CARSON, Calif. – A difficult week for Vancouver Whitecaps FC began with the coaching staff's dismissal and closed with a third successive defeat, a 3-0 decision that all but wiped away their dwindling postseason chances.
Consider it a success. Sort of.
Things didn't go as the Whitecaps (11-12-7) needed them to in Saturday night's loss to the LA Galaxy. But acting head coach Craig Dalrymple said he couldn't have been more pleased with how his team performed.
“Not an easy week for the team, but the challenge was there ahead of them in terms of getting themselves back on track and focused on the task at hand,” Dalrymple, who took charge after Carl Robinson and his staff were let go Monday, told media in the hallway outside his team's locker room at StubHub Center. “And to be honest, they had every reason to lie down tonight – and to lie down and give in, especially after conceding, after two minutes, a penalty.
“There's a reason [to be] thinking, 'Are they going to lie down or are they going to fight?' And they fought.”
After the first 20 or so minutes, the Whitecaps repeatedly challenged an organized Galaxy defense, found their way into LA's box and created enough opportunities to turn things around. They couldn't overcome Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who helped win and then converted a fourth-minute penalty kick, followed with a gorgeous goal early in the second half and then won a 77th-minute penalty kick that Romain Alessandrini fired into the net.
The loss leaves Vancouver eighth in the Western Conference, five points behind sixth-place Real Salt Lake, seven behind fifth-place Seattle and eight in back of fourth-place Portland. They're also four points behind the Galaxy (12-11-8), who are much likelier to bore their way into the postseason than are the Whitecaps, who have four games to go.
“It is a tough road, but we'll put four strong performances in, I can guarantee that,” said Dalrymple. “They want to do [that], they're committed to that, and we'll count the points at the end of the season, see where we're at.”
They'll need some help for sure, but the consensus had the loser of this one out of the playoffs. Realistically, if not mathematically.
“We've just got to keep battling, keep fighting. We're not out yet,” countered forward Kei Kamara, who was mostly quieted by LA's new center-back pairing of Dave Romney and Daniel Steres. “[It will take] until all the games are done before we can rule ourselves out.”
Robinson's departure was emotional for many of the Whitecaps' players, and Dalrymple, the club's academy technical director since 2014, says his role now is “to ensure that [our] players have a good environment to work every day [and to] make sure they're focused on the task at hand.
“That's my job, and right now it's easy,” he added. “Because they're playing very well.”