Well, they’re officially in.
Vancouver Whitecaps have made hard work of it in recent weeks but Wednesday’s night’s 0-0 home draw with FC Dallas finally secured their second successive place in the playoffs.
How far they’ll go now that they are there looks very much to be dependent on two factors – health and finishing.
Injuries, suspensions and international duty had hit the ‘Caps hard heading into this one, further injuries to Cristian Techera and Mauro Rosales have now left Vancouver down to the bare bones at the worst possible time.
These attacking absences, along with the continuing inability to put the ball in the back of the net, could prove to be Cap killers if both things don’t turn around sharpish.
With a real danger of falling out of the top four places in the West, meaning missing out not only on a first round bye but also a guaranteed home playoff game, Vancouver’s season appears to be unravelling faster than a ball of string with an overactive cat.
Strange to have so much doom and gloom after clinching a playoff place, but that’s the stark reality in Whitecapsland right now. Two wins to close out the regular season though, and that’s all turned on its head again.
REPORT (by Steve Pandher):
For the third straight match, Vancouver Whitecaps were unable to secure a win at BC Place as they played to a playoff clinching 0-0 draw with FC Dallas.
David Ousted picked up his 12th clean sheet of the season, while Jesse Gonzalez earned his third in eight career starts.
It was Gonzalez who was put to work first as he was able to smother a header from Octavio Rivero in the seventh minute. A few minutes later Pa-Modou Kah saw his goalbound header, off a Rosales corner, cleared away.
David Ousted made his first stop before the 20th minute when FC Dallas had a counterattack ending with a quick shot by Mauro Diaz. He was tested again less than five minutes later when Ryan Hollingshead came free on the right side forcing Ousted to parry the shot over the bar.
Ten minutes into the second half Canadian Tesho Akindele broke free on goal but feeling the pressure from defenders gaining on him took a shot from outside the box which was easily saved by Ousted.
The keeper came up huge again minutes later when David Texeira gathered a cross in the box and spun around trying to catch Ousted off guard only to be denied.
The Whitecaps had their best chance come in the 74th minute as Mauro Rosales made a great run and then pass to Cristian Techera. Unfortunately a poor touch put Techera offline and then his shot sailed way over the net. Making matters worse, the Uruguayan soon limped off with a hamstring injury.
Just as it looked both side would be settling for a draw Cap killer Blas Perez walked through the midfield and backline, into the box, just missing the net by inches.
The draw gives the Whitecaps 50 points for the second straight season and clinches a playoff spot with two matches to go in the season. Having gained a spot in the postseason, the Caps will now try to hold onto a top four spot in order to guarantee to host a playoff game.
They have a week to get prepared, and their players fit, for the return match with FC Dallas next Wednesday in Texas somewhere they have yet to win in MLS.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 0 – 0 FC Dallas
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Jordan Smith, Tim Parker, Pa-Modou Kah, Jordan Harvey; Matías Laba (Gershon Koffie 89), Russell Teibert; Cristian Techera (Darren Mattocks 75), Mauro Rosales (Robert Earnshaw 86), Kekuta Manneh; Octavio Rivero [Substitutes not used: Paolo Tornaghi, Diego Rodriguez, Deybi Flores, Christian Dean]
DALLAS: Jesse Gonzalez; Ryan Hollingshead, Zach Lloyd, Matt Hedges, Je-Vaughn Watson; Victor Ulloa, Kellyn Acosta (Ezequiel Cirigliano 69); Tesho Akindele, Mauro Diaz (Atiba Harris 88), Michael Barrios; 9.David Texeira (Blas Perez 83) [Substitutes not used: Dan Kennedy, Rolando Escobar, Walker Zimmerman, Michel]
On whether he is happy with today’s performance:
“I’m happy we’re in the playoffs. I think its credit to every single player in there and staff member. We managed to get into a very tough, competitive Western Conference with two games to go. Performance, I think we need to be better. We can be better. It’s probably one of our okay games of the season, so we’ll accept that.”
