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Simon Fudge

05 November 4:18 pm

So that was the season that was…

The build-up to last Thursday’s inaugural MLS playoff game had that familiar postseason buzz that ‘Caps fans know all too well. What was also exciting to see was the amount of attention that Whitecaps FC drew from being in the playoffs.

Of course, the Blue and White filled a certain void (no NHL hockey) for Vancouver sports fans last week, and although it did not result in a win in LA, the performance of Martin Rennie’s side left some good feelings.

The feedback from media and supporters after Thursday’s game was one of pride, as most were aware of the tall task that faced the ‘Caps against the star-studded Galaxy.

The contest required spirit and commitment from Vancouver, and that was seen in abundance at The Home Depot Center. By giving the defending MLS champions a severe test of their credentials, Whitecaps FC might have even played a key role in the destiny of this year’s MLS Cup title.

Traditionally, playoff exits leave an empty feeling. In this case, however, there was an acknowledgement to the efforts made by Rennie’s side in LA and indications by observers of how it offered a glimpse into a promising future.

Vancouver Sun sports columnist Iain MacIntyre was particularly struck by what he witnessed on Thursday, as he drew comparisons to where the club was in 1977 and how it built towards an NASL Soccer Bowl title by 1979.

There was also an intriguing - some might say prophetic - tweet from former ‘Caps and Seattle Sounders FC head coach Alan Hinton (@alanhinton11): “Whitecaps FC will within two years be the number two franchise behind Seattle in MLS…I know, I have been there!”

As for yours truly, the 2012 season was one where every match offered an opportunity to Whitecaps FC. Building and growing as an MLS outfit were, in many ways, the club’s objectives this season. In other words - 2011 was about establishment; 2012 was about strengthening.

Clubs that have shown steady growth in MLS are usually amongst the league’s elite. While that challenge lies in front of Whitecaps FC, this second season suggests Vancouver are now following a similar path.

While it would have been nice for the playoff journey to continue, much was achieved this season. What is really exciting is how things can improve even more, starting in 2013.

Hunger and desire are bedrocks of successful sides, and it would not surprise this soccer scribe if those are the driving influences behind a memorable Whitecaps FC campaign in the New Year.

As we enter the quiet of this offseason, we take positive vibes from a season that gave strong glimpses of very bright days ahead.

Time to prepare for the next chapter of this great journey!

Till we reconvene in the spring…

29 October 11:28 am

What a difference a year makes!

This time last year, Whitecaps FC were wrapping up what was a turbulent inaugural season in MLS, and head coach Martin Rennie was preparing for a postseason training camp to familiarize himself with his new squad.

Our MLS Cup Playoff experience was a distant one last year, with our television screens showing the unfolding drama in the cities of our league rivals. Fast forward to this week, and our engagement for the MLS postseason is at its highest level. On Thursday night, Whitecaps FC make history as the first Canadian club to take part in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

The midweek trip to Southern California was an effort earned over 34 regular matches by the Blue and White and sign of significant improvement for a burgeoning MLS club.

Five victories and 15 points more were achieved than at this point last year, with only MLS Supporters’ Shield winners San Jose Earthquakes and playoff-bound D.C. United making larger turnarounds statistically.

Vancouver’s 43 points was also the highest total achieved in a single MLS season by a Canadian club, with expansion club Montreal Impact also joining the ‘Caps in passing the 40-point barrier in 2012.

The club’s first three wins away from home, plus 12 clean sheets also contributed to the improvement, but even Rennie knows there is plenty of room for further progress.

Much of that can be set aside for 2013. Right now, Whitecaps FC are six results away from an MLS Cup title. If anyone knows the recent postseason history of MLS, it is not as improbable for Vancouver, as it initially looks.

This past weekend offered a very good ‘dress rehearsal’ for the clash with the Galaxy at The Home Depot Center. Like LA, Real Salt Lake can be a formidable foe when they are at home.

