Well it’s finally all over. Any remaining hopes, however faint they were, of Vancouver Whitecaps making a miraculous great escape and reaching the postseason have been extinguished once and for all.
The ‘Caps put in a battling performance from start to finish, but it wasn’t to be enough as their ten men went down to a 2-1 loss to Cascadian rivals Seattle Sounders that officially eliminated them from playoff contention.
Pedro Morales fired Vancouver into a lead from the spot, only for Osvaldo Alonso tie things up and send the team into the break at one apiece. A straight red for Morales eight minutes into the second half changed the tide, and Brad Evans game winning penalty nine minutes from time finally done for the ‘Caps.
Carl Robinson went with the same team that drew 3-3 with Colorado last weekend, apart from the suspended Kendall Waston. Despite his midweek heroics, and Champions League Player of the Week nod, there was no place for Cristian Techera, with Alphonso Davies keeping his spot in the starting line-up for his first start in a Cascadian derby.
Davies was made welcome in the first minute with a crunching tackle, but it didn’t faze him one bit and he had a big part to play for the ‘Caps.
Vancouver controlled the early going, looking the far more hungry and dangerous team. The closest they came was in the 18th minute when Morales struck the outside of the left post with a low shot from the edge of the box.
The ‘Caps had pressed hard and they got they got the breakthrough their play deserved just past the midway point of the half.
Davies was giving Seattle sub Oneil Fisher a torrid time and was hauled down in the box after getting past him on the byeline in the 24th minute. A clear penalty, which Morales stepped up to put away with aplomb. 1-0 ‘Caps.
Davies nearly got the name on the scoresheet himself when he made room for himself in the box after collecting a Christian Bolanos ball. Stefan Frei could only parry his fierce shot but was able to pounce on the rebound.
Seattle finally sparked in to life and put some pressure on the Vancouver defence, without really threatening to get back on level terms, but they did just that from nowhere with six minutes of the half remaining when Alonso timed his run in to the box to perfection to put away a Joevin Jones cutback.
Jordan Harvey should have fired the ‘Caps back in front in first half stoppage time, but couldn’t connect properly on a Davies cross and the teams headed in level at 1-1.
Vancouver started the second half strongly, and Giles Barnes saw his header go narrowly to minutes in.
The half suddenly burst into life in the 53rd minute when Whitecaps captain Pedro Morales saw a straight red for an off the ball elbow on Cristian Roldan. It seemed innocuous on first impression, but far more cynical on replays, and worse from certain angles.
It’s a challenge that could come with a two game ban, and may be his last act in a Whitecaps jersey.
Vancouver still tried to press but couldn’t find a way through and their season finally fell apart with ten minutes remaining.
Harvey handled in the box and Brad Evans slotted home the winning goal from the spot.
As tempers rose Evans was to see a straight red card himself for aiming a head butt at David Edgar. Ridiculously stupid move from the veteran, both club captains in fact, as both were sent off.
It’s almost a relief in some ways that the pain of officially being eliminated is now at an end. Vancouver were just starting to hit some kind of stride over the last few weeks. But it was always going to be too little, too late.
Now comes the hard part. Rebuilding the side, eradicating what went wrong and making a better run for the crown next year. Can they do it? Can Robinson do it? We’ll find out.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 1 – 2 Seattle Sounders
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Jordan Smith (Blas Perez 76), Tim Parker, David Edgar, Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba (Nicolas Mezquida 82), Pedro Morales, Alphonso Davies, Christian Bolanos, Giles Barnes (Andrew Jacobson 66); Erik Hurtado [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Marcel de Jong, Cristian Techera, Masato Kudo]
SEATTLE: Stefan Frei; Tyrone Mears, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres, Joevin Jones; Osvaldo Alonso, Alvaro Fernandez (Oniel Fisher 9) (Brad Evans 65), Cristian Roldan, Erik Friberg (Nelson Valdez 79), Hercules Gomez; Jordan Morris [Subs Not Used: Tyler Miller, Zach Scott, Brad Evans, Aaron Kovar, Oalex Anderson]
On Pedro’s Red Card:
“I think at a key moment of the game, and it was a good game between two good teams, you have to be sure. You have to be 100% correct, and I just think that at that moment, the red card was issued within two seconds, three seconds. He didn’t give himself time to think because I think if you look back at it, you get that one wrong.”
