Playing the final match of their inaugural Major League Soccer season, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (6W-18L-10D) fell to a 2-1 home defeat versus Western Conference rivals Colorado Rapids (12W-9L-13D) on Saturday afternoon.
Despite taking an early second-half lead through Alain Rochat, Whitecaps FC suffered a second defeat on Bell Pitch at BC Place, as captain Jeff Larentowicz levelled matters for the Rapids before the visitors made it a second straight league win over the Blue and White with a late winner from Colorado substitute Wells Thompson. It was a disappointing way for the 'Caps to end a challenging first season in MLS, as the home side were unable to build on taking the lead shortly after the break.
Saturday's loss meant Whitecaps FC ended the 2011 season with a record of two wins and two defeats in four matches on Bell Pitch at BC Place since moving into their newly refurbished downtown Vancouver home earlier this month. Victory for the Rapids, meanwhile, ensured they would play at home next week in one of two wild card matches to open the 2011 MLS Cup Playoffs, with Colorado looking to defend their MLS Cup title in the coming weeks.
"Today is a disappointing day with the result. I thought we had some chances early to get on top of them and that is something we have done in the past couple of home games," said Whitecaps FC head coach Tom Soehn. "This time, we didn't put them away and Colorado are a team who just won the championship. They have experience and they punished us. However, I can't go on and say enough about the fans and how we want to come back and reward them next year. We want to build on the core guys we have and give the supporters something to be proud about."
For the third-straight home match, Soehn played the same starting line-up that faced Real Salt Lake and D.C. United earlier this month. It meant there were three changes from the starting XI that took on FC Dallas in Frisco, Texas, last weekend. Rochat and fit-again Carlyle Mitchell returned to Vancouver's backline, with Michael Boxall and Shea Salinas making way, as a result. In attack, Long Tan replaced Mustapha Jarju. Rapids head coach Gary Smith, meanwhile, played the speedy pair of Omar Cummings and Sanna Nyassi up front.
Before kickoff, Whitecaps FC presented their 2011 season awards, with Brazilian striker Camilo earning both the club's Player of the Year award and the Domenic Mobilio Golden Boot as Vancouver's top scorer with 13 goals in all competitions. Gershon Koffie was named the club's Most Promising Player, while Rochat took the Jock MacDonald Unsung Hero award. Defender/midfielder Jeb Brovsky received the Whitecaps Foundation Humanitarian of the Year award for his efforts in the community this season.
Playing their first MLS match under the closed roof at BC Place, Whitecaps FC's final league game opened up after a physical first half of action. The home side looked to get the crowd into the game soon after the opening kickoff with a bright start. On three minutes, good work by Tan saw the young Chinese striker elude the challenge of Rapids centre back Marvell Wynne before driving a fierce shot straight at Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Four minutes later, the impressive-looking John Thorrington found Nizar Khalfan with a searching forward ball that allowed the Tanzanian international to get a step on his Colorado marker. However, the winger's shot rolled wide of the far post.
Those early chances were Vancouver's best opportunities before the break. The Rapids' efforts to break the deadlock saw Nyassi, Tyrone Marshall, and Jamie Smith create half chances for the visitors before their best opportunity came on 24 minutes. The speedy Nyassi dispossessed Whitecaps FC captain Jay DeMerit before drilling a shot straight at Vancouver goalkeeper Joe Cannon, with the home side able to clear the resulting danger off the rebound.
In the two minutes of time added on, 'Caps winger Jordan Harvey got on the end of Rochat's run and cross from the left flank, but the former Rapids player was not able to put his first-time shot on target. It meant that both sides had to settle for a goalless scoreline at halftime.
With 45 minutes left in their season, Whitecaps FC looked to make it a memorable second half for the sold-out crowd of 21,000 on 'Fan Appreciation Day'. On 49 minutes, Rochat gave those fans something to cheer about when he scored his third goal of the season with a curling free kick into the far corner of the goal. As he tried to find the head of a teammate, Rochat's set-piece eluded all the players in the Rapids box - including Colorado goalkeeper Pickens - who surprisingly misjudged that the ball was on target and did not attempt to make a save.
As fortuitous a goal as it was for the 'Caps, it only took the Rapids ten minutes to equalize from an indirect free kick near the edge of Vancouver's box. Nyassi and Smith set up Colorado skipper Larentowicz to drill home a low shot that went through the wall and legs of Cannon to make it 1-1. It was Larentowicz's seventh goal of the season - thus making him Colorado's top goalscorer in the 2011 regular season.
With the match well poised, Soehn brought on Davide Chiumiento and Eric Hassli in a bid to find a match winner. On 67 minutes, Chiumiento's cross from the right allowed 'Budweiser Man of the Match' Camilo to turn and shoot just wide of the target before the South American curled a free kick wide over the Rapids crossbar four minutes later.
With a home playoff game in their sights, the Rapids took advantage of that opportunity by striking the game winner through substitute Thompson on 84 minutes. Whitecaps FC were unable to clear their lines, allowing Thompson to strike a shot that deflected off the leg of Harvey and in, to make it 2-1. It was the midfielder's third goal of the season.
With only minutes left in their season, the 'Caps were now looking to restore parity. DeMerit tried his best to score his first goal of the season, but his header from Camilo's free kick flew over the crossbar on 89 minutes. A further three minutes of time added on was played before match referee Baldomero Toledo brought an end to proceedings, with Vancouver falling to a second 2-1 league defeat versus Colorado.
Following the end of the match, Whitecaps FC players and coaching staff greeted and thanked the fans for their support throughout the 2011 campaign. This included 28 lucky supporters receiving game jerseys from their favourite players on Bell Pitch.
With the 2011 season now at an end, Whitecaps FC thank all our supporters for a memorable and eventful first season in MLS. We look forward to welcoming you all back on Bell Pitch at BC Place next spring for the start of the 2012 season!
49' - VAN - Alain Rochat
59' - COL - Jeff Larentowicz (Jamie Smith, Sanna Nyassi)
84' - COL - Wells Thompson
Shots: Vancouver 9 - Colorado 12
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 3 - Colorado 6
Saves: Vancouver 4 - Colorado 2
Fouls: Vancouver 15 - Colorado 11
Offsides: Vancouver 3 - Colorado 0
Corners: Vancouver 2 - Colorado 7
10' - COL - Jeff Larentowicz
77' - COL - Tyrone Marshall
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.Joe Cannon, 12.Jeb Brovsky, 6.Jay DeMerit, 19.Carlyle Mitchell, 4.Alain Rochat; 16.Nizar Khalfan (29.Eric Hassli 78'), 11.John Thorrington, 28.Gershon Koffie, 26.Jordan Harvey (22.Shea Salinas 88'); 37.Camilo, 23.Long Tan (20.Davide Chiumiento 53')
Subs not used: 18.Jay Nolly, 2.Michael Boxall, 7.Mustapha Jarju, 8.Peter Vagenas
18. Matt Pickens; 27.Kosuke Kimura, 22.Marvell Wynne, 34.Tyrone Marshall, 32.Miguel Comminges; 11.Brian Mullan, 4.Jeff Larentowicz, 5.Joseph Nane (21.Caleb Folan 78'), 20.Jamie Smith (15.Wells Thompson 70'); 23.Sanna Nyassi, 14.Omar Cummings (10.Macoumba Kandji 74')
Subs not used: 31.Stewart Ceus, 8.Eddie Ababio, 16.Ross LaBauex, 29.Scott Palguta
Budweiser Man of the Match: Camilo