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Post Match: Whitecaps eliminate TFC from playoff contention

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The Vancouver Whitecaps emerge from BMO Field with a 2-1 victory, eliminating Toronto FC in the process.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps at Toronto FC Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Whitecaps defeated Toronto FC 2 to 1 at BMO Field Saturday afternoon. This put an end to a disappointing MLS Cup defence for TFC while also keeping the Caps’ slim MLS Cup Playoff hopes alive in Craig Dalrymple’s first professional managerial victory.

The Whitecaps went into the match making only one change from last weekend, replacing Marcel De Jong with Brett Levis and switching to a 4-1-4-1 formation.

Toronto FC got off to a shaky start, surely feeling the pressure of playoff elimination as any result less than a full 3 points would eliminate them from the playoffs. In only the 3rd minute, Ontario native Russell Teibert gave the Whitecaps the lead when he slipped in between TFC defenders and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner of the net, a rare opening goal for the Whitecaps squad who have often struggled in the opening phases of matches this season.

TFC found their first quality chance in the 14th minute of the match when Sebastian Giovinco took a long range shot on target which was quickly followed by a potential TFC penalty shout. Only minutes later, Lucas Janson found himself wide-open in front of goal but was denied at point blank range by the sure hands of Stefan Marinovic.

Through 20 minutes the match remained a wide-open affair, with neither team looking terribly interested in playing responsibly at the defensive end of the pitch.

Toronto FC’s frustration grew as the half went on, with Reds defender Greg van der Wiel going into the book in the 28th minute.

Toronto’s star players (Giovinco & Bradley) were particularly poor early in the first half, with Bradley’s passive defending leading to Teibert’s opening goal and Giovinco’s disappointing touch ending a few of TFC’s decent scoring chances.

Giovinco and Bradley would combine for a strong driven shot on target in the dying moments of the first half, but the Whitecaps managed to maintain their 1-0 advantage going into the halftime break.

Although TFC dominated possession in the first half (64%), the Whitecaps had the edge on TFC in physical matchups, winning 26 duels in comparison to TFC’s 10. Similarly, while Toronto had 5 corners and 9 total shots, only 3 of those found the target, the same total as the Caps through 45 minutes.

It’s also worth noting what a historical milestone Teibert’s first half goal was:

TFC’s stuggles continued to begin the second half, as Giovinco had a good chance on the counter-attack which he blasted into the side netting. This was followed not to shortly afterwards by a series of good opportunities in the Whitecaps area which TFC really should have scored on.

In the 57th minute, the Reds made an attacking minded substitution, inserting Jozy Altidore in place of Marky Delgado. At this point, the Reds were clearly putting all their chips on the table, as any thing less than a victory would be useless for their playoff ambitions.

In the 66th minute, the uphill battle for TFC became much larger as Greg van der Wiel took down Yordy Reyna on the edge of the TFC box for his second yellow card of the match and a sending off, reducing the Reds to 10 men.

Soon after the sending off, Eric Hurtado came on for the Whitecaps first substitution of the match, replacing Alphonso Davies, who for his standards had a relatively quiet afternoon.

Predictably, the man advantage did not signal the end of the Whitecaps troubles, as in the 72nd minute Doneil Henry handled the ball inside the box while attempting to break up a TFC cross and the Whitecaps would concede the equalizer on a subsequent Jozy Altidore penalty.

The Whitecaps were quick to respond however, as recently introduced mid-fielding enigma Jordan Mutch played a quality ball into the area and Kei Kamara found himself shockingly unmarked in front of goal. Kamara smashed home the simple chance and the Whitecaps found themselves once again with a one goal lead, this time at 2-1 in the 78th minute.

Some Whitecaps fans were less confident in the away side’s ability to hold on the advantage than others:

The Whitecaps final substitution came in the 88th minute as Felipe came on in replacement of Brett Levis, who had a solid showing and managed to remain injury-free, something which has been somewhat of a challenge for the Canadian defender in his appearances this season.

The Whitecaps would manage to time waste their way through the final 5+ minutes, securing the 2-1 victory and taking all three points in Toronto, officially eliminating TFC from playoff contention.

This was a typical “Robbo-ball” (old habits die hard) style victory for the Whitecaps, as they held only 39% of the possession and surrendered 18 total shots and 7 corner kicks. Yet the Whitecaps remained rock-solid defensively other than one untimely Doneil Henry error and even in that case, they responded quickly to the PK they’d conceded. At the end of the day, this was the kind of performance that will leave Whitecaps fans wondering what might’ve been, had the Caps been able to hold down the fort defensively on a more consistent basis this season. If nothing else, this result gives the Whitecaps some satisfying retribution for an embarrassing Canadian Championship final and the slim hopes of a continued playoff push.

Be sure to let me know your thoughts on the match in the comments!