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Eastern Conference Championship

Vancouver Whitecaps frustrated by officiating vs. Portland Timbers, more frustrated with their own defense

VANCOUVER, B.C. – It wouldn’t be a derby without controversy.

In Saturday’s 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers, the Vancouver Whitecaps appeared destined for their first win over a Cascadia rival since making the move up to MLS. Late in the second half, they were up a goal and enjoyed a man advantage after Portland center back Futty Danso became entangled with Camilo and was shown a red card by referee Matthew Foerster.

But the Caps were unable to hold on. Just minutes after Danso's red card, Will Johnson hit a long ball that Jose Valencia latched onto, shrugging of defender Brad Rusin and beating Andy O’Brien with a clever cutback before slotting his shot past helpless Whitecaps goalkeeper Brad Knighton.

Immediately, several Whitecaps players, including Y.P. Lee indicated that the ball had struck Valencia's hand as he controlled it. Replays, although not definitive, also suggested that there had been a hand ball on the play. 

“I thought it was a hand ball,” Vancouver head coach Martin Rennie said after the game.

A pool reporter submitted a question to the officiating team, asking what the referee saw on Valencia’s goal, and the response was as follows: “It appeared to the referee that Valencia took the ball down with his chest.”

Regardless, the Whitecaps defense failed to deal with the threat, despite the side's man advantage at the time. Brad Rusin accepted the blame.

“I take full responsibility for the second goal,” Rusin said after the match. “At the end of the day, I have to be better and we can’t blame the referees.”

But it wasn't only the equalizer that had Rennie frustrated. He also insisted Portland’s opening goal, which Will Johnson scored from the spot, should never have been a penalty to begin with.

“I was disappointed with the decision for a penalty,” Rennie said. “Because Andy’s hand is by his side and there’s not a lot he can do. The same thing happened in the first half on Futty Danso, and no foul or infringement was given, so I thought that was a bit harsh.”

WATCH: O'Brien whistled for a handball in the box

Rennie, however, was even-handed in his comments, conceding that Danso’s dismissal was unwarranted.

“Whether it was a red card or not – I don’t necessarily think it was – both players were running together so that was a little harsh," he said.

And ultimately, he had to concede that the man-advantage situation was not handled well by his team.

“Sometimes when a team goes down a man, it doesn’t necessarily help you,” he said, "because you can have that subconscious 'relax' a little bit and the goal came right after that. I think we could have dealt with that better.”