The Vancouver Whitecaps played this game like they didn’t need to win, so they didn’t.
With losses in the previous four games and a week off for an international break the game was a great opportunity to tidily end a streak: against FC Dallas, the team who beat them to start the skid.
But the framing of the game, at least on TV, focused on Dallas, and their need to win the game, as opposed to the benefits of establishing a seven-point safety cushion between the Caps and Dallas for the last playoff spot. At half-time, the team was glassy-eyed on the road, grinding out a result but offensively lost. They just couldn’t hold it forever.
The teamsheet was shook up from the loss against L.A., with four players that started in that game–Dane Richards, Jun Marques Davidson, Matt Watson and Russell Teibert–moved to the bench. This was part of a hope to inspire any offense at all; the biggest offense of the four-game losing streak was that there were zero shots on goal in three of those games.
It was not particularly successful. The shuffled teamsheet had a difficulty striking up a rhythm; it’s not like players were bad on the ball, but there was no sense of shared movement that powered any offensive moves. However, the Whitecaps were lucky not to be punished for it early on.
Vancouver conceded a penalty kick on 15 minutes after Jay DeMerit rose to clear a cross by seizing the shoulders of the Dallas man next to him. But Brad Knighton, preferred to Joe Cannon for the second straight game, improbably got gloves on the ball to save it. It was the first of many strong saves from Knighton that kept the Caps in the game.
But the Whitecaps didn’t show any signs of capitalizing on that luck; between the penalty, a shot off the crossbar on 41 minutes and fingertip save on 42 minutes, the Whitecaps could have been 3-0 at the interval and offered no indication they could have dealt with the hardship if any one of the chances went in.
It’s not as though the Caps were awful. Second half substitutes Teibert and Mattocks did well to lighten the mood. The defense was solid, and there was great contributions from the midfield and the forward line; Mattocks was more solid on the defensive side of the ball than I’ve ever seen him.
But they just had no way of creating things. I cannot honestly tell you a single thing Barry Robson or Kenny Miller did. The Thorrington-Koffie-Rochat midfield was as defensive as you’d expect it, although Koffie had a go in the second half. This is the single biggest area in which the team needs to improve.
As Dallas pushed crazily for a goal in the game’s final moments, the Whitecaps looked terrified and disorganized; knowing that they had done nothing to avert a 0-0 draw and were in heavy danger of leaving Frisco with nothing. They were unable to hold Dallas out of their own penalty area and were punished at 6 minutes of injury time by a supurb strike that was patience rewarded.
And, you know, what would the Whitecaps have said if the game had ended 0-0? “Hey, we didn’t lose!” “We got shots on goal this time!” They can’t win games and, ultimately, make the playoffs that way. The home game against Colorado will be the new moment where they have to turn it around if they want to see the postseason.
Tonight, the Caps tried to hold on against Dallas, who were determined to get a result and won accordingly. There’s now only a point that separates the two teams. If the Whitecaps are complacent, they could be punished again.
Stats after the jump.