The worst is over – and we've survived.
That was the overriding message from Vancouver Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie after Saturday night’s thrilling 1-1 draw at Portland Timbers, the end of a grueling stretch that saw his ‘Caps play nine matches over 28 days, including three separate cross-country trips.
HIGHLIGHTS: Portland 1, Vancouver 1
“Overall, given the number of games we’ve played – we’ve been to the East Coast three times – we never want to make excuses about it, but that’s really, really a hard schedule that we’ve been given there,” Rennie told TEAM Radio 1410 AM radio in Vancouver after Saturday’s match, “and I think the players have performed admirably.”
Rennie was somewhat worried about his squad's psyche, especially given their deflating loss in Toronto on Wednesday that saw them miss out on the Canadian Championship title at the final stage for the second straight year. The 1-0 loss – which saw Vancouver lose the final series 2-1 on aggregate – was tough for the team to take, and the ‘Caps manager knew a quick turnaround to face their Cascadia rivals at JELD-WEN Field would be a tall order.
But from kickoff on Saturday night, Rennie could see the fight in his troops.
“We all definitely felt the disappointment of Wednesday night,” he said, “but to bounce back with a solid performance, that was important because right from the opening whistle, you could see that our legs weren’t heavy, we weren’t feeling sorry for ourselves and we weren’t flat – and that was very important.”
Second-half substitute Darren Mattocks rescued Vancouver from a second loss in three days with his equalizer six minutes from time, and Rennie saluted the Jamaican rookie’s stay-the-course attitude, despite missing a handful of chances in his recent appearances.
And even though the ‘Caps still haven’t posted a victory in five matches across all competitions, Rennie is most pleased that his men have survived the roughest month they'll face this season with their heads held high and still displaying fight, epitomized by Saturday’s rally for a hard-earned point at a tough venue.
“I don’t know if we’ve necessarily been given all the credit we deserve for that,” he said, “but I think today shows that these guys are up for a big fight for the playoffs and maybe more.”