REPORT (by Steve Pandher)
Despite the desperate need for three points, Vancouver Whitecaps had to battle back with ten men and settle for the 3-3 draw against Colorado Rapids at BC Place on Saturday afternoon.
It took the visitors less than eight minutes to open the scoring when Sam Cronin lobbed the ball over the backline to Marlon Hairston who sidestepped a charging David Ousted to square it to Dominique Badji for the easy tap in.
The ‘Caps showed very little spark for the remainder of the first half but were able to even the match up six minutes into the second half when Kendall Waston converted a Christian Bolanos corner, rising unchallenged and heading the ball past Tim Howard.
That scoreline only lasted moments when Waston was caught up the field and was forced to take down a streaking Badji, earning the defender an early exit to the showers while gifting the lead to the Rapids, when Shkelzen Gashi converted from the penalty spot.
Pedro Morales would tie it up for the ten men of Vancouver with his seventh of the season, and first since May, when he converted a Giles Barnes pass eight yards from goal to give the ‘Caps some hopes of a famous victory, but it wasn’t to last long.
Once again it only took a few minutes for the ‘Caps to fall behind for a third time in the match when Gashi converted a stunning free kick from about 30 yards, as the Rapids took the lead with less than 15 to play.
As injury time wound down it looked as though the Whitecaps would come up empty, but with less than 30 seconds to go Jordan Harvey sent a cross into the six yard area where Erik Hurtado headed the ball off the bar and into the net, salvaging a point for the home side, but in terms of their playoff aspirations, it was far too little, far too late.
Seattle are next up in MLS action next Sunday, with Cascadia Cup points on the line, but before Vancouver will host Central FC on Wednesday in CONCACAF Champions League Play.
There’s a lot of soul searching to be done for this Whitecaps squad. The playoffs are gone, but they can still finish their Champions League group with maximum points, grabbing the top seeding they seek, and regain the Cascadia Cup. It’s not all that was hoped but at least it’s something. But this club needs a complete overhaul and some key additions if they are to challenge for the playoffs in 12 months time.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 3 Colorado Rapids 3
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Jordan Smith (Tim Parker 59), David Edgar, Kendall Waston, Jordan Harvey; Christian Bolaños (Andrew Jacobson 64), Matías Laba (Nicolás Mezquida 84), Pedro Morales, Alphonso Davies; Giles Barnes, Erik Hurtado [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Masato Kudo, Cristian Techera, Blas Pérez]
COLORADO: Tim Howard; Jared Watts, Marc Burch, Axel Sjoberg, Eric Miller; Marlon Hairston (Sebastien LeToux 81), Dillon Powers (Marco Pappa 86); Shkelzen Gashi (Mekeil Williams 89), Michael Azira, Sam Cronin; Dominique Badji [Subs Not Used: Zac MacMath, Zach Pfeffer, Dennis Castillo, Caleb Calvert]
Thoughts on the match:
“One word would be wow. That just sums us up, our season, totally up. First half not good enough, not acceptable. I let the players know that at halftime I thought we were well off the pace. They deserved to be ahead, even though it was a shocking goal, miscommunication. It has happened a number of times this year. We altered one or two things in the second half. The positives I’ll take out of it is that they showed tremendous fight, spirit, heart, but made two mistakes again, which cost us. We had an uphill mountain to climb and we did, and we get back in it in the last minute. But a lot of positives in the second half, but we’ve thrown two points away. We know that.”
On satisfaction of the fight with ten men:
“It does, especially from certain personal. That’s happened a couple of times this year. Every time we’ve gone down to ten men, for some unknown reason we tend to concentrate more, make smarter decisions, make the right decisions, and work harder. And that should never happen. If we had that level in the first half, then we would have been ahead, but we weren’t. So credit to the guys in the second half and the subs that come on, they gave us a lift and I think it’s clear for everyone to see who those persons are.”
