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Knockout Round Report Card: FC Dallas vs Vancouver Whitecaps

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It's the end of the road, the Whitecaps have fallen out of the playoffs at the first hurdle after a controversy plagued shootout with FC Dallas. It's time to hand out some grades and conduct the post-mortem.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

I’m afraid to write that the 2014 Vancouver Whitecaps campaign has drawn to a close with a controversial 2-1 loss at the hands of FC Dallas on the road in Frisco, Texas. I’m sure you’ll be waking up in a cold sweat for a few nights to come after Mark Geiger, who I’ll get to later, delivered the knockout punch late on at Toyota Stadium, however it’s now time to reflect and hand out the grades on the final test of what can only be considered a successful semester. So without further ado here is my report card. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below and carry the discussion on into the offseason. I hope you’ll keep whatever feelings you may have towards a certain official at least mildly censored, though I wouldn’t blame you if that task proves a tad too difficult, as I am guilty of the very crime myself, even in the cold light of the day after.

Mauro Rosales: B

Heading into the game Rosales boasted more playoff appearances than any other Cap, featuring four times for the Seattle Sounders over the course of his time playing in Rave Green, and adopted the mantle attached to that experience outstandingly. Pedro Morales, the captain, had one of his off nights away from BC Place, evidently struggling with fitness, and his substitution early in the second half left a pretty substantial void with regards to creativity. The concerns were answered with conviction however, as Rosales stepped up and instigated the improved rhythm within in the final third, spreading the play with ease while guiding the younger members of the roster through the night. TSN’s Perry Solkowski tweeted a quote from his post-match interview with Head Coach Carl Robinson, claiming that the veteran Argentine was crying his eyes out in the locker room. It’s been a joy to watch Rosales in the Blue and White over the second half of the campaign – I’m not sure Canada would have even had a postseason representative without his addition – and I hope we see him return to Vancouver for next year.

Ethen Sampson: B-

If there’s one performance fans should take particular encouragement from it has to be that of Ethen Sampson, who filled in for the sidelined Steven Beitashour without breaking a stride. It’s widely believed that the South African plays without fear, a particularly useful attribute when making only your third start in the hotbed atmosphere of the playoffs, and he backed that up with a valiant display against the electrifying Fabian Castillo. Castillo, as is the case most weeks, did enjoy some success on the left flank, yet certainly met his match in Sampson, who forced him into less comfortable positions throughout the ninety minutes. It was very impressive how he maintained the same diligent concentration for such a sustained period of time, because even the more established full-backs in Major League Soccer often lose focus when up against wingers as dynamic as the Colombian. I, for one, look forward to him mounting a challenge on Beitashour’s place in the starting line-up when training camp starts in three months time.

Erik Hurtado: B-

E-Money’s 65th minute equalizer propelled him into the very select few who have netted in a Whitecaps playoff game, albeit hardly keeping elite company with Darren Mattocks, and represented the pinnacle of what I considered another positive outing from the 23-year-old. Hurtado’s finish did take a pretty convenient deflection for Vancouver; however the effort definitely required a clinical contact. In addition to the goal I felt he carried himself well as an isolated front man, his rapidly improving hold-up play was tested at times but, given the circumstances, I felt he did a solid job bringing others around him into play. Hopefully the strike will give him added confidence heading into the offseason and serve as further motivation for him to return in 2015 hungry, battling for minutes in what will hopefully be a more competitive environment up top. Erik, you deserve kudos for your continued hard work and commitment to silence your doubters.

Pedro Morales: D

It’s been an exhaustingly long fourteen months for Pedro since the start of the 2013/14 La Liga season when he played for Málaga. He’s had to fight his way into the Anchovies XI prior to relocating his family to the other side of the world, become the Whitecaps’ main creative and goal scoring outlet, take on the captaincy role and lead the side into the postseason. It’s quite a remarkable feat that he has accomplished all of that and as conclusive as you’ll find that he merits the MLS Newcomer of the Year award, however there has been a ticking time bomb with respect to his fitness for some time and last night it finally exploded in the Lone Star State. His petulant reaction to being booked in the first half, for a foul that only was made because he couldn’t keep up with the tempo, is all the evidence necessary to support Robinson’s decision to take him off so early; it simply wasn’t the same Morales. It’s been an exceptional first year for the club MVP and with a much deserved break from action I’m sure we’ll see an even more effective #77, perhaps pulling the strings behind a fellow designated player leading the line.

Mark Geiger (referee): F

It’s the first round of the playoffs, a reward for all the hard work through 34 games and is an occasion that holds a special place in the history books. So when the result is decided not by a moment of individual magic or a tactical switch only rivaled in ingenuity by the work of Albert Einstein, or even by a calamitous yet comical own goal, one has the right to feel somewhat aggrieved, or rather screwed over, at the full time whistle. Mark Geiger stole the show when he decided to take the outcome of the game into his own hands, an unmistakable abuse of power and another example of why the league’s aim to become one the elite divisions on the planet is unforeseeable with this amateurish officiating. Let’s make it clear that this wasn’t some young, inexperienced referee thrown onto a flight to Dallas/Fort Worth airport when he had already made plans to mow his lawn that day, we’re talking about the first American to ever officiate a knockout match at a World Cup and the man widely regarded as the best ref in MLS. Geiger gained a positive reception for his work in Brazil, but back on home soil he’s been nowhere near that standard and as long as that continues every team is vulnerable with everything on the line.