The last time the Vancouver Whitecaps made the playoffs, they were bounced in the knockout stage by the LA Galaxy, the death blow coming via a Landon Donovan penalty strike for a 2-1 final score. Two years later, and another penalty has sunk the Whitecaps season, this time coming off the foot of FC Dallas maestro Michel. It was a disappointing effort from the 'Caps and their most prized asset, Pedro Morales, who was subbed off early in the second half when it became apparent he had absolutely nothing left in the tank. Whether it be injury, fatigue, or just plain poor play, his sublime rookie MLS season ended not with a bang, but a whimper.
The first half was all FC Dallas, with the Whitecaps looking timid and afraid to make a mistake. They would make a rather large one in the 40th minute, when Andy O'Brien and Kendall Waston had their wires crossed, allowing Mauro Diaz to set up Tesho Akindele on the partial break. He made no mistake, and the Whitecaps would find themselves deflated heading into the break, down 1-0.
The second half started much better for the Whitecaps, who seemed to be moving quicker and with more confidence against their rivals from Texas. That is, except for Pedro Morales, who was subbed out in the 58th minute in favor of Kekuta Manneh. Mauro Rosales took over his spot in the number 10 spot, and the Whitecaps seemed more competent with Rosales at the helm. It was mentioned during the TSN broadcast that Morales may have been fighting a back injury, and that would certainly explain a lot, because the Whitecaps best player was anything but.
In the 64th minute, the Whitecaps cashed in one of their few chances, with Erik Hurtado putting the ball home following a Rosales free kick.
Unfortunately, the lead was not to last, as FC Dallas capitalized on a controversial Whitecap penalty in the 82nd minute. While it appeared Kendall Waston had the ball hit his hand in the box, it also appeared that Waston did absolutely everything in his power to get out of the way.
Penalty! Mark Geiger calls a harsh penalty on Kendall Waston, who saw the ball bounce off his arm in the box. #DALvVAN— Goal USA (@GoalUSA) October 30, 2014
It's a harsh penalty. Waston's hands are at his side. It's a bang, bang play after players miss on a 50-50. For me, not a penalty.— Kurtis Larson (@KurtLarSUN) October 30, 2014
Waston pulling his arm away after contact made with the ball influenced referees decision, in my opinion. Referees are human.— Jason deVos (@jasondevos) October 30, 2014
In any case, the Whitecaps weren't going to be winning any appeals, and Michel potted the go-ahead goal just a few minutes later. It was a lead the Whitecaps couldn't conquer twice, and they would fall 2 to 1. A magical season it was, but the stagecoach has turned back into a pumpkin.
I don't have much to say now, as I think most Whitecap fans and scribes need some time to let the loss sink in. I will say this however; In any sport, there is a good way to lose, a bad way to lose, and a really ugly way to lose. The Whitecaps may not have had their best match, but they put forth a better effort in the second half and gave FC Dallas some very stiff competition, and they should've been proud of what they were able to accomplish this season.
Instead, the entire team looked classless because Sebastian Fernandez decided to throw a hissy fit in front of referee Mark Geiger, earning him a red card and a suspension to start next season. Brilliant work, kid. I know his emotions got the better of him, and I know the officiating was very questionable on the night, but that was a truly ugly way to end an otherwise successful season.
Yes, it was a successful season. CONCACAF spot, Cascadia Cup, and a playoff appearance despite losing 22 goals in the offseason; It's bittersweet, but it's more than I thought the 2014 Whitecaps were going to do when training camp started .