From the outset, the Vancouver Whitecaps were facing an uphill battle. Just seven minutes into their match against the Philadelphia Union, holding midfielder Jun-Marques Davidson was fouled by Union midfielder Keon Daniel. Upset by the challenge, Davidson got up and slightly headbutted the back of Daniels head. It wasn't a vicious headbutt, but it still was, by definition one, and there was no choice but to issue him a red card.
The 'Caps, touted for their creativity on offence, would have to spend the entire match trying to cover for their defense. Surprisingly, the 'Caps actually played pretty damn well down a man, generating scoring chances and limiting the amount of shots on starting goalkeeper Brad Knighton. Yes, Brad Knighton was the man between the pipes for the Whitecaps, despite rampant speculation David Ousted was on his way in. In fact, Rennie went with the same lineup from the Galaxy match, trying to give these guys a few more minutes to truly gel.
The Whitecaps best efforts were spoiled late in the match, when French striker Antoine Hoppenot played a 1-2 with Aaron Wheeler, burying the ball past Knighton. The 'Caps would fail to recover, dropping their second straight contest, and first of the season at home. The Whitecaps surely deserved better, but a selfish, boneheaded play had them fighting from the start. The leagues top offence did come close though, testing young Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath all night.
It was a very choppy match, with cards handed out like candy on Halloween. The 'Caps managed to fight through, with Russell Teibert registering the club's first chance at 16'. Miller played a long ball to a charging Rusell Teibert, who tried to hit the ball in stride while warding off a defender. He had a little bit of space, but lobbed the ball over top of the net for a goal kick.
At 24', the ever aggressive Knighton charged off his line to claim a ball in the air, but collided with striker Jack McInerney, causing both of them to lay on the ground. While Knighton stayed down a little longer, both eventually got up and resumed play. McInerney would get a yellow for the play.
At 33', Kenny Miller charged into the box for a Reo-Coker ball, but his header was well wide of the net. Still, the Whitecaps were carrying the play and made the Union look a little shocked. As the match would progress though, the Whitecaps would show obvious signs of fatigue.
At 40', Miller would get another sterling opportunity, taking a quick ball from a criss-crossing Camilo. Miller charged past the defense and looked to have a clear shot against MacMath, but his drive went wide of the net.
Unfortunately for Vancouver, Kenny Miller appeared to tweak an injury, and was forced to leave the match. It would later be confirmed to be a slight adductor strain, and Miller is not expected to miss much time. That meant Kekuta Manneh would take his place on the pitch, while Nigel Reo-Coker took the armband.
The match continued to open up, but MLS's leading goal scorer was playing a little quieter than usual. He made his own luck at 49', stripping Okguo of the ball in no man's land. While the defender did recover, Camilo was able to get a nice shot off, albeit right into the mitts of MacMath.
Manneh made his mark at 50', taking a Camilo pass and going wide on MacMath, but shooting a low roller that looked destined for the back of the net. Instead, it hit the post, and the Union were able to recover. Still, Manneh's speed and nose for the net was once again showcased.
At 68', the super substitute would try again, unleashing a much more powerful shot from outside the penalty area. MacMath had great positioning though, and made the tough save look relatively easy.
At 73' Gershon Koffie was taken down, and fell onto the ball. He was given a completely egregious yellow card for a hand ball, and as a result will miss the Timbers match next week. It was a brutal call by the official, but the Whitecaps would need to press on.
At 76', the dangerous McInerney tested Knighton with a nice, curling shot that forced the 'Caps goalkeeper to dive to punch out.
At 81', the injury bug continued to hit the 'Caps, as Brad Rusin went down with a glute strain (he was literally butt hurt), forcing him to leave the match. Carlyle Mitchell jumped into his place on the pitch.
At 83', Camilo looked to have the match in hand for the Whitecaps, as he was able to go mono et mono in the box with MacMath. Unfortunately, Camilo took the ball in a little too deep, and MacMath used great positioning to knock the ball down and keep the match scoreless.
The Union countered, and despite an impressive defensive match by the 'Caps, they did surrender the late goal at 85'.
Did the Whitecaps deserve better tonight? Most definitely, but when a teammate messes up, that's just part of the game. While Davidson no doubt regrets his action, the Whitecaps must now move forward, and know that they played a pretty good damn game. Now they must rest up, clear their heads, and prepare to play a full 90-minute match in a few days.