Decision Day in the MLS, where a 34-game regular season comes down to a mere one day of soccer.
Things haven’t been going smoothly for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, as of late. Heading in to Sunday’s playoff decider against the Houston Dynamo, Vancouver had gone winless in their last five MLS matches, seven if you count the two CONCACAF Champions League matches and that crazy flight to Honduras. To top it all off, Vancouver had not scored a goal in the past 231 minutes of play.
Yet, the memories of going winless in Octobers would be erased by taking care of business in their final regular season home game against the Dynamo and getting some help from the rest of the Western Conference in order to secure at least one home playoff match.
With all of the results on Decision Day falling in Vancouver’s favour, the Whitecaps will finish the season second in the Western Conference after a 3-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo, clinching a bye into the Conference Semifinals, guaranteeing them at least one playoff game at BC Place Stadium.
Though, it did not look very promising early.
In the third minute of play, midfielder Cristian Techera was able to cut off a pass back to Dynamo keeper Joe Willis and find Octavio Rivero in the box for a clear header on goal which was just barely kept out by Willis.
In the 12th minute, Techera again was able to again create another scoring chance by firing the ball on target from outside the area, beating the keeper but not the bar.
It looked like it was going to be one of those oh too familiar nights where Vancouver had all the chances but couldn’t finish. That was until the final 34 minutes of the game where they exploded for three goals. Manneh, Waston and Earnshaw.
They’re not done there, and nor should they be. Whitecaps manager Carl Robinson believes the young team he’s assembled, which has qualified for the post-season in consecutive years, finished third overall in the MLS and won the Voyageurs Cup, should not be content with their accomplishments.
“I said to them in there listen, we’re not there to make up the numbers now,” Robinson said in his post-game address. “We’re there to try and win it.. Let’s go and have a right good go.”
Out of the 12 teams to have qualified for the post-season, the Whitecaps are the youngest of the bunch and will be looking to pounce on those older, more experienced, bigger budgeted squads of the Los Angeles Galaxy and rivals Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders, who all finished below Vancouver.
If they come their way, there’s no reason why the ‘Caps can’t compete on the league’s biggest stage against the league’s toughest opponents.
“I think people don’t believe that you can build a young group of players and be successful, but I firmly did,” said Robinson. “The club were fantastic in backing me with that. The players bought into it from day one.
“We’ve had a very solid two years of good football and yes make mistakes. Everyone in within the clubs makes mistakes. It’s important that you get back on the horse again and you try and rectify them.
“After 34 games, the league doesn’t lie, so I think we deserved to be where we are today.
“Football is about moving forward. The day you stand still is the day you take your suitcase and walk out that door.”
For the first time in their history, Whitecaps FC will host a playoff match at home, a goal that has been one of the top priorities of the club over the last few seasons. This is something they’ve been building towards for a while now and have missed out on throughout their past three playoff experiences.
Fast-forward three seasons from their first go around at the MLS Cup and it’s finally here.