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Post Match: Whitecaps earn road draw, officially eliminated from playoff contention

The Vancouver Whitecaps come away from California with a 2-2 draw but officially bow out of playoff contention in the process.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps at Los Angeles FC Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Whitecaps drew Los Angeles Football Club 2-2 on Sunday afternoon at Bank of California Stadium.

Despite already being all but officially eliminated from playoff contention, the Caps chose to field a relatively full strength lineup. This was bolstered by returns from international duty last week but also with Techera notably absent from the bench and Kei Kamara suspended :

From a player’s perspective, these final matches are as much about showing well individually as they are about the final result. Even with playoff chances all but lost, each player is still looking to enhance their positioning for next season, whether that’s with the Whitecaps or with another club.

The Whitecaps got off to a nightmare start as with just under 5 minutes played LAFC took the lead, slicing the Caps defenders to shreds with incisive passing.

In the 11th minute, LAFC looked to double the advantage as Mexican international Carlos Vela rattled the crossbar.

LAFC would make it 2-0 only moments later, as the Whitecaps defensive lines were completely overrun and Rossi scored his brace only 15 minutes into the match.

Then, just past the 20 minute mark and completely against the run of play, the Whitecaps were able to earn a penalty. This came on a terrific individual effort by Alphonso Davies which led to a successful Yordy Reyna penalty kick, making the score 2-1.

It’s hard to imagine where the Whitecaps would be this season without the dynamic playmaking ability of Davies. His ability to create attacking chances out of nothing, often completely on his own, has kept the Caps afloat in numerous matches this season. This match was no exception. His run and subsequent drawn penalty rescued the Whitecaps from losing hold of the match, in what at the time was looking like it could be a loss of potentially embarrassing proportions.

As the half went on, LAFC and the Whitecaps would trade quality chances. First, Yordy Reyna unleashed a low curler which narrowly missed the bottom corner.

Then, Diego Rossi threatened a first-half hat trick but couldn’t convert.

After 45 minutes, the Whitecaps trailed LAFC 2-1 and probably considered themselves very fortunate to only be a goal down. LAFC held 68% of possession in the first half and more than doubled the Whitecaps in successful passes completed.

As a side note, shoutout to Vancouver Armada for asking the important questions:

In the 60th minute, both teams would make substitutions, with the Whitecaps rather curiously subbing out Yordy Reyna (who had quite a good showing) in favour of Jordan Mutch and LAFC made a double swap.

This curious substitution would pay off almost immediately, as in the 65th minute Jordan Mutch was left with loads of time and space outside the top of the box and smashed it home past LAFC’s Tyler Miller, drawing the match 2-2.

In the 70th minute, Erik Hurtado was replaced in favour of “million-dollar-man” Anthony Blondell, who was relatively non-existent in his brief appearance.

In the waining minutes of the match, the Whitecaps surrendered two good set-piece opportunities in quick secession, but the Whitecaps were able to get a block in on both LAFC attempts.

Even with 6 + minutes of extra time at their disposal, LAFC was unable to find a game winner. The Vancouver Whitecaps would take away a rather impressive 2-2 draw on the road, especially considering their poor start.

To give a sense of just how tilted the pitch was in LAFC’s favour throughout the match, the possession statistics were 73% to 27% for LAFC while LAFC more than trippled the Whitecaps in passes completed (with a whopping 625) to go along with 20 shots.

Unfortunately, the draw does mean that the Whitecaps are officially eliminated from playoff contention, but I think this is an inevitability which most of us had already come to terms with.

What I find more troubling than the failure to eke out wins in a final push for the playoffs is the uncertainty that will follow the Whitecaps last match of the season next Sunday.

With Davies on the move, there will be a lot of pressure not only to improve the roster from top to bottom, but also to replace a dynamic, game-changing, attacking option. And all this will have to be done by a newly appointed manager under the watchful eye of the notoriously tight Whitecaps front office. Needless to say, the Whitecaps will probably need the full offseason, if not more, to figure it out.