It was a match punctuated with sloppy play interspersed with chippiness from the hosts. Throw in a dash or two of debatable refereeing decisions from your man named Unkel, and a flukey goal for the Hoops against the run of play, along with a courageous comeback and top it off with a costly mistake by Vancouver keeper David Ousted, and you've got a recipe for disappointment.
Coach Carl Robinson approached this one much like his predecessor behind the wheel did last year versus Dallas - by resting some key cogs for most or all of the night. CB Andy O'Brien was rested, and didn't make the trip. Steven Beitashour did travel with the team - but was still plagued by his hip-pointer and didn't play. And Pedro Morales didn't see the pitch until almost the hour mark.
Robinson gave Ethen Sampson another run at RB, alongside CBs Kendall Waston and Christian Dean, who made his first Major League Soccer start, with Jordan Harvey at his usual LB spot. Matias Laba, Russell Teibert, Mehdi Ballouchy and Mauro Rosales formed the diamond midfield, with Seb Fernandez and Darren Mattocks paired together up top.
The youth movement at the back was predictably touch and go at times, but aside from a single sketchy moment for both Sampson and Dean, and another instance where Waston and Dean somehow collaborated to clean each other out 30 yards up the pitch, they didn't fare worse than would have been expected.
Unfortunately, for Vancouver - and for Darren Mattocks in particular - the Jamaican striker's showing was indeed worse than expected with Mattocks again failing to convert a glorious early chance from prime position* in the very early going. It was a night that seemed like if Mattocks wasn't whiffing, he was offside.
The Caps enjoyed the run of play over the first 20 minutes, but again had trouble with the final ball deep in opposition territory. It's at this point that Dallas striker Blas Perez puts the first dagger into the Whitecaps' hearts. From the right touch line, and only five yards from the by line, Perez hits what looks to have been a looping cross attempt. The ball swerves off the outside of his right foot, catching David Ousted by surprise, and bends into the top corner behind a desperately outstretched Ousted. Now Perez is a cagey character, and a highly skilled attacker, but that ball doesn't go in if he tries that a thousand times again, and certainly not if Ousted reads the spin properly to start with.
The match shifts in Dallas' favour after Perez's tally, and suddenly the Caps are on the back foot and weathering the FCD storm. Just six minutes after his first goal, Perez pops in the rebound off a Fabian Castillo shot. But Perez is clearly offside on the play, and the goal doesn't count.
Just before halftime, play begins to disintegrate, and chippy play ensues. Words are exchanged along the sidelines and around the 4th official. As a result, referee Ted Unkel sends Whitecaps assistant Martyn Pert and a Dallas counterpart packing. It remains 1-0 Dallas at the half.
Robinson makes his tactical first move ten minutes into the second half - swapping out Ballouchy in favour of Pedro Morales. And just a little over five minutes later, Mattocks is pulled off and Erik Hurtado comes on in a straight speed for speed swap. The move is pretty much an immediate success as shortly after coming on, Hurtado draws the Caps even as he finishes off a counter-attack led by Mauro Rosales, neatly taking Rosales' dish off and drilling a half-volley at pace low past Dallas keeper Raul Fernandez.
The Caps are invigorated by the marker, and with 23 minutes left in regulation time, it's game on.
But Blas Perez gets lucky again at 78' when the Panamanian pots what proves to be the winner. In fact, it's a sequence of lucky breaks for the Hoops on the play. Jordan Harvey is the recipient of a dubious foul call to set Dallas up for a FK 30 yards out to Ousted's left. Michel delivers a curling ball into the box that's headed down by a towering Waston. The ball deflects off Tesho Akindele, goes square across the face of goal through three Whitecaps defenders, and rolls directly to Perez, who directs it into a gaping net.
If David Ousted was perhaps suspect on the first goal, he was guilty as charged on the second, as he came well out as if to challenge for the ball before realizing that there was no play to be made. With Ousted out in no man's land, it was an easy finish for Perez. Though not his best game, Ousted did, to be fair, make at least three quality stops to keep Vancouver in the match, including this attempt by Castillo.
With six matches remaining, 4th-place Dallas now has a very healthy eight-point lead over Vancouver, who remains in the fifth and final playoff spot in the MLS Western Conference, just one point ahead of Portland. Vancouver, having played three matches in a week, now has a week to rest somewhat and prepare to take on the Timbers in Portland next weekend.
* Highlights courtesy of MLSsoccer.com