On Alphonso Davies first MLS start:
“Alphonso deserved to play, he deserved his chance because he was very good in Kansas. He was very good off the bench in Seattle. Again, I’ve got no worries whatsoever by throwing a young kid in. He deserves a chance, forget about the age. I think he showed you what he’s all about today with his performance. It was enjoyable to watch. He was gliding with the ball and he made wrong decisions, but senior players make wrong decisions. He had an enjoyment in his play, which sort of probably carried us through the first half. Because he was one of maybe one or two shining lights in the first half. But he kept going at the end, he’s covering back, he’s running for his teammates, he’s tackling, which is an important part. So he had a great performance for someone so young.”
Why no urgency in the first 45 minutes in a must-win game?
“Those questions I’ve got to somehow try and find the answer to. Prior to this game we’ve been very good performance-wise but he haven’t got the results we needed. We’re at the stage of the season where we needed to win this game to have a slight chance of qualifying for the playoffs. I said that to the players. Don’t be fearful. Enjoy it. You want to play in big games, pressure games, and there was a bit of pressure in this game because if we didn’t get the three points then we’re likely to miss out on the playoffs, barring some results. We didn’t respond in the right way in the first half. We didn’t show enough personality in our play, and that’s something me and my staff, we’re going to have a lot of work to do in the offseason, because we need personality in our play. We showed guts and heart and fight in the second half from people, which I know that we’ve got, but it’s fine lines this game and it sums up our season pretty well.”
What now? Play the youth or should seniors play for their places?
“I’ve said that to them over the last six week. I found out a lot about my players today. A lot of good things as well from certain people and a lot of not so good things. I’ll keep that in-house but there will be different players getting an opportunity to play. We’ve got two massive home games left. Two derby games, which are great to play in. The supporters were brilliant today. They were very good at half time. I don’t know why because we weren’t good enough. That’s credit to them. They don’t say nothing after those 45 minutes but [my team] responded in the second half and in the end I think we gave them something to shout about but we can’t talk about 45 minutes of football. The game’s about 90 minutes.”
On how it’s been the season more than this one games that’s cost the Whitecaps a playoff place”
“The game’s about 34 games a season. It’s not today that if we don’t qualify for the playoffs it’s about today. It’s about the Montreal at home game, the New York at home game, the New England at home game. It’s about the Colorado first game in the last minute. Those are the games where we’ve thrown it away and we’ve done it consistently on the wrong side of it. So we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ll do that work, but there’s a lot of positive from some of the players in there that want to be at this football club. “
Thoughts on the match:
“We came out in the second half and we were down a goal. We fought back and got a goal, came back and got another goal, fought back and got another goal. So that just shows what we’re capable of as a team against a top team in Colorado. So we’ve got to take that as a positive and hopefully things work out.”
On the poor start:
“I don’t know. We weren’t there in the first half and it’s unacceptable. We’ve just got to go back and look at it, why we didn’t come out. But it’s unacceptable.”
On the fight of the team:
“Great fight in the team coming back. Never give up until the last second, and that’s what we did.”
On moving forward:
“We’ve got a game on Wednesday, CONCACAF Champions League. We’ve got to take care of business there and get all four wins in the group. And then we have a big game against Seattle, rivalry game, Cascadia Cup game against Seattle next weekend.”
On how big the remaining games are:
“Huge games. Every game is a big game. Again, season is on the line, so we’ve just got to go out and keep that in mind.”
On lack of complete team performance:
“We’ve just got to say that we haven’t been good enough this year. This game is a testament to that. We let in three goals again tonight, we do well to come back and score, but the whole thing is a little bit of a mess – nothing really working our way.”
On the first half performance:
“I can’t explain it. I wish I could. It’s not good enough, simple as that. I thought what we showed in the first 45 minutes is a disgrace by the players. I feel sick to my stomach that we performed that way in front of the home crowd that way for 45 [minutes].”
On the first goal:
“Hindsight is 20-20. He’s suddenly coming over the top on a long ball – we get done by two long balls today. I see it and come out and hopefully pressure him, he takes a touch behind me and I just try to, well head it away to be honest with you. I can always stay on my line, give myself a chance to make a save, but again, guys coming through along and I try to do it. Maybe it wasn’t the right decision.”