The type of tests that Whitecaps FC endured in Saturday’s 0-0 draw were not only good for them tactically, but also mentally. Shutting down a potent RSL attack required organization, commitment, and spirit.

The ‘Caps not only showed those characteristics in hostile territory, they left the Rio Tinto Stadium pitch feeling confident and full of anticipation for Thursday night.

Relishing the opportunity that is the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs will be a big part of the game plan in Carson, California. Few, if any, expect a Whitecaps FC postseason run, but Rennie’s squad know their chance to become MLS champions is no more or less than any of the other nine contenders that will be involved.

Long-time ‘Caps supporters will be the first to reveal their excitement at this time of year, as the club’s playoff folklore has done much to shape the identity of the Blue and White.

One only needs to look back to the championship years of 1979 and 2006 when Whitecaps FC triumphed against the odds. Now its 2012 and we’re in that familiar position again.

The key is to enjoy the journey, starting Thursday. Any achievement from this point on will be greeted with delight and excitement, as few outside Whitecaps FC nation believe Vancouver is capable of achieving anything in this year’s playoffs.

I say, “Let the skeptics think that way…we’ll worry about getting a job done on Thursday...and beyond.”

The playoff train is at the station!

All aboard for LA!

04 October 2:12 pm

Across Canada this weekend, family and friends will be digging into feasts of turkey or ham and giving thanks for the bounty that is served and the time shared with those they care about.

Wednesday night on Bell Pitch at BC Place, Whitecaps FC supporters were offered a bounty that satisfied their soccer palate, let alone their hunger for ‘The Beautiful Game’.

Facing an out-of-form Chivas USA side, the ‘Caps put together a performance that saw them turn the corner and provide plenty of optimism for the remaining couple of games in the 2012 regular season.

A first-ever 4-0 win in MLS was just the tonic that Martin Rennie’s side needed to put a difficult seven-match winless streak behind them and build on a three-game unbeaten run.

It was a midweek goal feast, and ‘Caps fans were served up different types of goals to enjoy. Like a recipe, the common theme in all four goals was good passing and movement, all of which are ingredients of good team understanding on the pitch.

It was pleasing to see the way Whitecaps FC worked to create the openings for their goals, as the build-up had as much quality as the finish on all four occasions.

This was down to some key goalscoring ingredients. Before coming off early with a hamstring strain, Kenny Miller offered vision in setting up Gershon Koffie’s match winner, as did all-around action man Camilo Sanvezzo with his two assists.

There was also speed - much of it used to devastating effect by Dane Richards. A winger by trade, the Jamaican international showed his striking abilities as a substitute on Wednesday.

The way Richards tormented Chivas USA centre back John Valencia was almost criminal to watch, but equally decisive in the thumping Vancouver gave The Goats.

There was also hunger and quickness, with Camilo offering those ingredients in the second half. Like a mountain lion, the Brazilian pounced to score the game’s third goal before intelligently running on to his own through ball to set up the fourth goal.

Wednesday’s soccer feast also served plenty of work rate and commitment on the defensive side of the ball by the Blue and White.

The way Rennie’s side closed down the Rojiblancos resulted in turnovers and loss of possession from the visitors. Barry Robson led by example with his applied pressure on Chivas USA opponents, and that defensive work was infectious amongst his teammates.

It resulted in one of the most comprehensive performances from the ‘Caps in MLS - a match that left everyone in good spirits going into the Thanksgiving Day long weekend.

With a five-point lead on sixth-place FC Dallas, the onus is now on the Texas club to match Vancouver’s midweek effort and beat Chivas USA on Thanksgiving Sunday (4 p.m. PT kickoff from The Home Depot Center in Carson, California. Live stream on MLS LIVE!)

