Good Friday morning Caps fans. A seven-month regular season comes down to this, a rather simple objective: win or draw and the Vancouver Whitecaps are in the MLS Cup playoffs.
It is pretty amazing that this sentence came to be true. If you had told any of us mid-season that this would be the endgame, I doubt most fans would have believed you. For these reasons, it is easy to be spoiled by the strong run of form — I know I was after a midweek performance against LAFC that had chances on both sides to swing a different direction than the 1-1 draw that ultimately came to pass.
A Deiber Caicedo breakaway or Bruno Gaspar finish could have put the Caps in the playoffs. A few missed chances from LAFC or Max Crepeau not being, well, Max Crepeau could have put Vancouver in a more difficult place on Decision Day. Such is football.
The fact of the matter is this season has turned around and has become what I think most people would consider a success, playoffs are not. For the first time in a long time, the Caps have a meaningful game to be played on the last day of the season. For the first time in a long time, the team is ending the season with a real path forward and, with a couple more roster moves, is likely to be one pegged as a favorite to make the playoffs next season.
Everything is not hunky dorry, as the MLS announcement of independent counsel to investigate the organization’s handling of sexual assault allegations shows.
But after years of ambivalence (at best) from home fans, Sunday’s match is likely to be as full as COVID-19 restrictions allow. The franchise has a way to go to repair relationships with fans but winning heals a lot of wounds and we are seeing that right now.
The fact that this is such a likeable team/coaching staff helps. And with the central core of players likely to return next season, that will hopefully remain true going forward as well.
There is no two ways about it: I am nervous for Sunday’s match. While Seattle’s form has ebbed and flowed lately, they are a team that has ample talent and needs a result themselves to clinch the Western Conference title. Getting a win or draw is a tricky proposition.
But whenever the Caps have found themselves staring down a challenge this season, they have risen to it. Playing home games in Salt Lake City? Check. Fighting their way back into playoff contention? Indeed. Turning around countless 1-0 deficits into wins? Oh yes. It says something about this current team that we can acknowledge the difficult nature of Sunday’s match but also firmly believe this is a squad that is capable of rising to that challenge and delivering in a way that past ones have not.
We all want to see this wild ride culminate in a playoff appearance. But win, lose or draw on Sunday, it is worth remembering that this is the start of what is hopefully an upward trajectory, not the end. And when was the last time we could end a season saying that?
Shameless Self Promotion
Best of the Rest
MLS has hired an independent firm for their probe of the Whitecaps, which will include a public tip line for comments. And an excellent story from The Province, talking to former players on the women’s tetam.
If you need a full run down of the results to root for on Sunday, here you go
Houston Dynamo have sacked manager Tab Ramos after finishing bottom of the conference standings and with a new GM coming aboard
New England Revolution have rolled out a new logo — RIP MLS 1.0 crests