On how difficult it is to break down teams like Dallas:
“Very hard. They are a very good team. I think the two teams, the two organizations are pretty similar in a lot of aspects. They were happy to soak up the pressure and they did it very well, and trying to catch us on the counter. You know, when we hit the cross bar in the first five, 10 minutes and we have a goal line clearance and it doesn’t go in, you just hope it doesn’t come back to haunt us. In the last minute, we could have lost it. It was one of those games, end to end, great to watch, nail biting stuff. Point to point.”
On concern that the team peaked in the summer:
“I’m sure you’ll say that and you will write that, which is fine. But no, I’ve got Jordan Harvey who became a father today, him and Kim, special moment for him, 9:30 this morning. I hope he doesn’t mind me telling you, but he had three hours sleep. He wants to play today, to help the club and help the team. I’ve got Pa-Modou Kah, whose groin is hanging off him, but wanted to play through the pain. I’ve got Octavio who has a sore Achilles. I’ve got great character in there, so we know we can be better, myself included. I always include myself in that. We’re in, so we just have to refocus now. We’ll set different targets and we’ll move on.”
On what Techera’s injury was:
“Hamstring. I don’t know exactly what it is. Mauro’s groin, so it’s going to be a tough one. We are down to the bare bones as they say. But, listen, we’ll deal with it.”
On whether this is just a bad stretch:
“I don’t know what you want me to say other than we’ll keep working at it, we’ll keep trying to put the ball in the net. We didn’t do it tonight and I can’t say I’m super mad. Maybe I can say, ‘No, not good enough’, but I never say that about my group. They were fantastic. We didn’t score, we didn’t score. If you don’t score, you’re not going to win games and I think that’s the last two or three games. But if you don’t score when you’re not going into the playoffs in form, you’ve got two games. Let’s refocus, we’ll be fine.”
Thoughts on David Ousted’s performance:
“He was great. Last week I’m sure people were criticising him for the mistake he had and he held his hand up. As I said, character guys in that locker room and he bounced back today and has made some fantastic saves, showed a lot of composure. Because it’s easy to buckle when things go against your people, say negative things about you, but he doesn’t do that. He had a very good game.”
On whether his approach changes in terms of away match in Dallas:
“We’ve not got a brilliant record in Dallas, I think that’s saying it politely. It’s a game of football, we’ve achieved a lot of firsts this year and we’ll try and achieve one there next week when we go. But whoever is fit to play, will play, no doubt. We’ll go there and give it our best shot.”
What would finishing outside of the top two do for side’s confidence now?:
“Nothing at all. There’s going to be a very good team that misses out in the Western Conference. If you miss out then obviously you’ll be disappointed. I would have been disappointed, but we’re not going to miss out. We’re in the mix, which is all you can ask for to start with. Ideally we want a home playoff game, but so do nine other teams. It is what it is.
“We’ll brush ourselves down, we’ll regroup. We’re disappointed today after clinching a spot in the playoffs, which is a phenomenal achievement I have to say for the club and how far we’ve come. But we know we can be better. Everyone from top to bottom.”
On it being a missed opportunity:
“A little bit. I think it says all about this team. We’re in the playoffs, but we’re disappointed because we wanted to win this. I think it’s a good sign that this team is disappointed at not winning at home and there’s still more to come from us. We need to find that these last couple of games and going into the playoffs.”
On pushing forward with players missing:
“It’s tough right now. A lot of people are dropping and getting niggles and injuries. It’s definitely tough, it would be for any team having guys like [Cristian] Techera, Pedro Morales, and then [Mauro] Rosales injured. It’s no excuse. Like I said before, the guys coming in just need to step up. They’re here for a reason, they’re here because they’re good enough to be here and they get their chance now.”
On his own performance:
“It was good. I said all along that last week was what happens sometimes, you make mistakes, but it was back to my high standards and that was nice.”
On making the playoffs:
“It says everything. What is it, five, six [points] to number one [separating from] four, five, six? It’s so tight this year and we know that we need to win a couple more games to put ourselves in a good position coming into the playoffs. We’ll see where we end up next Wednesday and at the end.”
