Do the football Gods hate us? I'm only half-serious here, although I do think that Vancouver Whitecaps fans must be the butt of some cosmic joke that none of us can understand. In a season where they racked up more points, goals and wins than the previous year in which they made the post-season, the Vancouver Whitecaps will get nothing but a head start to the golf course.
I'm not kidding about those stats either. Last year, the Whitecaps managed just 11 wins and 43 points in 34 matches, good enough to sneak into the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. In addition, they scored 35 goals all season long, which averages out to just over a goal a game. Bad stats for a pretty mediocre team, and yet circumstances were different, and they managed to extend their season. Not this time.
With one meaningless match left on the schedule, the 'Caps have managed 12 wins this time around to go along with 45 points. The biggest difference, though, is in their attack. Thanks mostly to Camilo, the Whitecaps have scored an impressive 50 goals, good enough for third in the Western Conference. Yet despite the apparent strides the Whitecaps made this season, they sit on the outside looking in, no date for the big dance. Forgive me for asking, but what the fuck happened?
In a year where Kenny Miller rose like a Phoenix and resurrected his MLS career, where Camilo became one of the league's best goal scorers, where Kekuta Manneh showed how dangerous he could be, where Carlyle Mitchell and Johnny Leveron provided the Whitecaps with depth on the backline, where Russell Teibert came of age and Nigel Reo-Coker became one of the team's best, the 'Caps managed to take a giant step backwards. Forgive me for asking again, but how on Earth is this possible?
Twisting the knife further, pillars of strength for the Whitecaps became anything but. Alain Rochat was having an off year until the Whitecaps traded him, putting Jordan Harvey on the pitch for the rest of the season. While Harvey was actually pretty good in providing some offense, you would have to think that Alain Rochat at his best would still be better. Then there was the immortal YP Lee, the Whitecaps MVP from last season. He had a horrible match against the Rapids, and despite a little more rest this season, he was largely inconsistent for most of the season.
SImply put, the other teams around the Vancouver Whitecaps simply got better. Last year, the 'Caps managed to lose seven straight matches during playoff crunch time, but were able to back into the post-season because of the failings of FC Dallas. If you can recall, that was literally the only reason the 'Caps got to play the LA Galaxy in November, because another team sucked worse. This year, teams that the Whitecaps were chasing simply got more competitive, and didn't squander opportunities as carelessly as our hometown heroes. Colorado won when they were supposed to (as we all are sadly aware). The San Jose Earthquake have gone 4-0-2 in September and October. The Whitecaps, meanwhile, in that same time frame have gone 2-3-3. Obviously when the chips were down, some teams fought to keep their hand at the table. The Whitecaps had already cashed out and went to the bar.
So, another season of mediocrity is indeed upon us here in Vancouver. Despite several steps forward, the Whitecaps managed to take one gigantic leap back, wasting the herculean efforts of players like Camilo (19 goals on the season excuses his stinker against the Rapids) and Nigel Reo-Coker. In a season where the 'Caps promised to have more edge, and where the team looked to build off their first playoff appearance, they instead crumbled.
T.S. Eliot's most well known poem, The Hollow Men, ends with the immortal words, "This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper."
I cannot think of anything more befitting of this season.