The Vancouver Whitecaps became the first Canadian team to qualify for MLS playoffs on Sunday when their Cascadia Cup rival the Seattle Sounders did them a massive favour by beating FC Dallas 3–1 after they had lost to their other Cascadia Cup rival the Portland Timbers 1–0 at B.C. Place.
With one game to go, next Saturday at Real Salt Lake, the Whitecaps locked down the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
They will face the fourth-place Los Angeles Galaxy at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., on Oct. 31 or Nov. 1 with a chance to take on the Supporters’ Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes in a two-match Western Conference semifinal.
The Whitecaps may have the worst record of any MLS playoff team, but to reach MLS playoffs in their second season is a significant achievement. Vancouver managed to finish fifth in the west on the strength of their early-season form with a 7-win, 4-loss, and 5-draw record through June. Since June, Vancouver’s record is a poor 4–9–4.
Their performance against Portland was very disappointing given what was at stake. Had Dallas managed to get a result at Seattle, Vancouver could have been in the difficult position of having to win in Salt Lake while Dallas hosted lowly Chivas USA in the final game of the regular season.
“I think that taking over a team that was last in the table with a poor record last season, it’s actually quite a big achievement to reach the playoffs,” Rennie said on WhiteCapsFC.com.
“As disappointed as we are with how we performed today, over the course of the season, we’ve done well.”
Last year in their first season in MLS, the Whitecaps finished with a 6–18–10 record and didn’t win a single game on the road. This season is a huge step in the right direction regardless of how Vancouver finds itself in the playoffs.
The Whitecaps have never beaten either of their Cascadia Cup rivals and Sunday was a chance for them to do so with the playoffs beckoning. Portland hadn’t won a road game all season long, but wound up winning the Cascadia Cup with their deserved victory over the Whitecaps.
Looking for Best Lineup
Against Portland, Rennie opted to start Camilo and Kenny Miller up front, leaving Jamaican speedsters Darren Mattocks and Dane Richards on the bench. Mattocks is the team’s leading scorer with seven goals. He went with the same lineup that had thrashed Chivas USA 4–0 prior to the international break.
Finding their best starting XI is something with which the Whitecaps are struggling. In contrast, their playoff adversary, the L.A. Galaxy, has a tried-and-true attacking formation with the likes of Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, and David Beckham.
Camilo was in on all four goals against Chivas USA, but against the Timbers, he got some physical treatment from Hanyer Mosquera and wound up being a non-factor. Designated player Kenny Miller continued to be non-existent in the attack.
What’s worrisome is that the introduction of Richards and Mattocks didn’t change anything. The Timbers had established control in the second half after their captain Jack Jewsbury’s wonderful strike in the 39th minute had given them the lead.
The Whitecaps may have “back-doored” their way into the MLS playoffs, but they are a club that has made tremendous progress in one season. They are not the finished product but are slowly gaining experience in more difficult situations.
Regardless of the outcome against the Galaxy, Vancouver is the brightest spot on the Canadian soccer map. They can also take some comfort that a fellow Canadian MLS side, Toronto FC, did beat the Galaxy in L.A. earlier this year in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal.
Follow Rahul on Twitter @RV_ETSports
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