Whitecaps 2, Rapids 2: A lethargic result, but a point nonetheless

Whitecaps facing a tough task to break into top 4 of Western Conference teams as the season heads into its final stretch.

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There was no ‘andiamo’ left in the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday. Just ‘assonato.’

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It was a lethargic, weary team that took the field at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for the Major League Soccer clash with the Colorado Rapids, and an even more exhausted one that left after a 2-2 tie.

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Only a Brian White tying goal in the 78th minute saved the Caps the embarrassment of losing to the league’s last-place team, and rescued a point in a game they had invested high hopes in boosting them into a top-four position with the stretch run looming.

There are reasons, valid ones even, for the result. It was the final of seven straight games away from B.C. Place, a stretch of 41 days without a home game. They’d gone from a hot and humid clime in Houston to an oxygen-thin altitude of Salt Lake, some 1,300m above sea level, then climbed another 200m higher in elevation to the 02 starved heights of Commerce City.

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With their third-straight loss, the Caps (11-10-9) are now sixth in the Western Conference, one point behind Houston and RSL — the two other teams they lost to in the skid — and three points behind second-place LAFC and Seattle.

“These seven games have taken a toll. Today, it was probably one of the reasons why the team was a little bit disconnected,” said head coach Vanni Sartini. “We were extremely tired. … There was a lot of disconnection, a lot of confusion.

“Today we played very bad. We weren’t good in the first half. We were even worse in the second half. So we need to play better. It’s not a matter of concentration. … We were destroyed, we couldn’t press. In the end, we were destroyed. We were destroyed mentally, physically.”

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The Rapids (4-15-11) are in disarray this year, firing head coach Robin Fraser earlier this month after they plummeted to the bottom of the standings. Only Toronto FC can match their ridiculous -24 goal differential and four-win total.

So as tired as they were, and as hard as it is to win on the road, Wednesday was a vital game for the Caps. The make-up meeting from their stormed-out game in June was their ace in the hole, the game-in-hand advantage they held over the teams ahead and around them in the West.

If the Caps want to be playing in December — they’ve repeatedly stated they feel they have the ability to make a deep run in the playoffs — then Wednesday’s result is exactly the kind they need to convert into three points.

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Now it’s gone, and the road to a top-4 finish is a daunting one. Three of their four remaining games are at home, and the other is a mere 40-minute flight to Seattle, but three of those opponents are the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 teams in the conference. The optimist would also point out that those three games are a prime opportunity to make up ground to that coveted top-4 spot and the first-round home-field advantage in the three-game playoff series that comes with it.

“I think the most important thing for Saturday will be who’s ready to go. Who is really ready to go, to guarantee intensity, because that’s the only way that we can win this game,” Sartini said of their next game, against DC United at B.C. Place.

“The objective is there. We’re No. 6 in the standings. We are happy to to have our destiny in our hands.

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“Hats off to the guys. We’ve made 11 points (in the seven-game road swing). They put us in a position that now we need to deliver, and we need to start from Saturday.”


Here are the final four games for the Caps:

— DC United, Saturday, 7:30 p.m., B.C. Place

— St. Louis City, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m. B.C. Place

— Seattle, Saturday, Oct. 7, 7:30 p.m., Lumen Field

— LAFC, Decision Day, Saturday, 6 p.m., B.C. Place


One burning question is the status of attacker Ryan Gauld, who was subbed off early in the second half. He’d had his foot hurt after being tackled in the first half, and tried to play through the pain in the second, but only lasted 10 minutes before heading to the bench.

“We took him off because he wasn’t able to run. He felt pain. At the end of the first half, he told me ‘I want to try. I want to try,’ but then it was clear that that he wasn’t able to play,” said Sartini. “The turnaround is that quick that it’s a big question mark to see if he’s going to be available for DC. We’ll see.”

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Mathías Laborda, the Caps Uruguayan centreback, opened the scoring 11 minutes in with his first goal as a member of the Caps, poking home the ball in a scramble following a Richie Laryea corner kick 11 minutes in.

Two minutes into the second half, Diego Rubio evened things up for the Rapids.

When Gauld subbed off 10 minutes later, the Caps began to wilt. The Rapids started playing downhill, and when Yohei Takaoka was forced to make a point-blank save off Canadian international Moise Bombito in a goal-mouth scramble, it seemed like just a matter of time before Colorado found the go-ahead goal.

And five minutes later, Cole Bassett took advantage of a semi-conscious corner kick defence to bang home an uncontested header past Takaoka, not even needing to leave his feet to do it.

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A triple substitution by Sartini injected even a little bit of energy. Substitute Sebastian Berhalter, lunging at a cross from Ryan Raposo, kneed a shot somewhere into the tier of stands behind the Rapids net in the 73rd minute. It was notable only because it was the Caps’ first shot of the second half.

“It’s two games in a row now where we start the second half on the back foot,” said White. “They get a goal early and it changes the game. That’s something we need to address as a team in the locker room, because you’re not going to win a lot of games, not going to make a playoff run with that kind of reaction in the second half. So that’s something we have to address and I’m confident that the boys will hunker down, we’ll address it, we’ll look at it and be better for it on Saturday.”

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Colorado averages the fewest goals per 90 minutes in MLS (0.72) and have the third-lowest xG and fourth-fewest shots per game. But they out-shot Vancouver both overall (13-11) and on target (8-4), with three of the Caps attempts coming in the final minute of injury time.

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With 12 minutes left in regulation, White found the back of the net for his 13th of the season, a leaping header off a Berhalter corner, the second set piece goal of the game. White is now two goals behind Cincinnati’s Luciano Acosta in the Golden Boot race.

It set a new career high in goals for the New Jersey native, and currently is the fifth-best single-season total in team history, behind Camilo (25, 13), Kei Kamara (17) and Fredy Montero.



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