Even before we made the playoffs, I would have said the 2014 MLS season was a positive one for Vancouver Whitecaps FC. But we did make the postseason, only to see our run end in heartbreaking fashion at the hands of FC Dallas.
This left a very bad taste in the mouth of everybody involved with the club and it will be a while until we really get over this and be able to look back on a great season and an even brighter future.
It reminds me somewhat of the 1987 Vancouver 86ers team that played Calgary Kickers in the Western semifinal. They had finished above us, ensuring a home game for them, but we felt strongly that we could overcome them and reach the CSL Final. And that looked likely when we went up 3-1 and seemed to be well on our way.
We eventually lost the game 4-3 after some questionable calls and poor play by us. I remember sitting in the locker room afterwards with my teammates and you could feel the disappointment because it was taken away from us, but there was also a feeling that we would come back stronger next year.
We didn’t want to feel that way again.
So we came back with a vengeance the following year, losing only one game and beating a very good Hamilton Steelers team 4-1 in the final.
Now, I’m not suggesting this ‘Caps team will cruise to the MLS Cup next year, but you know from the reaction of the defeat to Dallas that they’re hurting big time.
When Robbo talked about the dressing room after the game – players sobbing and being devastated by the way the game was lost – he reminded them to not forget this moment. And that moment will motivate them next year more than anything else could have.
There has been some criticism of how the players behaved after the whistle was blown. The appropriate discipline will be issued, but I’ve been there and you react that way because you really care.
The boys worked so hard all season to get to this point, especially the last five games, and then had it taken away on what most agree was a harsh call. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not something Carl Robinson and his coaching staff will condone. He’ll make sure the players learn from this.
However, I’m sure most fans were proud, happy, and encouraged to see how much that game meant to this team, how much they cared, and how much they wanted to bring a home playoff game to BC Place.
I know I was.
Now, we look forward. I’ve already written about the job done this season by Robinson and his staff —how we have a solid foundation going forward and how all the young players will have another full season under their belt.
The offseason promises to be an eventful one and very important for a number of different reasons. Our best player, Pedro Morales, will finally get a much-needed rest after playing nearly 14 months without a break. Imagine what he’ll be like after a few months off.
Unlike last season, when Robinson wasn’t hired until mid-December, the gaffer and his staff will have a full offseason to bring in some new additions. In fact, that process is already well underway.
And, maybe most importantly, Robbo now knows what this team is made of and the positions he needs to fill. Some of the guys have proven themselves and there will be some tough decisions to make on others.
It’s no secret that the team is on the lookout for a veteran goalscorer, but let’s be honest, they’re not easy to come by. If they’re filling the back of the net, chances are their team won’t to lose them or they’ll be asking for mega money. But the due diligence will be done – as it was with the acquisitions of Morales and Kendall Waston – and I’m confident Robbo and his staff will find another gem.
So, we may all be suffering from a playoff hangover that is hard to shake, but there’s a whole lot to look forward to in 2015.
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