Another frustrating game in a frustrating season?:
“It’s been a tough year, we know that. I can’t fault the guys’ effort and work. I really, really enjoyed watching them in the first 45 minutes. They played some excellent stuff. This year has been difficult for a number of reasons. The first 45 minutes probably summed it up. We were one goal ahead, we couldn’t get the second goal, which we probably deserved, and Seattle hung around and managed to get a goal from our mistake. We weren’t doing our jobs well enough defensively and we let them back in the game, and when you let good teams back in the game then they can hurt you, and that’s what they did.”
Are red cards and bad refereeing decisions spoiling MLS, especially in front of a national TV audience?:
“Shocking. Shocking. I said to Ricardo [Salazar], the ref, after the game, last year we played NYCFC on TV and in the last minute there was a penalty on the edge of the box against Matias Laba. You have to be right. I don’t think either were red cards. Shocking.”
The result eliminates Whitecaps from playoff contention. Some thoughts on that and does it hurt more that a local rival ended their hopes?
“[I’m] disappointed because we were unable to carry on from last year. I’m honest enough, the club is an honest club, I’m an honest manager, my players are an honest group of lads as well, we haven’t been good enough. Not just one game, we haven’t been good enough generally across the board. We have to accept that and take responsibility for that, and I will. But I’ll get back to work and I’ll work even harder to try and find out the solutions to the problems that I faced this year. Whether it’s scoring goals, conceding goals, too many red cards, curb down on that, that’s my job to do. I’ll do it.”
How does he approach final two games of the season with nothing to play for? Does he play youth or give guys a chance to show they deserve to be here next season?:
“Well there are some guys that probably deserve a chance and they will get a chance the last two games. But what I will do, we’ll do things correctly. We’re against two teams that are still fighting for their lives and out of respect to all the other organizations, the teams, we wouldn’t do ourselves any justice if we just went in to it, willy nilly. I won’t do that. We’ll go in to try and win those two games and we want to finish the season on a high against San Jose and Portland. But there will be players that get the opportunities to play the next two games.”
On fans losing connection with club and league after a season like this:
“[The fans] have my assurance that I will working even harder in the offseason to try and find players that are able to help and help us get to the next level, of getting a playoff place next year. I can’t answer for the other things in relation to the Disciplinary Committee and refereeing. That’s not my job. If I do, I lose more money. I lost my money this year when I got sent off when I shouldn’t have been. I’m hurting [with the fans] because it’s not nice when your season’s over. Our season’s over because we’re unable to get to the playoffs. There is some positives, but right now people will think about the negatives, and rightly so. That’s my responsibility and I’ll take that. Just got to work even harder, and I’ll do that.”
On the play of Alphonso Davies:
“He was good to watch, wasn’t he, he really was. He played very free. I think he got tired after an hour and then he started making some wrong decisions and things like that, but he was very enjoyable to watch. He caused all sorts of problems for a really good Seattle team. We know they’ve got quality. We knew it was going to be a tough game. They showed the depth of the squad that they’ve got and that’s something that we’re trying to build and we’ve got to aim for in the medium and long term as well. So credit to them for the victory, Obviously disappointed with the result, but not with the performance. Things didn’t go our way again.”
Could that be Pedro’s last action as a Whitecap?
“With all players, obviously now we’ll make to decisions, I’ll have to make decisions on players moving forward that I think can try and get us to the next level. Not just Pedro, there are a number of other players. If you talk about the first 45 minutes, everything was great. If you talk about the second 45 is disappointing. I don’t think now is the time to talk about Pedro or any other player because they’re all disappointed in there. Again, I will not fault their effort or determination or the way they played today.”
Thoughts on the match:
“[It was] disappointing not to go in one or two up, to be honest. Not a very good goal to give away, in terms of [us being] totally on top. And then some decisions in the second half didn’t go our way, and it changes games.”
On what he saw on Pedro’s red card:
“I saw absolutely nothing. I didn’t see a reaction from their team, I didn’t see a reaction from our team, I didn’t even see the boy on the ground – if he was on the ground. I haven’t seen it back, I’ll have to look at it and see from there.”
