Season over for Whitecaps in playoff loss 0
Whitecaps striker Darren Mattocks controls the ball Thursday as Galaxy’s David Beckham looks on. The rookie scored early but it was not enough as Vancouver fell 2-1 to L.A. (Getty Images)
Great start, poor finish.
It was only fitting the Vancouver Whitecaps’ final game of the season pretty much summed up their entire year.
From a promising start to a gradual decline highlighted by disheartening blows, the Whitecaps saw their campaign come to a close Thursday in California in a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy. With that, the second-year club will head into the off-season disappointed — having failed to upset the heavily favourited Galaxy in the single-elimination match — but content — after becoming the first Canadian team to play in the Major League Soccer playoffs.
“That’s a tough one to swallow,” goalkeeper Brad Knighton told TSN afterwards. “We had a game plan, we executed it well for 60 minutes and we just came up a bit short.”
After an early goal by rookie striker Darren Mattocks, Vancouver stuck to their defensive ways, attempting to hold off the increasing pressure by the hosts. In the end, the firepower, the experience and the talent of the reigning MLS Cup champions were just too much, as they scored two goals in four minutes in the second half to pull off the victory.
All week, the Whitecaps talked about the lack of pressure, heading into the game as the major underdogs. They certainly took advantage of the nothing-to-lose role right out of the gates.
Following a nice run into the box and pass by midfielder Matt Watson in the third minute, an open Mattocks one-touched the ball past diving goalkeeper Josh Saunders to give the visitors an unexpected lead.
The assist was Watson’s first point as a Whitecap.
Vancouver held onto the single-goal advantage through the first 45 minutes as Knighton made a terrific save on a David Beckham free kick in the dying minutes of the first half. But despite the ’Caps putting together a flurry of chances from Kenny Miller — who had subbed in for Mattocks — Watson and Barry Robson past the hour-mark, they failed to pad their lead.
It cost them. Moments later, Mike Magee volleyed a perfect cross past Knighton to draw the hosts even. Soon after in the 73rd minute, the Galaxy were awarded a penalty kick after Martin Bonjour, who had only subbed on for injured captain Jay DeMerit, was given a yellow card for a foul in the box on Landon Donovan.
The Galaxy forward made no mistake on his golden opportunity, putting the dagger in the Whitecaps’ long-shot dreams of winning their post-season debut.
Vancouver, who had four shots on target to L.A.’s seven, has now lost all four trips to the Home Depot Center against the Galaxy over the last two seasons. L.A. will face the San Jose Earthquakes in the second round of the playoffs while the Whitecaps head home, ready to reflect on their up-and-down season — albeit a much-improved one.