VANCOUVER, BC - it was an abnormally wet and blustery day in Upper Cascadia, but as the weather raged outside 21,000 fans packed BC Place to cheer on the Vancouver Whitecaps to a spot in the MLS playoffs.
They did not go home disappointed.
Although the fans went home happy there were plenty of tense moments during the evening, which first saw the Portland Timbers leading their match against FC Dallas, thanks to a somewhat fortunate Darlington Nagbe goal, before the Whitecaps even took to the pitch.
The Colorado Rapids appeared content not to push forward, but Charles Eloundou came close in the dying moments in the first half. Eloundou's shot was stopped by David Ousted, who had an impressive night in the Vancouver goal.
The Whitecaps did have a couple of chances in the opening forty-five minutes, including a couple of headed opportunities for Kendall Waston and Darren Mattocks. Pedro Morales also had a chance to open the scoring at the quarter hour mark, but his shot just missed the Colorado goal.
Carl Robinson was forced to make some adjustments in the 33rd minute, when Steven Beitashour went down with a right hamstring strain and had to be replaced by Sam Adekugbe. In addition, Robinson also had to switch Jordan Harvey from left to right back to accommodate the switch. The Rapids were also forced to make a first half substitution when Davy Armstrong replaced Marvell Wynne in the 42nd minute.
The Timbers eventually defeated FC Dallas by score of 2-0, so the Whitecaps found themselves in the position of having to beat the Rapids to lay claim to the fifth, and final, playoff berth.
Colorado's defense remained strong in the second half and Robinson eventually decided to make some changes, so he turned first to Kekuta Manneh, who replaced Russell Teibert, in the 56th minute. The young Gambian came close to scoring when he received a pass from Morales, but his rising shot struck the crossbar and stayed out of Clint Irwin's goal.
Manneh was involved again in the 70th minute when he won a corner for the Caps. As the faithful rose to their feet around BC Place, Morales whipped an in-swinging corner into the Colorado area. Both Hurtado and Waston rose to try and get their head onto the ball, but it was Waston who manged beat Irwin to score the only goal of the match.
With the Caps now in the lead, the fans took their support and passion to the next level and cheered for their team in a manner that we have not seen since joining MLS. In the 75th minute the fans were almost rewarded with a second goal when Hurtado was released down the middle by Morales, but Irwin was up to the task and made a big save to keep Vancouver from pulling further ahead.
Colorado, to their credit, did not give up and Ousted was forced to make some important saves on Gabriel Torres to keep Vancouver in the lead. When Ousted was brought to Vancouver in June 2013 we were told how he was the kind of 'keeper that has the ability to make big, game-changing saves, but tonight he took his game to another level to preserve the Caps' advantage.
The Caps now take their 5-game unbeaten run (4W-0L-1D) to the Lone Star state when they face FC Dallas in the MLS Playoffs on Wednesday evening (6PM PDT, TSN1, TSN1410 AM).
Odds 'n Ends:
- the Whitecaps finish the regular season with a club record 50 points, which was one more point than the Portland Timbers, who finished with 49.
- the Whitecaps have not conceded a goal in 393 minutes.
- Man of the Match: Kendall Waston (86F honourable mention goes to David Ousted).