Of course, the ‘Caps faithful will hope Robin Fraser’s side can shake off Wednesday’s defeat and do Vancouver a huge favour by earning a win or a draw versus The Hoops. Should that occur, Rennie’s side will head into their final regular season home match with Portland Timbers on Sunday, October 21, knowing a win will secure them a spot in this year’s MLS Cup Playoffs.

Then all in Whitecaps FC nation would be truly thankful!

01 October 4:18 pm

There are some weekends in the year that prove to be sporting blockbusters, with many major events happening around the world. This weekend might have been one of them.

There was an historical Ryder Cup golf victory by Europe in the United States and the first Canadian to play in and win Australian rules football’s AFL Grand Final as a member of Sydney Swans (Victoria, BC, native Mike Pyke).

There were also events closer to home, with celebrations for one of our local senior soccer clubs, as Vancouver’s Westside FC completed a quartet of Over-35 titles by claiming their first Western Canadian Masters championship crown in Edmonton, Alberta.

Among the smorgasbord of sporting events was an equally exciting Pacific Northwest derby between Whitecaps FC and Seattle Sounders FC - much in thanks to a passionate sold-out crowd at BC Place.

Saturday’s clash was the 116 th edition of this Interstate 5 rivalry, and while there were no goals to speak of, the match had all the ingredients of a fierce derby battle.

Beyond the bragging rights and Cascadia Cup points that were on offer, Saturday’s match had a major bearing on the playoff hopes of both clubs. The result locked in Seattle’s place for the postseason, while the point was another step towards Whitecaps FC’s aspirations of reaching the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time.

With some help from MLS Supporters’ Shield candidates San Jose Earthquakes (thank you, Steven Lenhart!), the ‘Caps came out of the weekend with the same two-point margin between themselves and sixth-place FC Dallas for the fifth and final playoff spot in the MLS Western Conference.

Of course, the gap could have been more, and Martin Rennie’s squad are fully aware of that. As evenly-fought as the game was on Saturday, a single goal would have likely been enough to take all three points for either side.

But at the very least, it was encouraging to see Whitecaps FC put a highly-rated Sounders FC under real amount of pressure in the second half, and that tends to be a rare experience for the Rave Green. It showed again that Whitecaps FC can battle with the league’s best and that would have restored some much-needed confidence in the squad.

Another positive was Vancouver earning their 10th clean sheet of the season (the first ‘Caps shutout for goalkeeper Brad Knighton) with a defensive display reminiscent of games earlier this season.

With three games to go in the regular season, the draw with Seattle was a further indication that Whitecaps FC may be set to put their lean run of results behind them.

It will require confidence and belief from Rennie’s squad, and an understanding that all will need to step up for the cause. After John Thorrington and Darren Mattocks went down with unfortunate hamstring injuries, Matt Watson and Camilo Sanvezzo answered the call and gave Seattle all they could handle.

Watson, in particular, performed admirably in midfield. He linked up well with his teammates, while arguably looking at his best in possession of the ball than at any point this season.

Those performances will inspire Camilo and Watson’s teammates to be of similar service themselves. After all, it is that time of the year when character is a big requirement for Whitecaps FC and their quest to reach the playoffs.

The short turnaround to hosting Chivas USA will also provide the ‘Caps immediate motivation that the next step to fully restoring their form can be achieved this week.

As always, our supporters will have their role to play on Wednesday night. Let’s all get out to BC Place and send our Blue and White into the Thanksgiving weekend and international break in the best of spirits!

Until Wednesday everyone!

24 September 5:14 pm

There are many ways to describe Sunday’s game, but the thought that comes to mind was how this latest home match filled something that was missing.

Much like a favourite ride at the fair or a favourite action movie that hasn’t been experienced for a while, the 2-2 draw with Colorado Rapids rekindled familiar emotions.

Those emotions were many, but considering previous experiences at BC Place have garnered great memories during Whitecaps FC’s second season in MLS, it was welcoming to have this weekend’s experience.