On the birth of his first child this morning:
“Amazing experience. Perspective changes quite a bit after something like that. Coming into this game, I was just enjoying every moment.”
On playing today:
“I felt good, I had some energy. I hope it showed, I worked as hard as I could.”
On making the playoffs:
“It’s great. This group has really worked hard throughout the full course of the season. To do it like this, you know this organization is progressing year in and year out. I’m happy to be a part of it since the first year. I’m proud of the guys, we really fought hard tonight. We didn’t play as well as we could’ve, but I thought we did really well. We go to a hard place next week and hopefully we can build some momentum going into the playoffs.”
On the target with two games remaining:
“Win two games, that’s the target. Winning games is always the target.”
Thoughts on the match:
“Very tactical tonight. For us it was important to grow, so we can have a good performance like this one. That’s going to be how it has to be in the next month. We are happy, we think we had a good soccer performance but especially the tactical behaviour of the team was outstanding.”
Thoughts on the two teams being very even:
“We are. We are very similar. We have a young squad and players with a lot of energy. At the same time we are an ongoing process. It’s a very similar team. Today we ended up with a point, which could have been three with a couple options that we had. Also I have to give respect to Carl Robinson who is doing an excellent job here.”
Thoughts on moving forward and being top of the table:
“We need to keep growing. The teams are not going to get any easier from now on. Coming to this place and getting a good result and a clean sheet is important for our confidence and our defence. It’s going to be hard, but I see my team growing.”
Thoughts on goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez:
“As you can see today is another clean sheet for him in a very important game. A game that means a lot for both teams. He is like the team, he is growing. He is a young man that is working his way into the big game and today he made great strides forward.”
On tactics next going into the next game:
“It’s not going to be the same. I am pretty sure it is going to be different. We’re at home, we are going to get those points. We need those points. But Vancouver has a tremendous side and they are going to make it very difficult. I have a lot of respect for them.”
Thoughts on how to achieve success in the playoffs:
“Performances like this one, where we can go away and get points, get a clean sheet and look solid in the back and create chances. Leaving with the feeling that we even could have gotten three points. Those performances will make us stronger in the playoffs.”
Thoughts on the match:
“We played really well. One of our best away performances of the year. Defensively, we eliminated chances. One header off the crossbar. But other than that we played as a unit extremely well.”
On relationship with his goalkeeper:
“He’s growing every game and gaining confidence. The more we can help him out in being organized and being solid, the better he’ll get every game.”
Thoughts on potentially becoming a Canadian citizen:
“Not really. It was a light-hearted conversation I was having with Tesho on the bus. Somebody heard it and told probably you guys, I don’t know who it was. I haven’t really looked into it that much if I would even be eligible. I was just joking around on the bus, but you never know.”
Thoughts on top spot:
“It’s huge. The first two spots get a bye. That’s a good opportunity for those two teams to get to play a team that comes off a game or two. So it’s really important for us to get one of those top spots and get our rest for the playoffs.”
On stopping Vancouver offensively:
“Limit the counterattacks is something we have struggled with doing the last couple times we played here. It’s something Vancouver is extremely good at. They have quick guys so we tried to stay really organized in our attacking and what was key to limit their chances.”
On what to improve for MLS playoffs:
“We have to work on our finishing. I think today we played great defence and had a couple of opportunities to score, myself included, but we didn’t put them away and that is something we have to do if we want to win the cup.”
Thoughts on coming back to BC Place to play Honduras:
“It’s going to be really exciting. It’s going to be a chance for the West Coast to see the team, obviously we always play in Toronto. I think it’s good for the fan base and good for the team”
On being the underdog with Canada against Honduras:
“We just have to believe in ourselves. Obviously it’s a tough group, but so are the other two groups. I don’t think we have it any harder than anybody else.”
On team dynamic with Canada:
“We have a lot of good players. Especially young players like Cyle, who is going to be the Rookie of the Year and just beat the goalscoring record. Players like Russell Teibert out here. We just have so many young players that I see a bright future ahead.”