Vancouver squad registers a 2-1 come-from-behind win over Austin Aztex to avoid a losing season record -- and hopes are high for the playoffs
BY IAN WALKER
The last time the Vancouver Whitecaps finished the regular season with a losing record was 2002.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was tops in the box office charts. Eminem's Lose Yourself was No. 1 with a bullet on the airwaves. And the Tony Fonseca-led Whitecaps went 11-12-5 before making a magical run in the playoffs that no one could have imagined at the time.
Vancouver opened the post-season that year with a 2-0 aggregate upset victory over the Portland Timbers before knocking off the Seattle Sounders by an unbelievable 8-2 margin in the second round.
Seattle had finished the season 50-some points better than Vancouver, with an overall mark of 23-4-1 -- still a United Soccer Leagues First Division single-season record for winning percentage.
The Whitecaps skirted being mentioned alongside their 2002 brethren with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over the expansion Austin Aztex at Swangard Stadium on Sunday afternoon. A crowd of 5,288 took in the game to set a franchise record for sellouts, with 11 on the season.
Vancouver (10-10-9) needs a win or a draw against the Cleveland City Stars in its regular-season finale on Friday to avoid concluding the regular season with a sub .500 record for only the second time in the past 13 years.
Not that the regular-season is any indication of things to come -- as proven by the Whitecaps of seven years ago.
"We really weren't going for this approach, but we'll take it," said Whitecaps defender Lyle Martin, of the Whitecaps' .500 record.
"When it comes down to it, you just have to make the playoffs. Regardless if you're .500, below .500 or above .500, it really doesn't matter if you get to the championship game and win it."
Gordon Chin scored the game-winner on Sunday with a brilliant right-footed strike off the underside side of the crossbar in the 86th minute for his first of the campaign. Substitute Marcus Haber tied the game at 1-1 in the 80th minute after Aztex striker Jarius Holmes converted a 2-on-1 in the 51st minute to open the scoring.
Back in 2002, the clock eventually struck midnight on the Whitecaps' Cinderella post-season in the league's semifinals, when the Milwaukee Rampage eliminated Vancouver with a 2-1 overtime win in Game 2 of the series.
"The playoffs are totally different," said Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson, whose team clinched a playoff berth Friday when Miami lost. "Our form is okay and I think we can hurt anyone in the playoffs. I'm not scared of any team, definitely not."
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