There was frustration and tension in large parts, as the Blue and White fought their way through - and arguably out of - this tough current stretch of form. Credit must also go to the visitors from Colorado, who played their strongest line-up in a bid to claim a result that would have kept their faint playoff hopes alive.

There was also a bit of relief and delight that the ‘Caps created chances and scored goals after a long stretch that did not produce much during the club’s recent road spell.

The way Vancouver’s two goals were created was particularly encouraging for the play and build-up that fashioned them. Gershon Koffie used his knowledge of the BC Place turf to elude Rapids goalscorer Omar Cummings before setting up Alain Rochat’s neat flick home.

Then there was the fine passing move that created Kenny Miller’s first career goal at BC Place. Koffie found Barry Robson, who then opened up the Colorado backline with a superb through ball to his fellow Scotsman.

While we’ve all been longing for results, it can be said that we were also longing for such goals to be created and such style of play to be produced. In that way, we all felt a sense of satisfaction on Sunday.

Those emotions are something to keep in mind (…and that I would recommend as being the catalyst...) for purchasing or renewing your season tickets for 2013. Now available at 12% off until Wednesday, October 3, why not make that decision now, while this limited time offer is available.

As for Sunday’s events, it’s interesting that we witnessed similar scoring production when we last played host to this Saturday’s opponents – our friends from down Interstate 5 called Seattle Sounders FC.

The draw with Colorado was something to build on, even though more could have been taken from the game. Yet, what Sunday’s performance does offer ‘Caps fans is the confidence to size up this weekend’s Cascadia Cup derby clash with real anticipation.

It’s important to remember that this time last season, Whitecaps FC were formally eliminated from playoff contention after a home defeat to Seattle (our last match at Empire Field).

Now a first-ever MLS win over Sounders FC on Saturday could be a major leap forward to the ‘Caps making the postseason. That’s where our supporters have their role to play.

We made life difficult for Seattle at BC Place on May 19. Time to do it again this weekend!

Until Saturday night!

04 September 2:45 pm

September has arrived. Time for many to bid farewell to summer and head back to work (or school) after holidays in the sunshine and warm weather.

The month also dawns the start of Major League Soccer’s 2012 regular season run-in and the aim of securing spots in the postseason. With only a handful of rounds remaining, a closer look at the Western Conference playoff picture reveals some interesting facts.

The last few games have been tough viewing for Whitecaps FC supporters, and while Vancouver’s recent form needs turning around, Martin Rennie’s squad know their six remaining fixtures offer opportunities to take them towards a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs. This is especially true in the timing of their next couple of games.

Many are focused on Whitecaps FC’s next match at FC Dallas, who only trail fifth-place Vancouver by four points for the last postseason berth in the MLS Western Conference. After a 1-1 home draw with Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday, The Hoops know they cannot move past Vancouver, should they earn a result against their Canadian foes.

In many ways, the Saturday, September 15, match is one that Whitecaps FC can relish for the opportunity it provides. Should the Blue and White earn a result in Texas, they would return home for four straight games on Bell Pitch at BC Place - the first of which is a major chance to add further distance between themselves and Dallas. Their clash with Colorado Rapids on Sunday, September 23, is Vancouver’s game in hand on The Hoops, as the Texas club will not be in action that weekend.

While that scenario is in Whitecaps FC’s hands, Chivas USA have three games in hand on Vancouver. If one considered those three matches as victories, it would take the Southern California outfit level with the ‘Caps on 37 points.

Problem is The Goats have not shown signs of making a late surge up the Western Conference standings. Sunday’s 4-0 defeat at San Jose Earthquakes took Chivas USA’s winless run in the league to five matches, with Robin Fraser’s side facing a season-defining month.

The Goats play five more times in September, including difficult trips to in-form sides Seattle and Columbus Crew, plus Eastern Conference playoff chasers D.C. United. They also have challenging home games versus San Jose and Real Salt Lake this month. They too need to find form and in a short space of time.

