VANCOUVER, B.C. - Vancouver Whitecaps' Canadian Championship heartbreak continued at BC Place on Wednesday evening with a penalty shoot-out loss to Toronto FC in their semi-final second leg.
The Whitecaps have never won the Championship since its inception in 2008, coming close on a number of occasions, but they fought back from a 2-1 first-leg deficit and an early TFC goal to level the tie 3-3 on aggregate, taking the game to extra time and eventually penalties.
The end result may have been a defeat but Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson was anything but downbeat after the match.
"How can I be disappointed with a performance like that?" Robinson told reporters. "I keep saying I'm proud of them, but what a performance that is. We won the game today. Obviously we lost the Cup tie, but we won the game."
The Whitecaps continued to play mostly their younger fringe players, with 17-year-old Marco Carducci starting once again in goal.
Robinson made it clear before the first leg that this was no devaluing the importance of the competition but down to the belief he had in those young players. It was a tone he continued after the game.
"Someone asked me why I wasn't playing my strongest team and I said you tell me what my strongest team is," Robinson said. "That's the reality of the performance today."
Robinson's young charges were boosted by Designated Player Pedro Morales, and the Chilean was instrumental in the Whitecaps fightback, setting up Erik Hurtado for the equalizer and scoring the aggregate leveling penalty with four minutes of normal time remaining.
Robinson has stated several times this season that Morales makes those players around him better and Vancouver looked a confident team out on the pitch from the moment the game kicked off.
"Sometimes in football you don't get what you deserve and today I didn't think we got what we deserved," Robinson noted. "The boys from the first minute to the last minute, 120 minutes, were brilliant. So yeah, I know we haven't won it, but we have won it for me."
Vancouver dominated for much of the match, outshooting the visitors 24 shots to 11. As with the recent win in Columbus, it was the Whitecaps' lack of clinical finishing that provided Robinson with his only negative of the night, with only nine of those shots finding their target and a number of good goalscoring chances squandered.
"Probably the only disappointment thing I have is that when we got the 2-1 lead goal, we had two chances in normal time to win the game," Robinson said.
"I'm disappointed we didn't get a goal or take our chances, because if we could have got a third goal, I don't think they had much left in their tank.
"I think we won that game and I think we won it with a performance like that. Everybody left the stadium happy, yet disappointed we lost on a penalty shoot-out. It's a heads or tails, isn't it."