After the euphoric high of last year’s dramatic 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids, which propelled Vancouver into the playoffs, nothing was going to come close to that feeling no matter what the outcome was versus the Dynamo.
But as the final whistle blew, a massive sigh of relief reverberated about the building after last night’s match between the Vancouver Whitecaps and FC Dallas. The score board read 3-0 for the home side thanks to Manneh, Waston and Robert Earnshaw. Players and fans alike were jubilated but a noticeable look of relief was etched across Carl Robinson’s face. A worrying lack of goals has been forthcoming since September and the Welsh manager knew his young team needed a confidence boost if they are to make waves this postseason. Momentum is often regarded as the key indicator of how well a team performs in the MLS Playoffs and for the ‘Caps, a team running on fumes, last night couldn’t have come at a better time.
I’m not saying things are going to be a breeze and the ‘Caps will cruise to the MLS Cup, far from it, especially since Octavio Rivero hasn’t found the back of the net since September 9th, but the postseason is a different ballgame and we can only hope with players returning from injury the ‘Caps won’t fall at the first hurdle.
Speaking of injuries, the status of Pedro Morales is questionable and the playmaker may not make an appearance in the postseason. Thankfully Mezquida and Rosales are back from injury so it isn’t all doom and gloom. Beitashour played a full game last night and his presences is the biggest boost the Caps could receive on the backline. His replacement at right back, Jordan Smith, has failed to perform while being repeatedly exposed by opponents. Kendal Waston was his usual self and earlier this week the centerback was named Whitecaps Play of the Year, as selected by the fans. While Waston has been solid he simply isn’t PotY. That award belonged to only one man, David Ousted. Without the Danish goalkeeper the Whitecaps might not have made the playoffs, it’s that simple. Ousted has single-handedly saved this team countless times, earning them points in games they deserved to go home empty handed.
Regardless of player awards the Whitecaps claimed 2nd in the Western Conference and anything less would have been a disgrace. Them and 1st place FC Dallas will get a much appreciated bye to the next round and avoid a potential embarrassing defeat in the Knockout Round. Once the dust is settled they will host either the LA, Seattle, Portland or Kansas City in a home and away series. All of these opponents will be a stiff challenge but the team I would like the Caps to avoid most is the Sounders. This season, unlike previous years, Seattle has owned Vancouver and they will have the mental edge going into any playoff match against Vancouver. The Galaxy have struggled to win on the road this year which is why I believe they will fall in Seattle this Wednesday. The other Knockout Round match will see Portland host Sporting Kansas City. Portland and SKC have been hit and miss this season (sounds familiar), but the booming voices of the home crowd will always give them an advantage and their recent explosion of offence will likely carry them to the next round which will see them face Vancouver regardless of what happens in Seattle.