Another note to keep in mind - there are enough matches left for Whitecaps FC to reel in the frontrunners in the West. On the surface, that task may prove difficult when you consider the form of sides like Seattle (two games in hand) and LA Galaxy, but it’s important to remember that most of the remaining league games are all-conference match-ups.

Results from those games can easily alter the picture of the Western Conference standings (same scenario in the highly-congested Eastern Conference), and that means we’re all in for an intriguing and exciting end to this regular season campaign.

A message to my fellow ‘Caps faithful - We thrilled in joining MLS in 2009, we thrilled in winning our inaugural match in 2011, and the great moments that followed! Surely, the next few weeks will be even more thrilling!

Enjoy the World Cup qualifying break! Until mid-September…

18 August 4:00 pm

As weeks go for Whitecaps FC, this middle week of August 2012 will likely be forgotten in a hurry.

Despite the challenge that it posed (three Western Conference rivals in a week), the opportunity to make ground and further solidify a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs was abruptly halted by two sobering defeats – the latest leaving a particular regional sting.

It felt like the soccer omens were against Vancouver heading into Seattle on Saturday. Though there were welcome faces back from international duty, the absence of injured captain Jay DeMerit and suspended centre-back partner Martin Bonjour caused speculation as to who would play in Martin Rennie’s backline.

Then came word on Saturday morning that influential midfielder Barry Robson was also forced to sit out this latest Cascadia derby after MLS deemed his booking late on in the home defeat to Dallas was aggravated dissent against an assistant referee.

While there was debate over the timing of Robson’s suspension announcement by MLS, Rennie gave some players a chance to stake their claim for a regular starting role.

Top of that list was Carlyle Mitchell, who was slotted into the starting XI alongside Andy O’Brien in the centre of Vancouver’s defence. After appearing for his native Trinidad & Tobago in midweek, the young defender earned himself a measure of redemption with his performance on Saturday.

His last MLS start at New England Revolution back on May 12 was a tough outing for the Caribbean import, and though Whitecaps FC conceded twice in the second half in Seattle, Mitchell can take encouragement from his efforts in Washington State.

Next to him, the experience of O’Brien was tested again, as the former Republic of Ireland international made his second start for the club. Though still short of full match fitness, O’Brien looks a real find, as he showed defensive expertise in nullifying a couple of Sounders FC attacks, especially in the first half.

Rennie and his staff will know that, despite the bitterness of a derby defeat, players like Mitchell and O’Brien will feel they are stronger and can make a more telling contribution to the club after their building-block efforts on Saturday.

This can also be said for striker Kenny Miller, who was asked to fill the role usually occupied by suspended Robson in central midfield. His work rate at CenturyLink Field was also an encouraging sign. The way he made himself busy against Sounders FC was a strong suggestion that the Scotland international made an important step forward with his match fitness.

With a full week to focus on another derby trip to Portland Timbers, the time may prove beneficial after the hectic schedule of this past week. With injuries clearing up and suspensions served, these next few days should help to galvanize Rennie’s squad physically and mentally for the end-of-season run-in.

Time to move forward to the next chapter: Saturday in Portland

15 August 10:30 pm

There were many happenings in and around BC Place on Wednesday night, and all of it contributed to a sense of optimism that it would be another enjoyable match day at BC Place.

There was a gathering of Whitecaps FC alumni in the stadium suites, which brought together former members of the Blue and White from the club’s many eras.

Before kickoff, the glow of Olympic success resonated through the crowd when three members of Canada’s bronze-medal women’s soccer team walked out with both teams for the national anthems.

Following on from Saturday’s fine win over Real Salt Lake, there was also anticipation for what newcomers Kenny Miller and Andy O’Brien could do in their first MLS starts.

In the end, it was FC Dallas that enjoyed a second win in as many seasons in Vancouver, and one that keeps their playoffs hopes alive in this final stretch of the regular season.

