Vancouver Whitecaps FC went into their game at San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday knowing that a win would see them secure a playoff place.
They head home from California wondering how they didn't.
Key moments at both ends of the pitch, involving goalkeeper David Ousted and winger Kekuta Manneh, cost Vancouver dear as the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
Both players, who have been among Vancouver's most influential players this season, held their hands up to their mistakes after the match but 'Caps coach Carl Robinson wasn't apportioning blame.
"The two moments are the key moments in the game," Robinson admitted to Vancouver's TSN 1410 radio after the match. "Most key moments in games decide games. Disappointed we are, but we won't point fingers at anyone."
One goal up at halftime and looking comfortable, the match suddenly turned on its head after a rare mistake from the reliable Ousted saw the 'Quakes draw level just past the hour mark. The goalkeeper failed to control a Cordell Cato shot, allowing Chris Wondolowski to nip in and hit home the equalizer.
It was uncharacteristic from the MLS All-Star, whose 11 clean sheets this year and solid performances between the posts have been instrumental to Vancouver flying high in the table, as Robinson was keen to point out.
"David Ousted has been brilliant all season for us," Robinson stated. "For me, especially, arguably the best goalkeeper in the league. He's kept us in games. Now and again, you make mistakes. We'll get right behind him. He did make a mistake today, he knows he did. He's gutted in the locker room but I've told him to keep his head up."
Ousted himself was quick to shoulder the blame and take full responsibility for the turning point in the match. Despite still coming away with what could still be a crucial point, Ousted feels the disappointed mood in the ‘Caps locker room shows how far the team has come this year, and how high their expectations are for success.
"It's not good enough from me," Ousted admitted after the match. "It happens to the best. We all make mistakes but I've always held myself to high standards and I continue to do that.”
"It's a testament to the ambition of this team that we come here, get a point and actually leave disappointed,” he added. “I thought we deserved to win the game. Again, it's the little details we need to sharpen up on and today it was me."
A prime source of that disappointment stems from the opportunity Vancouver were provided with to come away from the game with all three points in the closing seconds.
Manneh was put through with just goalkeeper David Bingham to beat, and with Cristian Techera in support. The chance came to nothing when the Gambian took a heavy touch at the last moment. He admitted after the match that he should have looked up and done better.
Robinson admitted that his young star should have scored, but was still able to draw some positives from his side's performance after their recent poor run of form.
"We've come off two defeats, sometimes it's easy to feel sorry for yourself," Robinson said. "We showed a lot of character today. They're fighting for their lives, San Jose. We never really looked in danger.”
"It's a point, so we'll take a point. We know we should probably have got three. We probably deserved three, with the chances and the mistake at the other end. But what can you do? It's gone now. You've got to focus. We'll brush ourselves down, we'll get ourselves back to Vancouver and we'll have a big game on Wednesday against Dallas."
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