On what happened with Brad Evans:
“He thought I pulled him down for a penalty, I told him to get up, and he took whatever to it. He put his head towards me and I didn’t react. The referee was waiting to send someone off there, and it wasn’t going to be me.”
On this game being fitting of the season:
“I think it totally sums it up in terms of the decisions and the – you can’t say luck because I believe we create our own luck – things just didn’t go our way. It was totally frustrating.”
On if red card decisions deflate a player:
“Massively. I mean it’s 22 men out there, in a derby, let the game play. That’s what I think. There was tackles going in, there was headers. Then to see a straight red, from what I saw was out of nowhere. But again, I haven’t seen it back.”
On what it does to the psyche of players:
“Well that’s two games on the spin now where we’ve had to come back from [having] 10 men, and play with 10 men for a long stint of the game, and it’s deflating. I mean you want to keep all your players on the pitch, and that’s our captain that’s been sent off. I think we’re totally in the game, the penalty comes in after that and we’re under the cosh. Like you say, it is deflating.”
On officiating being different than in England:
“It’s massively different. I’m going to have to, sort of, keep my temper in check. But you’re just going to have to get on with the decisions because they’re going to be made, good or bad. As I’ve grown older I’ve learned to deal with it better, but when some of them are bad you don’t know what to do.”
On the last two games:
“We’re not going to go out with a whimper. We’re going to have to go out and show that we’re building something for next season now. There shouldn’t be any pressure on people’s shoulders [now], if people were feeling pressure. Just go out there and show these fans what they’re coming to watch next season, because I feel they deserve it and as a club we deserve it.”
On if this match sums up the season:
“It’s a microcosm of what this season has been. Lot of effort put in there. Not able to capitalize on our good periods, and some calls at key moments that have gone against us. I haven’t seen them in slow motion yet, but I believe again we get a bad call today. But that’s how it is. At the end of the day, we’re not looking for excuses. We haven’t been good enough.”
On his reaction after the match:
“I was devastated because I knew it meant we weren’t going to be in the playoffs. I was devastated for this team, for this club, but especially for the fans. It’s been a lot of heartbreak for all of us this year, especially for the fans. They’ve turned out every time and supported us, and I’m gutted for them that we weren’t able to perform to our levels this year and give them what they deserve.”
On not having 11 versus 11 for 90 minutes:
“It’s really annoying that we’re not able to go up against the other team 11v11 and simply go toe-to-toe. I think when we went toe-to-toe with them today, especially in the first half, we were the better team. But decisions like that just influence the game in a way that you don’t have any influence on. Unfortunately today I think it changed the game for us.”
On the final two matches:
“In my world we go in and try to give these fans what they want – wins. We need to approach it in the same sense that we would if we were right on the cusp. I want to go win. I want to go and give the fans what they deserve in these last two games, and that’s victories.”
On if this was how he drew it up:
“There was a lot of deviations. The unfortunate thing was Andreas did something in training yesterday, he couldn’t quite overcome it. He wanted to play, but we decided that against the team tonight we needed all the players to be at 100 per cent. Then you know Flaco’s [Alvaro Fernandez] unfortunate hamstring strain, that set us back a little bit, but a win is a win. The guys are in a good mood, good spirits and again credit to them, they found a way to win after taking the first goal.”
On the 19 minutes played by Brad Evans:
“Well we haven’t looked at the film yet as far as the red card is concerned, but Brad scored the winning goal, so that’s success. He came on the field and they were down a guy so actually it was a good way to kind of ease Brad back into the mix, but credit to him, he’s taken a lot of penalties for us under pressure situations, this was a pressure situation, and credit to Brad for coming through.”
On playing without Lodeiro and Ivanschitz:
“Well the overall team concept which we’ve been preaching for a long time now, just shows that it can work. I told the guys before the game that it didn’t matter to me if Lodeiro is gone, Dempsey is gone. Guys have step up, guys just have to come in and do their jobs. So what you saw today was a guy like Herculez Gomez who came in today and did a really nice job. You saw Erik Friberg, who hadn’t started in quite some time come in and do a really nice job. He had Ozzie [Osvaldo Alonso] and Cristian [Roldan], again you’re looking at that last run that Cristian makes in towards the corner flag when Perez has to chase him 60 yards and get fouled, I mean those guys know how to play. And yes we missed Clint and yes we missed Nico, but again they’re strong enough as a group that they found a way to win.”