It was one of those matches where the ‘Caps could have been in one of two places by the end of it – such is the tight nature of the Western Conference standings.

Victory on Wednesday would have taken Vancouver to the 40-point mark and put major distance between themselves and their midweek visitors, who occupy sixth place in the west.

Instead, Dallas moved closer to the ‘Caps and the west’s top five with Wednesday’s result. They also claimed the unique distinction of being the first MLS club to defeat Whitecaps FC at both Empire Field and BC Place.

So where did all the promise of Wednesday night end up? Are we all a bit guilty for expecting too much? The simplest answer might be a more classic one. One team (FC Dallas) performed better than the other (Whitecaps FC).

Remove the likely debate that will surround the performance of match referee Matthew Foerster, Whitecaps FC were not at their best on Wednesday. And like Martin Rennie stated, it was also a match that struggled to get going.

Neither side really claimed the initiative before the break. After halftime, soccer’s fortune fell to The Hoops, who took the lead in opportunistic fashion, then sealed the win on the counter attack.

Though not endearing himself at times to Whitecaps FC fans, the return to fitness of David Ferreira is a big boost for Dallas. The qualities that earned him the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2010 always make him a player to watch…and so it was the case at BC Place…

Where many hoped that a Miller, O’Brien, John Thorrington, or Atiba Harris would write the headlines, it was a diminutive Colombian in Dallas colours that played the main role in this contest.

For Whitecaps FC, it simply wasn’t to be on this warm mid-August evening, and there will always be days and nights like this during a season. Whose to say we won’t see a turnaround as early as this weekend (Seattle, anyone?).

It’s also important to remember that BC Place disappointments have been very rare in 2012. Most times, the ‘Caps faithful have all left the club’s downtown Vancouver home satisfied.

Trying to achieve the goals of this season was never going to be easy. Remember that this is only Vancouver’s second season in MLS. The club has grown a lot, but a lot more growing still needs to take place.

Like with any other setback in 2012, Rennie’s side have been excellent at putting those experiences behind them and bouncing back. Maybe a derby clash in The Emerald City in three days’ time is not so bad after all…

Until our weekend gathering!

11 August 7:30 pm

As summer sunshine basked BC Place on Saturday afternoon, Whitecaps FC may have achieved more than a crucial home win over a top MLS club.

Earning three points over an accomplished side like Real Salt Lake is always something to celebrate, but supporters may have had some questions answered following the weekend’s events.

Last month saw a transformation to the look of Martin Rennie’s squad, and while new faces were added, the Scottish coach’s roster movement also addressed the need for depth in key areas.

Facing an intriguing run-in, Vancouver’s new additions will have a role to play in the remaining 10 matches of the regular season campaign.

What was a bit of a surprise was seeing Whitecaps FC’s depth tested as early as the weekend battle with Salt Lake. Yet, soccer does have a way of creating unforeseen situations.

As part of the 18-man roster, Andy O’Brien might have expected to see Saturday’s events unfold from the ‘Caps substitutes’ bench. By the half-hour mark, he was in the thick of a key MLS contest.

While the situation would have been new to him, O’Brien’s experience as a top-level centre back erased any initial concerns when captain Jay DeMerit was forced out of the game after feeling the effects of a collision with teammate Brad Knighton.

The former Republic of Ireland international faced a baptism of fire that was Salt Lake’s potent attack, and yet, his efforts contributed to nullifying the Utah club’s forward ventures for much of the contest.

RSL offered little threat, which in itself was a surprise to see when you consider their attacking pedigree. Whitecaps FC, meanwhile, won the match with two goals in six second-half minutes.

The game’s other storylines included a resurgent Camilo Sanvezzo, whose goal and an assist restored memories of the Brazilian’s influence in previous matches for the Blue and White. At his best, Camilo is very difficult player to contain for any MLS club.

As for Dane Richards, his efforts in Vancouver’s last two games at BC Place are quickly making him a fan favourite. It would be nice to think he will be nominated for ‘MLS Goal of the Week’ after his sublime winner.

