VANCOUVER, BC – Exactly one year ago Monday, Vancouver Whitecaps FC took a five-match unbeaten run into Children’s Mercy Park for a heavyweight clash with Sporting Kansas City.
The ‘Caps entered the game as the top team in the Western Conference.
Confidence was running high.
And it translated on the pitch – at least in the early going. Kekuta Manneh put Whitecaps FC ahead 2-0 with a first-half brace, and Pedro Morales scored a free-kick golazo in the 75th-minute to increase Vancouver’s lead to 3-1. It looked like the ‘Caps would cruise to the finish line.
Sporting KC scored three goals in the final 10 minutes in front of their raucous fans to complete a 4-3 comeback victory. It was a heartbreaker for Vancouver – and from that point forward, they stumbled a bit down the stretch, though they still managed to secure a home playoff date.
Fast forward a year, and things look a lot different.
Whitecaps FC visit Sporting KC on Saturday having lost three straight league matches. They’re fighting to stay afloat in the Western Conference playoff race.
Fortunately, Sporting KC are one of teams that Vancouver are chasing. They’re currently five points ahead of the ‘Caps and have played one more game. The odds may be stacked against Whitecaps FC, but this season is far from over.
A win on Saturday, which certainly won’t come easy, would put Vancouver right back into the thick of things. And then the two teams meet again next Tuesday, August 23 at BC Place in CONCACAF Champions League play (7 p.m. PT – tickets still available).
Whitecaps FC sit atop Group C after defeating Trinidadian club Central FC in the tournament opener. If the ‘Caps win their home games, starting Tuesday against Sporting KC, there’s a good chance they will advance to the knockout stages of the competition for the first time.
Suffice to say, there’s a lot riding on these next two matches.
“We have to stick together,” Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson told reporters following Friday’s defeat. “We have to brush everything down. We can’t lose focus. It turns very quickly. We all feel down and we feel sad. When you’re sad and you’re down, confidence is low. Everyone wants to say nasty things and bad things about you and it makes you feel worse.”
“Welcome to professional sports,” he continued. “You’re in it for a reason. You’re in it not only to have the highs, but also the lows. When you have the lows, you find out about yourself.”
Whitecaps FC and Sporting KC have already met twice this season.
Both matches produced some fireworks. In their first encounter, Jordan Smith saw red and Dom Dwyer bagged a first-half brace, including a spectacular left-footed blast, to lead SKC to a 2-1 home win. The second game ended in a 1-1 draw at BC Place. This time, Kendall Waston was ejected and Christian Bolaños opened his MLS account with a well-taken left-footed volley.
The Western Conference foes always seem to produce a flair for the dramatic, which makes these next two games even more intriguing. Robinson hinted that there could be some lineup changes coming this weekend to try and get the ‘Caps going, but he also said that everyone will get a chance to play with the two matches falling within three days of one another.
“I will look at a number of things,” Robinson told reporters. “There are players that are itching to play … who deserves to play will play now. It’s pretty simple, we need to pick up results whatever competition it’s in.”
Be a part of the best sporting atmosphere in Vancouver! Whitecaps FC offer a flexible range of ticket products, including Half-Season Packs, 5-Packs, a Youth Soccer Half-Season Ticket, and single match tickets. For more information, visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.