A single point turned out to be enough for the Whitecaps, although the way that Vancouver played after surrendering early on, they may have deserved all three. An extra time Real Salt Lake goal shook things up in the West standings, which finalized the playoff matchup to come, as Vancouver will travel to Sporting Kansas City in a few weeks time.
In terms of the match itself, the Whitecaps embodied the team they have been as this season has gone on, a resilient group which has been full of surprises.
Brian White and Ryan Gauld combining for a goal was not one of those surprises, but Cristian Gutierrez’s resurgent showing at the wingback spot was certainly a welcome sight as the Whitecaps head into their most important match in several years. His cricual cross led to the Whitecaps’ lone goal, and Gutierrez looked as though he was thriving in a more advanced role in the Whitecaps system.
Another standout in my mind was Leonard Owusu. For someone who could barely get a minute in the opening months of the season, his turnaround has been a credit to both himself and Sartini. Leo looked like a man possessed in the second half, and both he and Teibert rewarded their manager’s confidence for starting them once again after a poor showing in LA.
For a team that has struggled so much against Seattle over the years, the way the Whitecaps controlled play was impressive, even if Seattle was without their three top performers, and despite Fredy Montero’s best efforts. Make no bones about it, Seattle wanted this game, as first place in the West would have secured a bye as well as a Champions League spot for next season, which just made Vancouver's’ showing all the more inspiring.
The task which lies ahead in a couple weeks is a tall one, but the Whitecaps have shown that they can go toe to toe with some of the best in the West down the stretch. I’m sure Sartini will have something up his sleeve.
It was also fantastic to hear a crowd the likes of which I haven’t experienced in years at BC Place. To have an environment that’s so notable throughout the match can’t be overstated, and I hope we’ll get to see many more home matches with that kind of environment soon enough.
Through all the joy and revelry, I do want to note that this can’t completely overshadow some of the things going on with the Vancouver Whitecaps off the pitch right now. Both sides of the club are important, and while the first team has been doing amazing things over these past few months, there’s still work to be done elsewhere. At least the league looks as though it’s taking the right steps - you know what to do.
To all the readers and supporters out there who have stuck with us here at 86Forever over the past couple of years, thank you, and boy will it be nice to have some playoff soccer again soon!
As always, let me know your thoughts below!