allowed referee Baldomero Toledo to decide to go to VAR, which it felt was under pressure from the Seattle players and fans, but his original decision of no penalty stood.
It looked like a penalty, it has to be said, and the ‘Caps got some of the luck Carl Robinson had talked about his team needing. They got even more two minutes into stoppage time when the Sounders had the best chance of the game so far, but couldn’t take advantage of it.
Nicolas Lodeiro sent a long diagonal ball to Clint Dempsey at the back of the box and the US international’s shot flew inches past the left post, just eluding the diving Bruin on the way.
So 0-0 at half time. A scoreline that suited Vancouver, but if it was to stay the same at the end of the 90 minutes, with the away goal rule then rescinded, it would feel like advantage Seattle. It wasn’t to come to that.
The scene was set for what was sure to be a nervy second half for both teams and it showed in the early stages, with Vancouver not wanting to commit too much going forward.
Seattle were enjoying possession but not getting much of a look at goal, with a deflected 55th minute Lodeiro effort the best they had to show for it. The Sounders kept the pressure on from the subsequent corner, with the Whitecaps unable to get the ball forward.
That led to Will Bruin running towards goal and playing the ball inside to Harry Shipp, who slipped but played the ball forward to Dempsey, and the Sounders dangerman curled a beauty from the top of the box past Marinovic to make it 1-0 Seattle.
The complexion of the game changed, but albeit only slightly. Vancouver knew they now definitely needed to score, and the away goal rule meant that they were only one strike from being ahead in the tie for the first time. The same as it was as the start of the match. It’s just you didn’t fancy the ‘Caps to get it.
There was still no major rush or need for panic from the Whitecaps. There was a definite increase in urgency from Vancouver though, with the ‘Caps taking the game to the Sounders far more than in the previous game and a half.
While a Vancouver goal would see them in the driving seat, a second for Seattle and you knew it was going to be game over. Dempsey tried to get it in the 72nd minute, firing over after a nice one-two with Lodeiro.
Dempsey had another effort, this time from a free kick, dangerously curl over with six minutes remaining, but he wasn’t to be denied a second and brilliantly finished a Victor Rodriguez ball to the back post in the 88th minute to secure Seattle’s win and kill Vancouver stone dead.
After the excitement and spark generated by Vancouver’s 5-0 rout of San Jose, it felt that the Whitecaps season ended with a giant flop. Again. Poor form to close out the regular season and flat performances in both matches against Seattle leave you with a sour taste in your mouth.
To have just one shot on target over both legs against Seattle is inexcusable. This was a squad that offered so much, but failed to deliver. The question that remains now is “what’s next”?
FINAL SCORE: Seattle Sounders 2 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps [Seattle win 2-0 on aggregate]
SEATTLE: Stefan Frei; Kelvin Leerdam, Roman Torres, Chad Marshall, Nouhou; Cristian Roldan, Nicolas Lodeiro, Harry Shipp (Victor Rodriguez 67), Clint Dempsey, Joevin Jones (Gustav Svensson 60); Will Bruin (Lamar Neagle 90+1) [Subs Not Used: Tyler Miller, Tony Alfaro, Jordy Delem, Henry Wingo]
VANCOUVER: Stefan Marinovic; Jake Nerwinski (Jordan Harvey 36), Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Marcel De Jong (Brek Shea 80); Aly Ghazal, Nosa Igiebor, Christian Bolanos, Yordy Reyna, Cristian Techera (Alphonso Davies 64); Fredy Montero [Subs Not Used: David Ousted, Tony Tchani, Nicolas Mezquida, Bernie Ibini]
On the match:
“First of all, congratulations to Seattle. They deservedly beat us over two legs. I said in the lead
up that it was going to come down to a mistake or a bit of quality, and in the first goal, I think we
got both – a mistake in clearance by us and the quality by Clint. You have to give them credit for
that. We just weren’t quite good enough to get over that hump and get to that next level, which
was the final of the Western Conference. Every player in there, every staff member in there,
deserve a lot of credit for the hard season they put on and I thank them very much.”
On if having one shot on target is acceptable:
“Well, it’s not acceptable because you need to put shots on goal and on target to score goals. We
got in some very good areas and we didn’t execute. That’s the difference between us and them
today. They had a number of shots on goal, on target, and obviously Clint pops up with two. As I
said, the better team won over the two legs.”
On if Seattle’s best players were better than Vancouver’s best players:
“Yes. You saw the two key players I put in the lineup today – it was a little bit risky I knew – with
[Cristian] Techera and Yordy [Reyna]. As a manager, you make gambles, and I gambled today
because on Sunday I wanted to be safe with them, but today we knew it could be our last game.
If the risk didn’t work today, their players come out on top. You have to give them a lot of credit,
but I won’t fault those guys in there – they worked their socks off for me.”
On if he put added pressure on his team by predicting a 1-0 win:
“No, because we wanted to try and win the game. I couldn’t say 1-nil to Seattle, could I? So I said
1-nil to us. If I would’ve said 4-nil, I would’ve put more pressure, which wouldn’t have happened
since we had one shot on target. We had confidence going into the game and the game panned
out exactly as I thought and conceding the goal changed it.”
