The past month and a half has been quite a ride for Whitecaps supporters. May was going to be the toughest month of the season to date and brought highs and lows that many would not have expected. After starting the year with a pair of wins against TFC and Columbus Crew the Caps then went on an 8-week winless run in MLS. During this time they played poorly at times and other times they were dominant and scoring goals as they did at home to FC Dallas. Then there was the away match at Real Salt Lake.
Without revisiting what was to date the worst performance of the year something positive did emerge out of firestorm. As media pundits, the fans and even Martin Rennie himself criticized the performance of the team (and certain players) as they prepared to play a team that they had never beaten - reigning MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy.
Led by Russell Teibert’s first two professional goals Vancouver beat LA 3-1 which was a big win just days before the Voyageur’s Cup match in Montreal. After drawing 0-0 with the Impact in Montreal and then 2-2 at home a few days later to the Portland Timbers the Whitecaps were playing well against some of the best and hottest teams in MLS.
Excitement and anticipation grew prior to the home leg of the Voyageur’s Cup. With a loud and passionate crowd in attendance at BC Place and striker Kenny Miller in the starting XI for the first time in several weeks the ingredients for a victory were all in hand. The Whitecaps poured on the pressure and it was Camilo who rewarded the faithful by scoring the opening goal from a brilliant free kick in the opening minutes of the match. Vancouver was clearly the better team on the night, but a typical defensive lapse led to Montreal drawing level off a corner with just minutes to play in the game. Losing the cup at home to the Impact on the away goals rule was a little too much. Fans took solace in the fact that Montreal won the cup on a technicality and did not actually beat the Whitecaps on the pitch to become Canadian Champions. For most it was a bitter pill to swallow. It could still get a little worse.
After going to New York City and defeating the Red Bulls in a match where they were not expected to win the Caps returned home to prepare for yet another Cascadia Cup match away to arch-nemesis Seattle. There was quiet optimism that with their recent good form the Whitecaps could go into Seattle and take the points away from the Sounders. Then "it" happened.
Two days before the Seattle match fan favorite Alain Rochat was traded to DC United for a pair of future MLS Super Draft picks. Fan reaction to the trade was immediate and negative. Rochat had obviously had not played well at times this season, but trading him away for very little came as a shock to many. To many this was the Hassli or Chiumiento trades all over again. The Caps went into Seattle with Andy O’Brien and Johnny Leveron paired in the middle of the back line. After Seattle took the early lead Vancouver went into the half leading 2-1 on a pair of goals scored by Camilo. Fate that night was not on the Whitecaps side as O’Brien was injured in the second half and rookie Greg Klazura, who came on as his replacement, conceded the penalty that was the first of two goals that Seattle needed to win the game. The irony was that had Rochat not been traded days prior to the game Vancouver would not have had to use an inexperienced young defender at a crucial point in a big derby match. The loss in Seattle was a disappointment, but the news regarding O’Brien’s injury was not good as he was ruled out for several weeks with a hamstring injury. With a backline decimated by injuries and trades defensively it did not look good for the visit of New England Revolution.
The match against the Revs looked like it was going to be a thrashing. Leading after twenty minutes the Revs were outclassing the Whitecaps, who were looking disorganized and clearly suffering with the makeshift backline. Then it happened. Miller was hauled down while breaking in on goal. New England was now down to ten men when Camilo converted the ensuing penalty kick to bring the Caps back into the game. Kenny Miller, with two superb goals on the night, and fullback Jordan Harvey rounded out the scoring for the Blue and White. It was a remarkable evening, and one has to wonder, was it a turning point in the Caps season? With hapless Chivas USA in town tomorrow night we'll find out soon enough if they can carry on where they left off against the Revs.
It certainly has been an interesting season so far. There never seems to be a dull moment when it comes to our beloved Whitecaps (as news breaks of Manneh being given a one-match ban for messing up Shuttleworth’s hair on Saturday night proves my point). I think overall the team has slowly been improving this year. Given a complete and healthy squad I think the Caps are closer to where they want to be than the results have shown this year. It’s been quite the ride so far, so imagine what it will be like when they finally put all the pieces together. The Southsiders often sing "When I see you Whitecaps I go out of my head. I just can’t get enough. I just can’t get enough." Those words seem quite appropriate to describe the ups-and-downs of the season so far!