VANCOUVER, B.C. – It was another missed opportunity for the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place on Saturday evening, as they stuttered to a comprehensive 3-0 defeat to the Portland Timbers in a game that could have big implications in the final playoff standings.
After a tense first half, Vancouver were outplayed in the second, and as disappointed as Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson was by the loss to a fierce rival, it was the nature of the defeat that caused him the most concern.
"We got a doing today for the first time this season, me included," Robinson told reporters after the match. "I don't think we were at our top performance levels that we've been most of the games this season at home. It's unfortunate because it was a fantastic opportunity for us and we sort of let ourselves down a little bit, not from effort but just maybe from concentration at certain moment of the game.
"They were better than us today. You go through our players and their players and their players probably come out on top in most individual battles. We were chasing shadows at the end."
With other results going their way in MLS this weekend, Vancouver had a chance to put some breathing space between themselves and Portland in the battle for the fifth playoff place in the Western Conference. Instead, it is the Timbers who move above the red playoff line at the Whitecaps' expense.
It's not the first time this season that the Whitecaps have failed to capitalize on the opportunities presented to them to advance their standing. Why this has been is both concerning and baffling to Robinson, who admitted that he didn't know why this was proving to be the case, but refuted suggestions that pregame talk of this being a "massive" game had got to his players.
"It is a massive game," Robinson said. "It's a rivalry game for us at home against a team that's competing the playoff spot. I could say it's just another normal game and I wouldn't be being honest, and that's one thing I am. It was a massive game for us. We lost, we take it on the chin and move on."
The Portland game was the first of a three game homestajd for the Whitecaps and Robinson now has the task of picking his players up for the visit of the Eastern Conference-leading D.C. United next Saturday, in the knowledge that how his side respond to this heavy loss is likely to shape the remainder of Vancouver's season.
"We've got to bounce back from that," Robinson stated. "[Portland] managed to bounce back from their defeat last week. We've got to bounce back from our two defeats now because it's probably the first time that we've actually been well beaten this season and deservedly we were well beaten today.
"We'll see in the next nine games I suppose. There's going to be more games that we need to win. More games that are going to be massive games, must win games. There's 27 points to play for at the moment."