On if he has any regrets with his strategy:
“No regrets whatsoever. Obviously we regret not winning the game, but as I said, we were beaten
by the better team over two legs. Sometimes you hold your hand up in futbol and that’s what I’ll
On if the team needs different players going forward:
“Yeah, look, we’ve come up a bit short. We managed to win the playoff game against San Jose,
which was great, but we’ve fallen short again this year. We know where we are. As I said, I won’t
fault the players in there. Sometimes you have to accept where you are in futbol and we know
where we are as a club, which is fine, but we did come up a little bit short. We’ll have to get our
thinking caps on. We’ll have to go back to the well and see what we can do because we need to
come back better next year. That’s a level we want to try and achieve.”
On how they can get to the next level:
“We just have to try and find better players. I believe we’re in a better place than we were two
years ago when we went out to Portland, who went on to win the MLS Cup. Better players make
you a better team. What’s the difference in the teams today? Quality. Clint steps up, but not just
Clint – they’ve got wonderful players. We’ve got really good players as well, but we were slightly
off it today.”
On the emotions in the locker room now after tonight’s loss:
“Obviously everybody is sad about the result, but I think we can’t doubt from here with our head
down. I think we have to feel proud of the season that we made this year, but obviously we have
things to improve on. This bad feeling has to help us to know what to do and take this experience
to help us next year. I think the club is developing in every area so hopefully we can improve
On on the team only having one shot tonight:
“We know that. It’s obvious [that it has to be better]. Now it is easy to talk about the game, what
we could have done or not done. Sometimes little details, little details change games. Now we
just have to look forward.”
On if the team played too conservative in the two legs:
No. I think we play very good defense…When we were attacking, we tried to do our best. Seattle
is a great team. They know how to manage the game, especially here at home. I think the
minimal chances that we created, we were not sharp enough. We just have to keep going.”
On where Clint Dempsey ranks in comparison to others you defend in MLS:
“Well he is a great player. He is a special guy that if you give him a minimum of space he can do
things like tonight. So, for me he is one of the best players in the MLS.”
On the feeling in the locker room after the loss:
“Pretty disappointing to be honest. We felt like we sold ourselves a little bit short, I felt in this last
game. We can take solace though, I think in our performance throughout the season leading up
to the end. Also the last two games we had at home. First feeling is disappointment.”
On Dempsey’s first goal:
“I can’t really remember exactly, I would have to look at it again, but I think I had a pretty good
look at it, but he just kind of curled it away from me in the top corner. So it was a good goal. But
still, no matter how a person scores I’m disappointed in myself. I am always asking myself if I
could have done more. I am not one hundred percent sure.”
On the offense:
“I felt we just didn’t click up front like we have before. I felt like we did have the space up front to
play. It just didn’t happen tonight. It is a question that the coaches will ask themselves after the
fact but I can’t really comment on it right now.”
On Nouhou’s performance and whether it was related Joevin Jones’ substitution:
“I don’t know why it would be, Joevin came off with a tight hamstring. So, it seems like it’s the end of a long year and guys are pulling up a little bit. Nouhou’s performance was very good. He’s a kid with tremendous upside, but he does have to work at his game. And we’ll make sure we try and progress him as we need to.”
On clutch performances from the team’s best players:
“[It matters] A lot. So, you had Nelson Valdez last year, who played many times for his country, score the goal to propels us, kind of get us past [Sporting Kansas City]. I think Nico [Lodeiro] in the Dallas series last year got us kind of going pretty good. Jordan Morris in Colorado, scoring the away goal. Big-time players make big-time plays, right? Tonight, you saw [Clint] Dempsey making some big plays. The first goal was a really good effort from distance, and the second was just his instincts inside the box. It certainly was a good play by Nico and Víctor [Rodríguez] to get the ball in quickly, even though some of us might have been saying slow it down. But those guys made the plays when they needed. Clint made the plays when he needed to.”
On Carl Robinson’s approach over the series:
“Well, I’m not going to comment directly on Carl’s tactics. But I will comment on the stuff, in general, that’s happened to us over the course of the season. There were games earlier in the year where teams would drop back and defend well and try and counter on us. I thought that gave us issues at the beginning of the year. I think over this two-legged series, with Vancouver playing to their strengths, we just needed to be very careful and very wary of [Yordy] Reyna and [Fredy] Montero getting out on break. So, I think we scouted them enough, we watched enough film, we kind of knew their tendencies, and we were just trying a little cat-and-mouse game of which team could come out on top because Carl knew our tactics, too. I mean, he kind of knew our tactics, too. So, I thought that was an interesting side note. But, I think again, to Geoff’s question, the players on the field made the plays. Our guys made the plays. I think Montero might have had a chance or two, but Dempsey came up tonight and made the two goals.”