On the fight shown by the team being impressive:
“It is. But again, it’s a microcosm of this season. We’ve left ourselves in holes and had to dig ourselves out. Today we do well of digging ourselves out, and did really well in the last 45 [minutes] of showing a lot of fight, especially after going down to 10 men. But again, it’s not good enough that we have to wait 45 minutes to get started. It’s simply isn’t.”
On a point gained or two points lost in an entertaining match:
“I don’t think it was entertaining at all. I think we dropped two points. I think we had this game under control. Unfortunately, one of the things we take most pride in is defense, it let us down today.”
On learning from this result:
“I think it just leaves a sour taste in your mouth as you prepare for the game against Portland next week.”
On conceding five goals in two games at BC Place this season, and the reasons:
“Nothing that I can pick out off top of my head, other than that they have good attacking players. Good attacking players get in good spots to create good opportunities and score goals.”
On the performance and result:
“It’s definitely been the toughest result we’ve taken all year. Again, I think we played some fantastic stuff tonight, we really did, and I think coming to a place that’s very difficult to play, I think. Again, Gashi was fantastic, we had some good attacking play today, but the one thing that we pride ourselves in is being difficult to play against, and tonight against 10 men we were poor.”
On still trying to win the Supporters Shield:
“The only way to get to the Supporters Shield is to play every game. So preparation starts today for Portland, and that’s where you go. You can’t jump to the end of the season, we’ve got to play every single game. You’ve got to try to maximize points in every single game. So now, it’s not about looking ahead, it’s about doing the job that’s at hand, and tomorrow we start preparations for Portland.”
On not coming away with the three points:
“Today we weren’t good enough. We took the lead three times and played with 11 men versus 10. We deserved to win but we didn’t get it right on too many critical plays.”
Adapting to a young back line:
“These guys are good. The backline, there’s enough experience there and I’ve got a good rapport with them. It’s been fine.”
On giving up five goals at BC Place this season:
“No, it’s nothing about this place. We were just a little bit sloppy that’s all.”
On Tim Howard walking off the field immediately in frustration:
“I don’t blame him. I think we could have done a better job to close down the game. We were in control of the game, but we just didn’t close it down, so I don’t blame him to walk off the field.”
On bouncing back:
“We can’t change what happened now, we just need to move on to the next one. We can’t cry for the spilled milk, we just have to be ready for the next one.”
On playing against 10 men being more difficult:
“Not really. Usually when a team is down to 10 men they give more, but the game was in our hands. We were supposed to do much better than that to close down the game, we just didn’t do that and we weren’t good enough to close down the game.”
On still trying to finish top two and get a first round bye in the playoffs:
“You always need that bye, when you qualify for the playoffs. You need that bye just to regroup and everyone, in case there’s some injuries, everyone just to be ready for the Conference semi-finals.”
On not closing out the match with Vancouver down to 10 men:
“We weren’t very good at the very end on both sides of the ball. We had possession but we kind of gave it away cheaply, gave them a shot to get back into the game. All they needed was the right bounce and they were really pushing for it, and they got a few right bounces at the end. We just weren’t sharp enough defensively and we weren’t smart enough when we had the ball.”
On if Vancouver scoring was due to the game opening up:
“No, not really. It opened up a lot, but we were just not good enough when we had the ball. There were spells where we did well, but ultimately we gave the ball away too cheaply when we were up a goal and a man. We’ve just got to do better and kill off the game better, and be smarter with our possession and our decisions both when we have the ball and when we don’t.”
On bouncing back next week against Portland:
“You know we’ll take today and tomorrow when we fly home and we’ll just reset, and then we’ll come back Tuesday and we’ll just have to have a new mindset. It’s a new game next week and three points is still up for grabs. We’ve still got a long way to go, or a few more games to go in the season, and we’ll have playoffs after that hopefully. We’ve just got to find a way to mentally reset, but it’s just really tough now.”