It was a short stay in the 2021 MLS Cup playoffs for the Vancouver Whitecaps, as they fell 3-1 to a vibrant Sporting Kansas City side. General sentiment was positive within the Canadian soccer landscape heading into the game both in terms of the national team and with the Whitecaps themselves, but this wave of confidence wasn’t able to carry them over a sold-out crowd in Kansas City. While it’s certainly a deflating result after a stellar fairy tale (sort of) end to the season, the playoff match was like a cherry on top for a team who has finally found a base to build something promising off of.
- The starting lineup today was questionable at best. It felt like a 5D chess move when it was announced and was a gamble that didn’t really pay off. Godinho starting in a crucial game when Brown was available for selection (Albeit following national team duty, but he could put in a shift) was interesting, along with having Nerwinski above both Godoy and Ranko in terms of CB pecking order. Adjusting to injuries is understandable, but a team that was more offensive in nature would probably have resulted in a stronger attacking display.
- The first half was hard to watch, as the nerves of the team were clearly on display. It was frustrating to see the Whitecaps fail to have a considerable shot on target outside of a long shot by Dajome early in the half. It felt like the Whitecaps were just falling back and damage controlling the attacks from SKC. Nerwinski looked out of depth at a position he’s recently shined in, bringing into question how effective the starting lineup was right off the gate.
- Not much can be said about the goals conceded, outside that most of them were due to defensive scrambles that shouldn’t have happened. (Zusi’s goal nonwithstanding.) It was unfortunate to see, and more frustrating was letting in a last minute goal at the end of the first half. Defensive changes were in order once the team hit the dressing room.
- The Whitecaps’ usually adept attackers took a long time to get going, with White and Gauld not really showing their best until well into the second half. The team looked out of ideas for a good portion of the game and could not hold anything down in the midfield. The clear disconnect between midfield and attack was something that Owusu and Teibert were not on, which would make one think if there were better options to start with.
- Dajome’s goal was solid. Against an experienced keeper like Meila, any player would have thought twice about where they were putting the ball, but Dajome did not hesitate and cooly placed the ball at the bottom corner. Again, this would have been a key moment of the match were it not for Kansas City’s following goal right before the half. If there anything to take away from this, at least penalty duties have a lock in for next season.
As much as I am a little disappointed by the performance and the result of the night, I am extremely proud of the effort of the team, coach, and everyone around them. The way this team finished off the season inspires many to dream and have hope again after years of underachieving and rebuilding with no end in sight. It’s a weird position to be in, as although I am sad that the Whitecaps are out of the playoffs, I have no doubt that our next appearance won’t be in another 4 years like last time. The team is solid, the coach is solid, and if they continue on this rise, I think we could see attendance be solid as well. A lot of pieces need to be moved in the offseason for sure, as the identity of this team is very closed to be carved out of the proverbial marble. A DP slot or two opening up could bring a revolution on the field if the pieces have been given as much thought as was given to Gauld’s appointment. For now though, the Whitecaps should be proud of their effort and take some time off before we worry about free agency, drafts, or blockbuster signings again, they’ve earned it.
What were your thoughts on the Whitecaps this season? Did you believe the Whitecaps would get this far? Who would you move on in the offseason? Sound off in the comments below!