Vancouver Whitecaps FC were a hurting team after Wednesday evening's playoff loss in Dallas. If anyone wanted a quick gauge as to just what the 2-1 defeat meant to the players, a look around the dressing room told the story.
There was stunned disbelief, some tears and a bit of anger – all understandable after the controversial end to their playoff dreams. But Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson has urged his team to put that suffering to good use in the future.
"I'll give you an example," Robinson told reporters after the match when asked how his squad were feeling. "We've got Mauro Rosales in there, who's 33 years of age, who's been successful in Seattle, and he's crying his eyes out because he feels the result wasn't what we deserved – and, rightly. I agree with him. You can't legislate for certain things, and unfortunately [it] wasn't our day."
Robinson has been delighted with what Vancouver achieved this season, securing a place in the playoffs, their first ever CONCACAF Champions League spot for next season and back-to-back Cascadia Cup titles. It's been a successful rookie season as a manager.
Robinson assembled a young squad this season in Vancouver, with 18 of the players on the 'Caps roster aged 24 or under. For the majority of them, this is their first taste of postseason defeat in MLS. Such losses can be hard to get over, but they often do more for a young player mentally than successes do, and Robinson feels his squad will respond to their tough playoff loss by coming back even stronger and more determined for success next season.
"To win, you've got to learn to lose," Robinson said. "We've won a lot of games recently, which has been good, as it's got us in this position. But I've reminded them to remember how this feels, because when I'm asking them to do extra work and put in extra shifts in training, it's so that we don't get this feeling again."
"There's not too much I can say [to the players]. I've kept it short and sweet. They should be proud of themselves. We put ourselves in a position where we wanted to try and make a little bit of history by getting a home leg in the playoffs. Unfortunately that didn't happen, but we've got to learn from that and we will learn from it. The standards we've set this year of gaining 50 points have got to be the benchmark for us."
As one of the veterans on the 'Caps side, Andy O'Brien has been through the highs and lows in both club and international football during his career, but the central defender feels the heartache of playoff defeat will be character building for Vancouver's young squad.
"Even for someone my age, the game kicks you between the legs sometimes," O'Brien said after the match. "It'll be a learning experience. It'll be about how you recover from these things, and we're looking forward to next season now."
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