VANCOUVER, B.C. – It's been coming for weeks. But on Sunday it was finally confirmed: the Vancouver Whitecaps are officially out of this season's Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
The Whitecaps have been in "must-win" territory since the start of last month, but managed just one solitary league victory in September. Yet while Vancouver floundered, the teams around them also struggled to get into any sort of stride.
But the 'Caps weren't able to get the job done and any faint, lingering postseason hopes were finally extinguished by their Cascadian rivals the Seattle Sounders in a wild 2-1 loss at BC Place that saw each side score from a penalty kick and have their club captains sent off.
"[I'm] disappointed because we were unable to carry on from last year," Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson admitted after the match. “I'm honest enough … we haven't been good enough. Not just one game, we haven't been good enough generally across the board. We have to accept that and take responsibility for that, and I will."
Vancouver were dominant in the opening stages of the match, opening the scoring through a Pedro Morales penalty before slack defending allowed Osvaldo Alonso to bring Seattle level just before halftime.
Morales went from hero to villain when he received a straight red for an elbow to Cristian Roldan eight minutes into the second half, and the tide turned. Seattle took advantage of the extra man and scored the winner from the spot with nine minutes remaining, before scorer Brad Evans also got an early shower after aiming a head butt at David Edgar.
A fuming Robinson didn't think either merited a red card.
"I think at a key moment of the game, and it was a good game between two good teams, you have to be sure," he said. "You have to be 100 percent correct, and I just think that at that moment, the red card was issued within two seconds, three seconds. He didn't give himself time to think because I think if you look back at it, you get that one wrong."
With a possible two-game disciplinary suspension coming for Morales, it could well be the Chilean's last action as a Whitecap, after he previously indicated that this could be his last season in Vancouver.
It would be a disappointing way to bow out in what has been a disappointing year for Vancouver. But if it's a case of out with the old(ish) and in the with the new, one positive this year has most definitely been the play of 15-year-old Alphonso Davies.
The teenager got his second straight start and was a dynamic force in the first half, earning the Whitecaps' penalty and coming close with a couple of efforts. His play at least brought a smile from Robinson after another tough loss.
"He was good to watch, wasn't he? He really was," Robinson enthused. "He played very free. I think he got tired after an hour and then he started making some wrong decisions and things like that, but he was very enjoyable to watch. He caused all sorts of problems for a really good Seattle team. We know they've got quality. We knew it was going to be a tough game.
"They showed the depth of the squad that they've got and that's something that we're trying to build and we've got to aim for in the medium and long term as well. So credit to them for the victory, Obviously disappointed with the result, but not with the performance. Things didn't go our way again."