VANCOUVER, B.C. — It wasn’t pretty, but the defending MLS Cup champions got the result they came for.
Substitute Wells Thomson scored an 84th-minute goal to earn the Colorado Rapids a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps in front of a sellout crowd of 21,000 at BC Place on Saturday evening. The result secured the Rapids home-field advantage in the club’s midweek Wild Card playoff match, while breaking the Caps’ three-match winning streak.
Entering the match, the Rapids were in danger of being passed by Houston for the second Wild Card position. The three points mean that is no longer possible.
Thompson’s looping, deflected shot over keeper Joe Cannon broke the deadlock, after Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz had struck the equalizer in the 59th minute with a freekick that should never have found the back of the net.
After a relatively quiet first half from both sides, Alain Rochat, named Whitecaps unsung hero of the season prior to kickoff, gave the home side the lead with a bit of a lucky goal in the 49th minute. His curling free kick was intended to find a teammate in the Colorado box, but no one got a head on it. Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens, however, raised his hands as the ball went past him, apparently thinking the ball was going wide before watching it bounce into his net to the delight of the Southsiders supporters group behind him.
Ten minutes later came the reply from Larentowicz on an equally egregious play. Jamie Smith teed up his captain on the set-piece play about 22 yards out. Larentowicz struck a low drive that snaked through the Whitecaps’ disintegrated wall and then Cannon’s legs.
Camilo Sanvezzo, named Player of the Year for the ‘Caps before kickoff, nearly put Vancouver in front in the 66th minute, turning and getting a shot off to the right of Pickens’ goal. Five minutes later the Brazilian was at it again, just missing the top right of Pickens’ goal from another set piece.
But the Caps were unable to capitalize, setting themselves up for Thompson’s winner. The ball fell to the midfielder about 25 yards out and he unleashed a hard drive that deflected on its way to the goal. The ball arced up and over the rest of the defense and the stranded Cannon. It was Thompson’s 3rd goal of the season.
Whitecaps’ centerback Jay DeMerit had a late chance in the 89th minute to equalize, as he got on the end of a Camilo free kick. But the former US international headed well over the bar, and the match ended 2-1
At the final whistle, the Whitecaps closed the book on their first MLS season. They finish in last place in the full league table, but also will take heart in providing some strong performances, particularly late in the season, when they won three of their final four matches.
The Rapids now prepare for a Wild Card playoff match in midweek. They will host either the New York Red Bulls, the Houston Dynamo, or the Columbus Crew, depending on the result of the Houston-LA match on Sunday.
VAN -- Alain Rochat 3 (unassisted) 49
COL -- Jeff Larentowicz 7 (Jamie Smith 4, Sanna Nyassi 5) 59
COL -- Wells Thompson 3 (unassisted) 84
Colorado Rapids -- Matt Pickens, Kosuke Kimura, Marvell Wynne, Tyrone Marshall, Miguel Comminges, Brian Mullan, Jeff Larentowicz, Joseph Nane (Caleb Folan 78), Jamie Smith (Wells Thompson 70), Sanna Nyassi, Omar Cummings (Macoumba Kandji 74).
Substitutes Not Used: Eddie Ababio, Ross LaBauex, Scott Palguta, Steward Ceus.
Vancouver Whitecaps -- Joe Cannon, Jeb Brovsky, Jay DeMerit, Carlyle Mitchell, Alain Rochat, Nizar Khalfan (Eric Hassli 78), Gershon Koffie, John Thorrington, Jordan Harvey (Shea Salinas 87), Camilo, Long Tan (Davide Chiumiento 53).
Substitutes Not Used: Michael Boxall, Mustapha Jarju, Peter Vagenas, Jay Nolly.
COL -- Jeff Larentowicz (caution; Reckless Foul) 10
COL -- Tyrone Marshall (caution; Reckless Foul) 77
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee's Assistants: -Fabio Tovar; Ian Anderson
4th Official: Paul Ward
Time of Game: 1:51