Vancouver Whitecaps end first MLS season with a loss to Colorado Rapids
TheVancouver Whitecaps had only two things to accomplish on Saturday, the day of the team’s last game in its inaugural MLS season: avoid finishing as the league’s worst team and send their supporters home happy with a win on what they billed as a fan-appreciation day.
Sadly, they had accomplished neither of those goals by the end of an afternoon that saw the ’Caps lose 2-1 to the Colorado Rapids, a team that, although playoffs-bound, did have something to prove: a Colorado win would sew up home field for its wild-card game next week.
A crowd of 21,000 at B.C. Place Stadium sat through a relatively lacklustre first half only to have hopes raised by a quick, somewhat flukey, Vancouver strike early in the second.
Less than 10 minutes later, however, a Colorado free kick and some less-than-alert goalkeeping by Vancouver’s Joe Cannon let the fifth-place Western Conference rivals back in the game, an advantage they sealed six minutes before time with an opportunistic goal.
Some early action might have had some fans anticipating an entertaining match. Forward Long Tan tested Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens two-and-a-half minutes in with a cracker of a kick that Pickens parried with some effort, and ’Caps midfielder John Thorrington sent a great, long diagonal pass to a streaking Gershon Koffie, who broke clear and sent the ball just wide of the far post at the seven-minute mark.
But other than some nice bedevilment after 20 minutes by the diminutive Camillo Sanvezzo, who fooled several defenders before getting off a sharp-angled shot almost at the back line, that was about it for Vancouver in the first 45.
Of note early in was speedy Gambian midfielder Sanna Nyassi, who gave the Whitecaps' back line fits, hugely embarrassing two defenders in the process, and who must have had Cannon apoplectic.
Near the 24-minute mark, Nyassi sped in on a dawdling and careless Jay DeMerit at the top of his own penalty area, stripping the defender of the ball and forcing Cannon into a diving, two-handed stop.
Fifteen minutes later, Nyassi dispossessed Thorrington, who was deep in his end at the side of the area and, seemingly, lost in thought and looking away. Luckily, Cannon was able to watch the stolen ball drift out of bounds.
The Whitecaps came out for the second half knowing that the New England Revolution had tied Toronto FC 2-2 earlier, meaning the formerly worst team in Major League Soccer, with only 27 points on the season, had drawn even with Vancouver. The ’Caps needed a tie themselves to avoid sharing the cellar.
Two minutes in, Jordan Harvey delivered a superb forward ball up the left side to fellow Vancouver defender Alain Rochat, who fed it back in front of the net to a charging Harvey, who then misfired over the crossbar.
Then the gift. At 49 minutes, a Rochat free kick sailed over a couple of Vancouver heads and skipped into the net at the far post past a very surprised-looking Pickens, who was obviously thinking the ball was going wide.
The Whitecaps couldn’t capitalize on their good fortune, though, as Colorado captain and top scorer Jeff Larentowicz blasted a teed-up free kick (courtesy of a blatant Jeb Brovsky foul at the top of the box) past an ineffective defensive wall and directly between the dropping knees of Cannon. The outspoken 'keeper has appeared flat-footed on more than one occasion since replacing Jay Nolly and being installed as interim coach Tom Soehn’s favoured stopper after head coach Teitur Thordarson’s abrupt and seemingly reckless dismissal 12 games into the season.
Camilo was thwarted from notching his 13th goal of the season several times in the game’s final 25 minutes, and the late introductions of designated player Eric Hassli and Shea Salinas (subbing for Nizar Khalfan and Harvey, respectively) failed to generate any good chances.
Then, in the 84th minute, Rapids midfielder Wells Thompson sealed the ’Caps’ season with a shot from outside the area that deflected off DeMerit’s foot and over Cannon’s outstretched hands into the roof of the net.
The Whitecaps finished the season with 28 points from a 6-18-10 record.
Earlier, team awards went to the always dangerous Camilo (player of the year and golden boot). Koffie (most promising player), Rochat (unsung hero),and Brovsky (humanitarian of the year).
Not announced, but what should have been, was an award for Outstanding Support and Unflagging Cheer Regardless of Circumstances to the marching, singing, always loud Vancouver Southsiders supporters club.
Good on ya all!