Whitecaps lament errors in first, last third: "Games are won in both boxes"

VANCOUVER, B.C. – It's not too difficult to work out why the Vancouver Whitecaps are below the playoff line looking up as the MLS season gets down to its final few weeks.

A goal differential of -8 and the fourth-worst goals-against record in the Western Conference – and the sixth-worst in all of MLS – play a significant part. But it certainly isn't the only aspect of the Whitecaps’ struggles this year.

For 'Caps captain Kendall Waston, continually placing the fault on Vancouver's backline is the easy option, and an unfair one.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's always that, it's always that," a clearly irked Waston told reporters after Saturday's 2-1 home loss to Seattle. "Obviously when they score, it's always the defense. No, no. It's all the team. And when we score, it's always the team again."

The Whitecaps may have given up two or more goals for the 17th time in 28 matches this season, but Waston also has a very valid point.

Although Vancouver’s defensive woes have proved costly this year, many of the goals they have given up can be traced back to players outside of the backline. A number of them, though, are down to individual errors and poor decision-making, not just in their own penalty box, but in the opposition's one as well.

That was certainly evident on Saturday night against Seattle, where a combination of dodgy decisions, poor finishing, solid Sounders defending and just plain bad luck combined to see the Whitecaps score just one from 21 shots on goal and concede twice from five against them.

"Games are won in both boxes," 'Caps coach Carl Robinson mused after the match. "That's why the boys at the top are paid the big bucks. You hear that all the time. We got into some wonderful areas and our final pass was over-hit or under-hit or we made the wrong decision and that's what happens.

"It doesn't matter how much possession you have in the world, it's what you do in both boxes … We dug ourselves a hole last time we played Seattle and we've done it again and this time we weren't able to get out."

Robinson's tongue-in-cheek line that his team should "maybe not play square balls across the edge of the box" was a very apt summation of what went wrong again. It was also very telling, and a view echoed by Whitecaps midfielder Russell Teibert.

"We created so many chances," Teibert said. "It comes down to both boxes, and I know we’ve said that a couple times this year, but we can’t come out of this game and say we deserved or were expected to win when we aren’t clinical enough in the final third with the amount of chances we have, and we make a few mistakes at the back that cost us two goals.

"Seattle’s a quality team and if you really want to come out of the game and say you deserve to win, you’ve got to make sure you take care of business in both boxes."