On what went through his mind when the goals went in:
“After the first goal, we were busy trying to figure out what we were going to do next because one-nothing was actually a very dangerous lead for us. A very dangerous lead for us because any goal by them would have not just given them momentum, but given them a chance to come out with the aggregate victory. So, we were determined to try and figure out a solution to get the next goal. And then when the second goal went in, there was some relief because there wasn’t much time left on the clock, and certainly, I felt we could kill the game out.”
On how special of a player Clint Dempsey is:
“He’s worked hard at his craft for many years, starting when he was little kid and his mom and
dad took him to all of his games and all that sort of stuff. His finishing and his ability to just find
goals in moments is tremendous. Ever since he’s come here, he’s scored some pretty big goals
for this club. And obviously, you guys know the storyline behind him scoring big goals for his
country. So, we’re happy to have him, and tonight was one of was one of those textbook nights
where he shows up and does what he does best.”
On whether they changed defensive tactics at halftime:
“We tried to press them from the first minute, so if it didn’t really happen, that’s my bad. Maybe
when you get them in at halftime and you make little adjustments or you can poke a guy here and
say, ‘Hey, I need you do this,’ because you get an idea of how the game is manifesting itself. So,
that was some of it. Again, it comes down to the team. We’re talking a lot about Clint, but the rest
of the guys behind him – and in front of him because Will Bruin did a good job pressing high – all
of those guys deserve all the credit in the world because we needed to come out and press and
dictate tempo of the game, knowing that they’re a good counter team. So that was again a little
cat-and-mouse we had to play to make sure we were pressing high, trying to make attacking
movements, and then watching out for what was coming behind us.”
On managing the break between now and Western Conference finals:
“Well, I gave them the day off tomorrow. They can enjoy the victory, and then we’ll go back to
work. We’ll watch game film, we’ll do all of our normal stuff. We’ll try and get a couple of practice
games against some of the S2 guys that are around, and stuff like that. We’ll try to get them fit.
Obviously, the international guys are going to be gone. So, it will be a challenge. It’s a couple of
days more than what we had last year because this was a Thursday night kickoff instead of a
Sunday. But we’ll adjust, we’ll make do. I think the guys by the end of that next training session
will be really sick of us, and they’ll really be ready to play, so hopefully we can use that to our
On his contribution tonight:
“It felt good for us to get the win, move on. Our goal this year has been to repeat, so we kept that
alive and, you know, I look forward to the next game, the next challenge, but it felt good to get the
On coming back after the suspension:
“Regardless of suspension anytime you an come and help the team it feels good. But I’m not the
only one who helped our team today, we kept the shutout. Back line, midfield, the goalie played
well, it’s important for us to get a clean sheet.”
On the challenge of breaking down Vancouver:
“It was just getting possession. There were times in the game where we were losing the ball too
easily and you know letting them have more of the possession. But once we got more control of it
and kept better possession in the attacking third, we were able to get better looks in front of goal.
We just kept getting better and better looks and you know there could have been a few more.”
NICOLÁS LODEIRO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR)
On the patience of the team:
“From the first moments we showed that we were the team that wanted to win. There was only
one team out there that wanted to win and it was us. We got the goal first. We played patiently to
get the win.”
On playing a full season and reaching the Conference Finals:
“I feel much better after playing an entire season. I went from less to more. The league also got a
lot more competitive so I’m happy with the possibility of being back to the Final, and to show it
was not just luck last year.”
On what Rodríguez brought to the match:
“A lot of things. He played very well. He’s a great palyer. We need him a lot, so when he comes in
he helps a lot because we got the ball all game after he came in.”
On being able to open up Vancouver:
“The first 20 minutes or so we were a little impatient. You wanna come out and get that goal and
come out flying. I think for us you kind of saw the second half of the first leg. As the game wears
on there’s going to be gaps that open I think the key is to keep the ball. Make them move, make
them run. I think you have to trust that as you make them work the gaps are going to be bigger.
You’re going to get a goal.”
On the preference of having an open game:
“As an attacker you want an open game but you know you take what you can get. We knew
coming in that they were going to make it tough. It wasn’t a shock you come in expecting that. As
the game went on, as guys started to get more tired, eventually they are going to wear down.”
On the assist of the first goal:
“The ball came out from a free kick or corner. I won it and I saw that Cristian played in and I won
it, and Will [Bruin] kind of flicked it on and you know I was going to shoot at the last second I saw
Clint out of the corner of my eye and I got snipered right as I was hitting it on to him so thank
goodness I wasn’t planning on taking a shot myself, or else I would of looked pretty stupid. You
know whenever you see Clint in the box you wanna find him because he does what he did tonight.”
VÍCTOR RODRÍGUEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR)
On the overall feeling:
“Very happy. It’s easy for me to play with my teammates. I’m very happy for us and our fans,
thank you for your support, I’m very happy to go to the Conference Finals.”
On sitting out the first leg:
“It’s definitely frustrating to not be able to play when you’re not available and to be able to support
your teammates in the field. But of course I am very happy to be able to play some minutes and
achieve the ultimate goal which is to move on to the next round.”
On what Coach Schmetzer told him when coming into the match:
“He for sure wanted to keep possession because we were playing ahead but he wanted to make
sure they weren’t getting closer to our box and to take the game to their side.”