VANCOUVER Whitecaps FC (12W-8L-14D) booked their ticket to the MLS Cup Playoffs after earning a massive 1-0 win over Colorado Rapids (11W-9L-14D) Saturday night in their regular season finale at BC Place.
The situation was clear for Whitecaps FC after Portland’s win over FC Dallas earlier in the day: win and they’re in. Any other result would have seen the Timbers claim the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Fortunately for the sold-out crowd of 21,000 in attendance, the club’s record 11th sellout this season, the Blue and White took matters into their own hands.
After a scoreless first half, Budweiser Man of the Match Kendall Waston headed in a Pedro Morales corner in the 70th minute to carry Vancouver to a 1-0 victory and their second playoff berth since joining MLS in 2011.
Not only did Saturday’s win clinch a playoff berth for Whitecaps FC, it also set a new club record in MLS with 50 points, surpassing their 48-point total from 2013.
The ‘Caps now enter the postseason unbeaten in five matches (4W-0L-1D). They’ve also recorded four straight clean sheets. In fact, it’s been 393 minutes since Whitecaps FC last conceded a goal, which is the longest shutout streak in MLS this season.
Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson made three changes to his starting lineup after last weekend’s scoreless draw with San Jose Earthquakes. Waston returned to the fold after serving a one-match suspension (caution accumulation), replacing Johnny Leveron, while Darren Mattocks and Sebastian Fernandez drew in forErik Hurtado and Kekuta Manneh.
The ‘Caps, who were facing a do or die situation, pushed numbers forward from the opening whistle. It was a one-sided first half that saw Whitecaps FC control over 60 per cent of possession and outshoot the Rapids by an 8-2 margin.
Two of Vancouver’s more lively players were Fernandez and Jordan Harvey, who caused all sorts of problems along the left flank. Fernandez had the best chance of the half in the 29th minute, when he tiptoed into the Rapids box before seeing his left-footed attempt stymied by a sprawling Clint Irwin.
Mattocks and Waston also had a pair of headed opportunities, while Morales led the way with four first-half shots, including a strike he sent just wide in the 14th minute.
Colorado didn’t offer much attacking threat in the opening frame, but striker Charles Eloundou did come close in stoppage time with a right-footed strike from the top of the box. Fortunately, David Ousted made a diving save to keep things level heading into the break.
Both sides were also forced to make a substitution in the first half, as right backs Steven Beitashour (right hamstring strain) and Marvell Wynne (left hamstring tightness) went down with injuries. Left back Sam Adekugbe replaced Beitashour, moving Harvey over to the right.
Colorado’s back line continued to prove difficult to unlock early in the second half, which prompted Robinson to bring on Manneh in the 56th minute.
Manneh, who replaced Russell Teibert, came within inches of opening the scoring just two minutes later. After receiving a pinpoint ball from Morales on the left side, Manneh cut into the middle and blasted a right-footed strike off the crossbar.
The ‘Caps kept coming though. Morales sent a left-footed strike just wide in the 69th minute and Vancouver broke the deadlock moments later.
After Manneh won a corner, the crowd rose to its feet to cheer on the Blue and White and they returned the favour. Morales whipped in the ensuing corner to the near post and a lunging Waston knocked it in past Irwin, putting Whitecaps FC up 1-0 and sending the sold-out crowd into a frenzy.
Hurtado, who replaced Mattocks in the 66th minute, nearly added an insurance marker in the 75th minute after getting released into the box by Morales, but Irwin came up with a big save to keep the game within reach.
At the other end of the park, Ousted made two fantastic late saves on Rapids striker Gabriel Torres to seal the historic win for Whitecaps FC.
The ‘Caps will now quickly shift their focus to FC Dallas, who they will meet on Wednesday at Toyota Stadium (6 p.m. PT, TSN1) in the Western Conference Knockout Round. For more playoff information, visit whitecapsfc.com/playoffs.
STAT OF THE GAME
It’s now been 393 minutes since Whitecaps FC last conceded a goal, which is the longest shutout streak in MLS this season. Also of note, Waston had a season-high 13 interceptions on Saturday, which is the second highest total in MLS this season.
Budweiser Man of the Match: Kendall Waston
Referee: Kevin Stott
70′ – VAN – Kendall Waston (Pedro Morales)
Shots: Vancouver 17 – Colorado 10
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 5 – Colorado 5
Saves: Vancouver 5 – Colorado 4
Fouls: Vancouver 10 – Colorado 14
Offsides: Vancouver 7 – Colorado 5
Corners: Vancouver 2 – Colorado 3
17′ – COL – Gabriel Torres
87′ – VAN – Jordan Harvey
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.David Ousted; 33.Steven Beitashour (3.Sam Adekugbe 33′), 40.Andy O’Brien, 4.Kendall Waston, 2.Jordan Harvey; 15.Matías Laba, 31.Russell Teibert (23.Kekuta Manneh 56′); 30.Mauro Rosales, 77.Pedro Morales, 7.Sebastián Fernández; 11.Darren Mattocks (19.Erik Hurtado 67′)
Substitutes not used
70.Paolo Tornaghi, 16.Johnny Leverón, 28.Gershon Koffie, 29.Nicolás Mezquida
1.Clint Irwin; 22.Marvell Wynne (28.Davy Armstrong 42′), 18.Zat Knight, 27.Shane O’Neill, 15.Chris Klute; 94.Marlon Hairston, 2.Nick LaBrocca, 17.Dillon Serna (16.John Neeskens 73′), 57.Carlos Alvarez; 10.Gabriel Torres, 19.Charles Eloundou (26.Deshorn Brown 61′)
Substitutes not used
12.John Berner, 21.Grant Van De Casteele, 44.Gale Agbossoumonde