Vancouver Whitecaps FC blew another lead on Saturday, and this one hurt the most.
The 'Caps couldn't make Camilo’s brilliant free kick in the 21st minute stand up, as Toronto FC completed a second-half comeback to win 2-1 at BMO Field (and the aggregate-goal series, 3-2), securing the Nutrilite Canadian Championship for a third consecutive year.
Whitecaps FC viewed the Canadian final as a chance to salvage a positive result in what has been a very difficult first campaign in Major League Soccer, and seeing their Canadian rivals raise the Voyageurs Cup and advance to the CONCACAF Champions League Preliminary Round after Vancouver had their chance to win will linger.
“It’s disappointing to lose in the fashion we did, going up 1-0,” midfielder Terry Dunfield said after the loss. “We talked about it at halftime, being solid, even pushing for the second goal. It’s easy to say, but we didn’t do it.”
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This game was the latest and most prominent collapse for the ‘Caps when holding a lead, and head coach Tom Soehn once again pointed to his team’s mental struggles and confidence issues.
“I thought we came out sluggish right after half,” Soehn said. “There are certain times when you have to be in focus, starting on a half, ending a half, right after a goal, right after they score. We still have a ways to go to make sure we are stronger mentally.”
Soehn felt his team should have kept the ball better after getting the lead.
“We had some real heavy tactics laid out and you can’t get away from them,” Soehn continued. “We booted the ball up the field instead of keeping possession and moving the line up together. We need to learn how to play with a lead.”
Goalkeeper Joe Cannon echoed his coach’s sentiments, saying something changed about Whitecaps FC's play after taking the lead through Camilo’s free-kick effort.
“Over the course of the next 70 minutes, they became men and we became boys,” Cannon said. “They wanted it more, got to second balls, they out-fought us, out-hustled us. Maybe it was the crowd that lifted them, but whatever. It was just really kind of gut-wrenching, because we knew this was our season.”
With the summer transfer window looming, and rumours swirling about the futures of a number of players on the Whitecaps FC roster, Cannon says every player must prove in the coming weeks that they’re up to the task.
“I’ve been in this situation before, and I think what happens now is you’ve got to play for your job, and that’s it,” Cannon said. “You’ve got to play good enough so this organization is going to want you next year, and that goes for all of us.”