Whitecaps need 90 minutes of effort

BOB MACKIN -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

When the Rochester Raging Rhinos beat the Atlanta Silverbacks 2-1 on Saturday, the Vancouver Whitecaps clinched a playoff berth for the 10th consecutive season.

Whitecaps could finish as high as third or as low as sixth in the United Soccer League's First Division. Their hopes of claiming a first-round bye were effectively dashed when they let Charleston Battery escape Aug. 31 with a 1-1 tie on an injury time goal by Ben Hollingsworth.

Whitecaps dominated the rusty Battery but couldn't add to Eduardo Sebrango's first goal of the season. They led for 60-plus minutes until Hollingsworth chested a desperation pass from Lazo Alvanja and ruined Tony Caig's shutout by scoring on a half-volley.

"We had five defenders in the back and three centre backs," said Whitecaps' head coach Bob Lilley. "It was a straight ball flighted in the air that went unchallenged initially... a player shouldn't be able to bring it down and prepare it for a shot that easily. That's a mistake and that cost us the three points."

Less than a week earlier, Whitecaps let a 2-0 lead become a 2-2 tie in the 69th minute with the lowly Minnesota Thunder after a three-minute defensive lapse.

Whitecaps, with a club record 10 ties, are tough to beat, but they're definitely not difficult to draw. The Minnesota and Charleston results are just two cases of Vancouver relinquishing costly, timely goals.

- Whitecaps nearly lost to expansion Miami FC on June 9 when aging Brazilian star Romario broke a 1-1 tie in the 90th minute. Whitecap Steve Kindel rescued a point when he knotted the game in the fourth minute of added time, moments before the final whistle.

- Martin Nash and Dave Morris' first goals of the season on June 17 in Atlanta gave Vancouver a 2-0 lead. Silverback Machel Millwood scored a minute after Morris' 64th minute marker and Jason McLauglin equalized in the 78th on a bad clearance.

- Vancouver was en route to a 1-0 upset of the host Montreal Impact on July 7 with a 20th minute Kindel goal. Impact's Mauricio Vincello headed a Leonardo Di Lorenzo corner kick in the third minute of time added on for the 1-1 tie.

"We've obviously got to work on end-of-game situations," Lilley admitted.

YOU SHOULD KNOW

- The Whitecaps have two more home games before the playoffs.

- Seattle Sounders visit Friday (7 p.m. AM 730/Shaw TV). * Silverbacks meet the Whitecaps in Sunday's regular season finale (4 p.m. AM 730).


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