VANCOUVER, B.C. – There was disappointment, but not despair, in the Vancouver Whitecaps' locker room following their penalty-shootout loss to Toronto FC in the second leg of Wednesday night's Canadian Championship semifinal.
It may have been a heartbreaking end for Carl Robinson's young team, but the overriding feelings were that of a pride in their performance and a confidence that they can now build on that and make a serious impact in Major League Soccer.
"I don't think anybody is walking out of here with their head down," Russell Teibert, Vancouver's captain on the night, told reporters after the game. "We're all proud, we're all confident. It's a good atmosphere.
"Sure, we're upset that we haven't won the championship, but the boss is proud of us, the fans are proud of us and we're proud of them."
The 21-year-old Canadian international led by example with a strong midfield performance that helped Vancouver dominate against a Toronto side that had taken a two-goal lead in the tie thanks to Doneil Henry's fourth-minute opener at BC Place.
The Whitecaps created chance after chance as they battled back and played some of their best football of the season so far.
"The way we moved the ball on the pitch today, the way we played, the way we attacked them for 100-plus minutes, we were the better team on the day,” Teibert said. “And I don't think anybody would dispute that. It's unfortunate to lose on penalties, but that's just the way it goes sometimes."
The loss means Vancouver's CONCACAF Champions League hopes are over for another season. The Canadian Championship winner claims a spot in that competition, but with those dreams now gone, the full focus for Robinson's side will now be on MLS play and securing a return to the playoffs.
With a number of Robinson's younger squad players getting valuable experience in the two ties against Toronto, feelings run high in the camp that Vancouver can use those strong performances as a springboard.
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"Even though we are a little disappointed, there's a lot more to come from us this season," Teibert said. "I think it gives us a lot of confidence. There's something special that we have in this locker room that we haven't had in years past.
“I think just because we don't win this trophy, we don't win the Canadian Chamtpionship, doesn't mean that we can't win the Cascadia Cup and we can't win an MLS [Cup] championship."
That was a feeling echoed by Vancouver striker Omar Salgado.
As the Whitecaps' first-ever draft pick in 2011, Salgado has been around the club since their MLS era began with a rock-bottom finish and feels that this is the best team spirit he has seen in Vancouver "by far."
"We should move on from here," said Salgado, the former US youth international who is now firmly back in the fold after a series of foot injuries kept him sidelined since being selected No. 1 overall by the ‘Caps. "Obviously, we didn't play much of our starters, so it's great to know we have some backup players who can jump in and do the job. It was great to be able to see that. We have a really deep squad.
"The team we have right now can really win the MLS Cup, and that's what we'll shoot for.”