On the end of the first half:
“They took it to us those last 10 to 15 of the first half, I think they were on top of us. What we had started the game with was a 4-1-4-1 [formation], and then at halftime we switched back to our 4-2-3-1. That seemed to settle us down a little bit. It helped us, I think we’re just a little bit more comfortable playing that way. So in that sense the matchups that we tried to do in the beginning of the game, we pushed those aside and just said hey look let’s just play how we want to play, and I think that helped.”
On if red cards hurt the selling of the game:
“That might be a topic for a different day, but I’ll answer it as briefly and succinctly as I can. The game is the game, and things happen. Referees don’t have an easy job. It is a physical game, guys get heated. I just think the referees don’t want to make the game uneven, don’t want to call it, but if it’s there then they have to. Then after the game is over, then people can dissect was it a red, was it not a red. Yes it took some of the sting out of the Whitecaps, for sure. But as far as we’re concerned, we just take what the game gives us and we control ourselves and our team and we leave the referees, the field conditions. We just play.”
On being in fourth with three games left:
“We’re going to enjoy tonight, because it was a hard fought match at the end of a massive week for our club. So we’re going to enjoy this moment, and then we’re going to work on Houston, and all of our focus will go to Houston. When that game is put to bed, then we’ll focus on the next match in Dallas. But we have to – same old coachs’ story – we’re going to take each game, one game at a time. Where we end up in the standings will take care of itself if we keep playing like this and continue to have the resolve to play like this.”
On the turnaround since he took over:
“I’ve been pretty consistent with the story of, I’ve given them ownership of the team. That is something that they believe in. I’ve gotten traction with that. Even when we go down a goal here, or in LA, they still feel they have the belief in themselves and in their teammates that they can come back and make games competitive. Instilling that belief in the group, I can say it wasn’t that difficult because it’s a proud group in there, it’s a bunch of competitive guys in there. From the Brad Evans tonight, from Ozzie tonight – who’s been a tremendous captain for me –Chad Marshalls – good pro – [and] Stefan Frei, who had another big performance tonight. We had some guys who came on the field tonight who were dinged up, and they did their job. Joevin Jones has been playing great on a broken toe. So I think the whole group mentality is a testament to us playing well in these situations.”
Thoughts on the match:
“Another hard fought win. Third game in eight days for the boys, two on the road, one at home [and] we come up with nine points. I can’t say enough about the guys. It’s difficult, it’s only been a couple of times in club history, so I’d say it was extremely successful.”
On the penalty kick:
“I saw him go to the bench, I didn’t know if he was asking which way I normally go and wanted some insight, so I changed it at the last second and went the other way. He dove where I normally go. I saw him move a little bit early and just picked a different corner and put it away.”
On the red card:
“Corner kick comes in, Edgar’s pulling me back, it’s definitely a PK. So I get up, he says it’s not, he leans in and puts his head on mine. If you look at the replay and my mouth I said “you can’t do that”, I give him a head gesture, never made contact with him – if I had made contact with him, I think the whole stadium would have absolutely freaked out, he would have gone down in heaps. But he doesn’t, he barely even turns around and asks for a red card, and sure enough Salazar brings a card out of his pocket.”
On if he hopes it gets rescinded:
“Of course. There’s no blood, there’s no foul. The replay that I saw was exactly what I thought, so it is what it is at this point.”
Thoughts on the match:
“No matter how you paint it, how you get it done, it’s a huge help for us the way everything has gone our way this weekend. So proud of the performance from the boys and outstanding performance from everybody. We went down a goal and you can hang your head, or you can get back up and keep fighting and that’s what we did.”
On three wins in eight days:
“Sometimes it’s best to just keep that momentum going. You don’t want to stop, and you don’t want that bye week I guess. We want to keep that good play going. I think everybody here knows what we’re fighting for. Nobody here believed we were the worst team when we were in that slump, and nobody here thinks we’re the best team now. We’re even-keeled and we just want to do our job.”
On his personal performance:
“I felt fine. It’s all about opportunities and being ready for these opportunities. I found out pretty close to game time that I was actually a possibility and I was chomping at the bit for it so I’m just happy that I could help the team.”