Final minutes haunting Whitecaps in playoff hunt

TYLER GREEN, soccer columnist for 24 hours Vancouver

Last week, I wrote that the Vancouver Whitecaps FC needed to "put up or shut up." The 'Caps did indeed 'put up' in the form of two goals from defender Alain Rochat and striker Kenny Miller. Unfortunately, it was the Rapids who 'shut up' Vancouver.

It was the fourth match at home that the Whitecaps have failed to pull out the victory, instead settling for a draw in the final five minutes.

Along with Sunday's draw with Colorado, those included the July 18th match against the Los Angeles Galaxy when Jose Villarreal scored in the 86th minute, Heath Pearce evening things up for the New York Red Bulls when he scored in the 86th minute, and the draw with Seattle Sounders FC when Fredy Montero scored in the 90th minute.

Those aren't the only examples of Vancouver losing out on a win late in matches. In a game that featured highs and lows, they drew level with Toronto FC in stoppage time when Darren Mattocks scored his second of two goals. The high was short lived, however, when former Whitecaps midfielder Terry Dunfield scored a few minutes later to preserve the TFC win.

Of course, no one has forgotten what happened just a couple weeks ago when Canadian international Julian de Guzman scored in 90-plus minutes to give FC Dallas a victory to get the Western Conference squad within a single point of Vancouver.

So what seems to be the problem? Why can't this team seem to close out a game?

The Whitecaps have left numerous points on the table that should have solidified their playoff position already.

Instead, this team is struggling to find its form while battling tooth and nail to get into the playoffs.

In watching the game from the sidelines on Sunday, I realized that in the final 10 minutes, the 'Caps seemed nervous and even a little panicked in trying to keep the lead.

Instead of playing with a determination that got them a four-game clean sheet record at the start of the season, Vancouver have tightened up and literally shutdown.

The confidence to hold leads is disappearing and the questions in the final five minutes of matches keep returning.

Whitecaps assistant coach Paul Ritchie was seen and heard on the sidelines, telling his squad, specifically the defence, to continue talking and communicating - a message that Rochat and fellow defender Y.P Lee failed to receive.

Perhaps it's the pressure of the playoff race, perhaps it was the five-match losing streak, but the 'Caps need to reorganize and regain that confidence that they had at the start of the year.

Perhaps the team can borrow some swagger from rookie striker Mattocks, a man that exudes confidence.Because right now, it appears the rest of the team has none.

Listen to Tyler Green, host of Full Time: The Soccer Show, on TEAM 1040 every Sunday at 9 p.m. He also co-hosts the Whitecaps pre- and post-game shows