Vancouver Whitecaps clinch playoffs on hallowed SKC soil

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – In six previous MLS matches in Kansas City, the Vancouver Whitecaps came away without a victory – and for the first 20 minutes of this one, it looked as though they might be on the short end of a rout at Children’s Mercy Park.
 
But a break here, a couple of big saves there, and one successful counter proved the winning formula for the Western Conference leaders. The visitors dealt Sporting Kansas City their first home loss of the year across all competition,s and broke their unbeaten home run in MLS play at 24 matches.
 
“We talked about it before the game that in seven years in MLS, we haven’t won here,” said goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic, who rang up seven saves in Saturday night’s 1-0 victory. “We set a lofty goal that we wanted to do exactly that today, and we did. We fought. That’s how we want to be. That’s how we want to play.
 
“That’s all we could do is just fight, and we did and we won, and taking it into the next game is just a little belief that we can achieve the impossible.”
 
Sporting came out finding plenty of space in the middle of Vancouver’s defense and were poised to take the lead in the 10th minute, after a Video Review led to a penalty kick being awarded for Kendall Waston’s foul on Daniel Salloi just inside the area.
 
With usual penalty-taker Benny Feilhaber on the bench to start the match, Diego Rubio stepped to the spot – and put his shot off the post. He had one header saved by Marinovic and pushed another one wide shortly after that, finishing the night with five shots on target – all stopped by the New Zealand international.
 
“What happened tonight sometimes happens in soccer,” Rubio told reporters. “You know, we had many chances, I especially had many chances to score, but I didn’t. I missed the penalty; I missed some other good opportunities. I hope that only happens once in a long time. It’s the first time here, and hopefully it doesn’t happen again.

“A striker is like a goalkeeper. I want to take the responsibility today because we lose. I hope that just happened tonight, and not more this year.”

That ability to get out of the opening minutes with the scoreboard at zeroes made the difference between Vancouver’s previous result – a 3-0 midweek loss to Seattle – and Saturday’s victory, Robinson said.

“It’s important to keep emotional control but it’s important to stay in the game as well,” he said. “When we were under the cosh in the first 20 minutes, we maintained focus and our mentality was spot on. We were throwing our bodies on the line, the goalkeeper came up with some massive saves – which you need to – but we stayed in the game and took the chance when it came.”

And with Sporting sending both fullbacks high all night, in an effort to bag that first goal, all it took was one big break for the Whitecaps on a counter, with Erik Hurtado getting free for a flick past Tim Melia in the 53rd minute.

“The goal, what can I tell you? I think we were snoozing a little bit, sleeping maybe on the play,” SKC head coach Peter Vermes said. “We talked about that’s the one thing they’re going to do the whole game is play the ball over the top.

“That’s what they wanted to do, and they found a way and they scored. It’s unfortunate, but at the end we had the chances; we didn’t put them away, so they deserve the points.”