VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps returned home to BC Place Stadium on Sunday afternoon to take on the equally struggling Colorado Rapids. Having lost 5 games in a row with only 1 goal to show for themselves the Whitecaps were faced with another must win game as they looked to secure the franchises first MLS playoff spot. Three points were on the table and within sight after a slow start by Vancouver, but the Whitecaps gave up another late second half goal as they had to settle for a lone point. Currently Vancouver owns the 5th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 38 points, while FC Dallas is 6th with 36 points. Each team has four games remaining on their schedule.
Colorado was able to open the scoring in the 34th minute thanks to some luck and some lazy defence by the Whitecaps. Martin Rivero dribbled his way into the Whitecaps box unchallenged with no trouble what-so-ever. You could have driven a semi-truck and an RV through the Whitecaps defence because Rivero had all sorts of time and space. Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit should have challenged Rivero. The Argentinean midfielder fired his shot square off the post. It appeared that the Whitecaps caught a break but that was not the case because the rebound went directly to Omar Cummings who was off to the side of the net. Cummings easily hammered the ball past Whitecaps goalie Brad Knighton and into the open net for his 6th goal of the season.
The Whitecaps failed to score in the opening half and their best chance to score came off a beautiful pass from Alain Rochat who was playing in an unfamiliar holding midfield position. Rochat fell down but was quickly able to get up and continue forward with the ball. He slipped a pass through to Darren Mattocks who used his speed to split the Colorado defence. The Rapids were lucky Mattocks was called offside. Mattocks was able to get a shot off but his weak effort went wide and didn’t present a challenge for Rapids goalie Matt Pickens.
Whitecaps midfielder Dane Richards made an eventful return to the starting lineup and he was able to use his speed on the wing to create a few scoring chances for his teammates and fellow Jamaican international Darren Mattocks. In the first half Richards broke down the wing and tried to setup Mattocks in close. However the Rapids were in sound defensive form and were able to clear the ball away as Mattocks slide into the net. Since being acquired from the New York Red Bulls on July 13, Richards has played his best soccer at BC Place Stadium. Richards picked up a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Luis Zapata and he will miss the Whitecaps next game on Saturday when the Seattle Sounders visit due to accumulation.
With the Whitecaps trailing 1-0 heading into the second half coach Martin Rennie decided to sub on struggling Scottish striker Kenny Miller for defender Martin Bonjour. Alain Rochat slipped back to his more comfortable position on the Whitecaps back line as the Whitecaps looked to create more chances to score some goals.
The substitution and change in formation by the Whitecaps seemed to work because the Whitecaps found life and energy by scoring two quick goals in less than 5 minutes. Alain Rochat who was thought to have moved back to a more of a defensive role within the back four slipped forward and found himself in the right place at the right time in the 64th minute. Gershon Koffie made a terrific move to get around Omar Cummings before passing to Rochat inside the Rapids box. Rochat directed the ball towards the Colorado goal with a nifty deflection past Pickens. The Whitecaps momentum continued to grow and halftime sub Kenny Miller was the benefactor of a great pass by Barry Robson who sent Miller in on a breakaway. Miller wasted no time and rifled the ball past a falling Pickens to give the Whitecaps a 2-1 lead in the 68th minute. The Edinburgh, native has now scored 2 goals since coming over to Vancouver in July. Everyone who follows the Whitecaps has been riding Miller like a bicycle on Hornby St. since he arrived on the West Coast. During the Whitecaps 5 game losing streak Miller received the most criticism from fans, and media in Vancouver. It will be interesting to see if Miller can finally find his form in a Whitecaps uniform when the team needs him the most.
The Whitecaps good fortune and momentum was not sustainable for the duration of the second half. Colorado Rapids coach Oscar Pareja brought on Scottish midfielder Jamie Smith in the 73rd minute and just like Vancouver fans wanted a Scottish hero was born and had a huge contribution to the outcome of a soccer game. Jamie Smith from Alexandria, Scotland was able to find the ball as the keystone cops dressed as Vancouver Whitecaps defenders bumbled the ball away. Smith was able to control the ball and he made a perfect shot across his body to find the back of the net for the visitors. Smith talked to the media following the game and described what happened on his game-tying goal.
“It was a mix-up at the back and the ball fell at my feet, I took a touch and just finished it.”
You could feel the energy, excitement, and noise lift right out of BC Place Stadium when the ball went past Knighton in the 86th minute. Even with 3 minutes of added time it just wasn’t in the cards for Vancouver to earn all 3 points at home after a 39 day gap in between home games. Although the Whitecaps defense cost them the chance to earn all 3 points leading scorer Darren Mattocks thinks his team is still in a good position heading into the final stretch of the season.
“I think we have three more home games coming up. I think we can get a maximum 7 or 8 points from those games. I think once we get our form back with these home games we’ll be good heading into the playoffs.”
The Whitecaps haven’t won since August 11 when they defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1 in Vancouver. Even though the Whitecaps losing streak is over they still don’t have a bloody win in their last 6 games. Just like Darren Mattocks, Martin Rennie was also focusing on the positives after the game while almost wearing “rose-coloured glasses” during his press conference.
“I think we would like to be four points ahead with four games to go but were two points ahead with four games to go and that’s a good position. There’s some things we can take away from that game and I think we need to put in a full 90-minute performance but tonight that wasn’t a full 90 minute performance and had it been I think we would have got a better result. There are definitely positives there with two good goals.”
Notes: Among the 18,922 fans were Whitecaps co-owner and Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash, and locked out Vancouver Canucks players Cory Schneider, Alex Edler, and Chris Higgins. The Whitecaps will host the Seattle Sounders on Saturday, September 29, at 6:00pm PT. Colorado will return home to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to play the LA Galaxy on September 30, at 5:00pm MT.