I should recognize a bad omen when I see one, especially when it slaps me right in the face. Turning on the car to start the trek out to BC Place to watch the Whitecaps first ever MLS home playoff game , I should’ve asked for a redo. The bluetooth started up, and kicked off a random shuffle of music from my phone. There’s a repeating piano key, and then I hear it.
This is the end.
It’s Adele’s ‘Skyfall’ the Oscar winning anthem from the Bond movie of the same movie. I can’t help but picture waves cresting along the pacific coast, and replays of shots going wide and players with their heads in their hands play slow motion.
Hold your breath, and count to ten.
The Whitecaps should’ve had this one sewn up in Portland, playing a team on not very much rest, and mentally spent from having just won a thriller a few nights before. Instead they simply seemed to content to hold on, to what, no one was really sure. The only offensive opportunities they had stood out by how great the misses were. This seemed to be a growing trend this season, the Whitecaps found themselves as high in the standings as they’ve ever been, despite their finishers not actually having any finish, and some of their key players carrying knocks.
Feel the earth move and then
Hear my heart burst again
That’s as loud as I’ve heard a Whitecaps crowd in the opening, the anthems, almost bursting at the seams when Kekuta Manneh’s shot rang off the post. The Whitecaps Front Office recognized the opportunity they had in front of them, placards with the words WHITE and CAPS were placed throughout the stands. More importantly, on the backs of the cards, a few of the players were spotlighted, and the rules behind aggregate scoring were explained. There were a lot of people there that had never been to a Whitecaps match before, it was clear, the goal was to win some of them over, and, why not? The Canucks are in a bit of slump, and haven’t really captured the imagination of the city, the BC Lions are fighting just to stay relevant, and there’s no other game in town – literally. The local scene wasn’t just the perfect setting – sure, you had a city, begging to be converted into a fanbase, you also had a Western Conference that was clearing some room – Seattle was bounced earlier in the night, Los Angeles was out of the playoff picture too. Beat this Portland team, and take on Dallas FC in the western final. Beat Portland, and see a couple hundred more Caps jerseys out and about town this week. Beat Portland and be the franchise to give the city its first taste of playoff success in four years.
A thousand miles and poles apart
Octavio Rivero had a terrible season, there’s no denying it, he started the season with three goals in three games, and made Whitecaps fans forget all about that superstar that defected from the team and the league. Then Rivero himself disappeared, only to show glimpses of himself, missing chance after chance, whether it was a few inches wide, or sailing a ball clear over the net. He never regained his touch, instead, seemed to eager to hit the pitch, and look around for a call to go his way. Darren Mattocks only seems to score for Jamaica, he too would show glimpses of finish, but nothing sustained, same goes for Manneh – his two most memorable moments this season will both be misses. To quote Obi Wan, these aren’t the strikers you’re looking for.
Now, all is not lost, not by a long shot, as a matter of fact, what has been gained is far greater. A healthy Pedro Morales seems to be the real deal, he can create with the best of them, and he seems to be conducting traffic even when he doesn’t have the ball – a solid captain. The supporting cast is strong as well, defensively the team is rock solid backed by Stretch Armstrongs’ body double in David Ousted. Kendall Waston has been a nightmare for oppositions to deal with, and he’ll only get better with this experience. The team won it’s first trophy in the Canadian Championship, a piece of hardware that’s alluded them despite the watered down competition. The Whitecaps had a real shot at actually winning the Supporters Shield this year, the award for best regular season – worth much, much more in soccer than the Presidents Trophy is in hockey. The team from a marketing and operations level was top notch, more people learned about the club, more people came out to see them play, and I’m curious to see how many new season ticket members they’ll have by the start of next season. I’m also curious to see who the new strikers will be, because, you know that will happen. They Whitecaps joined the MLS in 2011, and aside from one year, never had true striking threat. I’d expect the team to sign two mid level players to fill that need. It’d be a great marketing move to see them sign a ‘big name’ player like Toronto, Montreal, LA, Seattle and the New York teams seem prone to do, but that hasn’t been this organizations style.
We will stand tall