Richards and teammate Darren Mattocks will not be seen Wednesday night against FC Dallas, as international duty calls with Jamaica. They are just two of several players that will not seen against FC Dallas at BC Place because national team call-ups, injuries, and suspensions.

That will put the depth of Rennie’s squad to a stiffer test, with concerns over the fitness of DeMerit and the absence of Gershon Koffie through suspension for caution accumulation likely to command the media’s talking points early next week.

And what would a discussion on team depth be without mentioning Knighton, who was unfortunate not to earn a clean sheet in the RSL win. When called upon this season, Knighton has been very dependable in place of Joe Cannon.

That might make for a goalkeeping selection decision for Wednesday’s game, but Rennie will relish the idea of making such a choice, as with his entire squad.

Having the knowledge that any player can perform when called upon usually results in a passing grade with a test of depth. Saturday’s test went well, but Wednesday’s test will be more challenging.

Till we convene again on Wednesday!

27 July 10:50 pm

Late July in the Beehive State, and the first of two visits to one of Major League Soccer’s toughest stadiums.

Such encounters usually provide a good measuring stick for MLS clubs. Friday night offered that type of test for Whitecaps FC, with the first of three regular season meetings versus Real Salt Lake.

Last season’s defeat in Sandy, Utah, was a distant memory. What was in front of Martin Rennie’s squad was a chance to close the gap on second-place RSL and solidify their hold on third place in the west.

A second win over league leaders San Jose Earthquakes provided a source of belief that earning a superior head-to-head record against Jason Kreis’ talented side was possible.

Now earning that head-to-head record will be settled in the future. As for Friday’s encounter, Whitecaps FC were given the feeling that their time to shine in MLS is still to come…

As a defeat, the Blue and White offered plenty in Friday’s match, and that may prove as a strong reminder to RSL, the Western Conference, and MLS that Vancouver are emerging in this league.

A draw or a Whitecaps FC victory was a possible outcome in Utah, but Salt Lake got a favourable penalty decision before scoring the match winner from arguably their best chance of the match.

It wasn’t a vintage RSL performance, but in some ways, it didn’t need to be. The desired result was achieved. With 42 points from 23 games played, it’s hard not to see Salt Lake outside the west’s top two places for the remainder of the regular season.

Nonetheless, Vancouver will relish their RSL re-match in two weeks. They certainly put enough of a scare into their hosts with the type of chances they created. How much joy would it have been to see a Jun Marques Davidson goal? Only the width of a post denied ‘Caps fans that possibility.

It would have also been interesting to see how Friday’s match would have unfolded had a second Whitecaps FC goal arrived soon after Mattocks’ well-taken equalizer? In the end, what we can take from Utah was how well we created our chances.

It was as if the move that created Mattocks’ goal inspired the great quality of Vancouver’s chances. Usually a solid defensive unit, Salt Lake were put on the back foot in the second half, and that offers a very good sign for the future.

There have been times when creating chances has been a challenge for Whitecaps FC in 2012, but that wasn’t the case on Friday. Coming from a variety of sources, RSL were put under the type of pressure that will have them dreading next month’s trip to BC Place.

And for the third straight game, Whitecaps FC offered something else - entertainment. Not only did Rennie’s side show again that they can compete against the league’s best, they can do so in entertaining style.

The job ahead will be to polish that ability to compete and entertain. Training sessions will help considerably, and with the schedule not as hectic over the next three months, a welcome reality.

Defeats always leave an empty feeling, but Whitecaps FC supporters know their squad have shown the resolve to bounce back and compete in 2012.

We also know RSL is an MLS powerhouse, but the impression the ‘Caps may have left on them might be more significant. With continued growth and progress, Vancouver may yet earn more of the MLS talk in the autumn months.

Time for a summer break! And then back at it in August. That looks like a tasty month…