If I had to describe the Vancouver Whitecaps win from earlier today in just one word (I don't know why I would need to do that but just go with me for a second here), I would say "professional". Yes, the Whitecaps took to the pitch at BC Place on Saturday afternoon to face FC Dallas and they did exactly what they needed to do in order to add another tick to the win column and ensure that they remain in a playoff spot for at least another week.
There are clichés for a reason and the Whitecaps went into this "must win" match only one point ahead of the Portland Timbers, so it was imperative for the boys in Blue and White to get a win in order to remain masters of their destiny in a tight race towards the 2014 MLS playoffs.
On an afternoon when a prolific goal scorer was inducted into the Whitecaps Ring of Honour, Sebastian Fernandez channeled his best Domenic Mobilio and scored two goals in the first 20 minutes of the game. Those two goals were both assisted by Mauro Rosales, who continues to make a solid argument for why it is necessary to bring him back in 2015.
The Whitecaps came out with a level of intensity and hunger that matched the occasion. More importantly they got a solid performance from everyone across the pitch. This meant that they were able to create and capitalize on goal-scoring opportunities and blanked a dangerous FC Dallas offence while frustrating the easy-to-hate Blas Perez all night long.
After an intense opening ten minutes, Erik Hurtado did well in holding up the ball and opened it to a rushing Mauro Rosales who one-timed a beautiful second post cross that found the head of Sebastian Fernandez before nesting it in the top corner. Four minutes later, after a play where both Whitecaps maestros Morales and Rosales battled to recover the ball and keep the play alive, Rosales was able to transition into a lethal counterattack before he released Fernandez who put the ball in the net with a tight but effective left-footed shot.
The Whitecaps had a glorious chance to add a third goal onto the scoreboard after Hurtado once again held the ball well and served an unmarked Pedro Morales inside the box. Uncharacteristically, the Chilean made the wrong choice and sent a weak shot into the hands of Raul Fernandez.
The first (and perhaps only) time that Kendall Waston was beaten by Blas Perez in an aerial ball launched a FC Dallas counterattack that had goal written all over it. However, just as David Texeira was ready to launch a shot that surely was going to find the back of the net, the figure of a sprawling Matias Laba appeared blocking the shot in what has to be candidate for MLS sliding tackle of the year (if it is not an actual award, this would be a good time to start awarding it). It literally made me jump out of my seat.
With the peace of mind of being up 2-0, the Whitecaps came back for the second half and put up what has to be regarded as one of their most professional halves, keeping possession, and limiting the opposing chances without necessarily parking the bus or renouncing the search for a third goal.
With the Portland Timbers also beating the San Jose Earthquakes later in the night, the playoff race with the Lower Cascadians continues to be very tight and does not give the Whitecaps any room for error.
The Whitecaps head down to Seattle to face the Sounders next Friday night in a game that will decide who wins the Cascadia Cup and that will have important implications in the Whitecaps playoff aspirations.
How confident are you that the Whitecaps will return to the playoffs this year? Are they peaking at the right time? Let me know in the comment section.