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Happy to Be Here

Nobody expects anything from the Whitecaps in the playoffs, so let's just enjoy the ride rather than worry about the result.

Jeff Vinnick

You may not like this one.

Back in August, I asked the question of whether the Vancouver Whitecaps would make the playoffs and answered, unequivocally, "yes"[1]. Score a rare point for my powers of prognostication.

Only one point, though. The Whitecaps had 37 points at the time; they wound up with 43. I said the Whitecaps should win four out of their last eight (Chivas USA, Portland Timbers twice, Colorado Rapids); they won one of those, drew one, and lost the other two. Just as worryingly, they were outshot-on-goal in five of those last eight. By both obvious and less-obvious statistics, the Whitecaps are coming into the playoffs shit out of good soccer.

And they're coming into Los Angeles. Perhaps you don't realize how Christ-awful the Whitecaps have been at Home Depot Center against the Galaxy. Their first game at the Hardware Store was September 17, 2011, entering the doldrums of the Tom Soehn era; Vancouver lost 3-0 but at least the shooting was even, four shots on goal apiece. This was not a good game, but it has been the very high-water mark of the Whitecaps' fortunes in Carson against Bruce Arena and company.

On June 23 of this year, Vancouver lost 3-0, being outshot 6-2. The September 1 game was better on the scoreboard (a 2-0 loss) but even worse by the shots (Los Angeles 9, Vancouver 0). Vancouver has never scored a goal in Los Angeles against the Galaxy and only two at Home Depot Center in six tries against anybody: Camilo got one at Chivas on June 1, 2011 and Jay DeMerit scored once on March 17, 2012 in the famous First Road Win EVARRR.

I am coming, in a roundabout way, to a point: I don't think the Vancouver Whitecaps will beat the Galaxy on Thursday. There's always a chance; this is sports, not math, and randomness happens. But there's no reason to hold out anything more than home. In all reasonable probability, the Whitecaps are going into the playoffs, going for ninety minutes, then going home.

And I don't have a problem with that.

(Well, I do, of course. I would rather the Whitecaps kicked Landon Donovan's water-sipping ass so hard he stayed in Everton out of shame. If I had my druthers, the Whitecaps would win the Supporters Shield every year and the other 18 teams would form MLS-2 because they were bored of losing all the time. But I'm talking about the team we have, not the team I want.)

The fact is that, after so much angst about whether the Whitecaps would blow their playoff spot, they didn't. I'm frankly happy to be there.

I know that, as a fan, I am supposed to demand an endless string of victories and, when they fail to appear, ask why not. Certainly I feel the Whitecaps have a lot of work to do for 2013: this season has been a commendable improvement but that's no excuse to stop improving, and both players and coaches will need to undo the top button of their shirts and brace for the cries of "but what have you done for me lately?"

But right now why not enjoy the ride? The Whitecaps have done exactly what we asked of them at the beginning of the season: they snuck into the playoffs and gave themselves a chance to make some noise. There have been players who are pleasant surprises and players who are grave disappointments, the same as with any team. A few guys haven't lived up to the promise of 2011, and a few have exceeded it. We got, in short, what we expected and what we wanted.

So there's no pressure. Nobody expects much from the Whitecaps now. I quote Josie Becker of LAG Confidential saying "Vancouver shouldn't stand any sort of threat"[2], or FOX Sports writing that "The Los Angeles Galaxy's [. . .] prospects seem even better against the spiraling Vancouver Whitecaps."[3].

It's a playoff game. There are precious few of them, as Toronto FC fans could bitterly attest, so let's have fun. Let's relish the fact that the Whitecaps play in a league where we can enjoy meaningful soccer rather than just be told the San Jose Earthquakes won and everyone else can fuck off. This isn't Honduras - Canada; if the Galaxy beat Vancouver 8-1 I'll be impressed we got the 1. Sorry, my fellow die-hards. I'm just happy to be here.

[1] — Massey, Benjamin. "Will the Whitecaps Make the Playoffs? (Yes.)" Eighty Six Forever, August 21, 2012. Accessed October 30, 2012.

[2] — Oshan, Jeremiah et al. "MLS Cup playoff preview: Western Conference.", October 30, 2012. Accessed October 30, 2012.

[3] — FOX Sports. "Whitecaps FC-Galaxy Preview." FOX News Latino, October 30, 2012. Accessed October 30, 2012.