VANCOUVER - From excitement to frustration to jubilation, the Vancouver Whitecaps had a hell of a Sunday.
In the end, they backdoored their way to history, becoming the first Canadian squad to reach the MLS playoffs.
With a chance to control their own destiny by winning at BC Place, the second-year club instead suffered a “disappointing” 1-0 loss to the lowly Portland Timbers in the team’s biggest game of the season.
Forced then to cheer for the Seattle Sounders later in the evening, Vancouver’s arch-rivals fortunately delivered against FC Dallas.
Seattle’s 3-1 victory meant Dallas can’t catch Vancouver for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with one game remaining. The Whitecaps are at 42 points while Dallas remain at 38. Vancouver will now face the fourth-place Los Angeles Galaxy in a one-match knockout showdown.
“It doesn’t matter how we get in as long as we get in,” defender Jordan Harvey said after the game — a sentiment his teammates shared.
However, it doesn’t take away from the team’s poor performance in front of a sold-out crowd. In a game of that magnitude, the Whitecaps lacked urgency, had no creativity, and failed to get quality offence.
“There just seemed to be something missing,” striker Kenny Miller said afterwards. “That’s a game with so much at stake and despite what goes on in Seattle, we had a chance to confirm our spot. For some reason, that spark was missing. I can’t explain it.”
Added coach Martin Rennie: “We let a lot of people down today.”
Vancouver didn’t give the home crowd — on Fan Appreciation Day nonetheless — much to cheer about from the get-go. Despite controlling more of the possession early on, their opportunities just weren’t there, allowing Portland to strike first. Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury scored on a terrific strike, beating keeper Brad Knighton from about 25 yards out and silencing the Vancouver home contingent before the half.
“It was just one lapse, and one wonder goal and we’re picking the ball from the back of our net,” Knighton said. “Credit to them for taking it to us.”
In need of goals, Dane Richards, Darren Mattocks and Omar Salgaldo were all subbed in during the final 45 minutes, but weren’t able to score.
Portland picked up their first road win of the season while the Whitecaps fell to 0-4-1 against the Timbers in the MLS. Vancouver will close out their regular season on the road Saturday against Real Salt Lake.