Whitecaps FC rue missed opportunities as Western Conference race tightens up

Dec 19 2017, 4:13 pm

A slow-start in Colorado cost the Vancouver Whitecaps three points last week. The message heading into Sunday’s tilt against Sporting Kansas City was to ensure that a repeat of that performance did not occur in the Caps’ long-awaited return home to BC Place Stadium.

Against Sporting KC, the Caps started the game on the attack with Octavio Rivero and Mauro Rosales leading the charge. The two combined well to create many scoring opportunities in the first-half, but were unsuccessful in the final third.

Rosales looked especially lively, breaking away from and getting in behind defenders, while also providing great service from the right-hand side. It was the 34-year-old Argentine midfielder who was able to find an open Kekuta Manneh on the other end of the box, with a diagonal ball played from the right touchline, setting up one of Vancouver’s better scoring opportunities.

Rookie defender Tim Parker also had an opportunity to open the scoring, as well as his career goal account, but had his header at goal cleared of the line by Sporting KC’s Benny Feilhaber.

Image: Anne-Marie Sorvin / USA TODAY Sports

The Caps were looking more and more like the team that had come off a very successful road trip, winning three out of five games against some tough opposition: Los Angeles, New York Red Bulls and New England. They were just lacking the finish.

A flat second-half, coupled with their inability to finish their chances in the first-half, lead to the Whitecaps surrendering yet another three points, losing 1-0 to Sporting Kansas City.

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Whitecaps manager Carl Robinson attributes the slow second-hand performance to the brilliance of Kansas City’s midfield duo of Roger Espinoza and Feilhaber.

“Every game is won and lost in midfield and I think they come out on top,” said Robinson in his post-game address. “In the first-half it was a great game to watch. Our attacking play probably probably disguised it (midfield performance) a little bit, but in the second-half they (Sporting KC midfield) got a grip of it and they controlled the tempo.”

The Western Conference standings remain unchanged after Sunday’s result, with the Caps still sitting in second-place with 32 points and in a three-way tie for first with Seattle and FC Dallas. With the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers both losing this past weekend, the Caps would have taken sole possession of first within the Western Conference and be tied for the overall lead with D.C. United with a win over Sporting KC.

As it currently stands, only two points separate teams one through six (the final playoff spot). In a tight conference, the Caps have missed an opportunity to create separation between themselves and the rest of the Western Conference.

As we progress through this MLS season, the schedule is not going to be providing any favours to the Whitecaps, as they will soon be resuming the Amway Canadian Championship and beginning their journey through the CONCACAF Champions League next month – all games that will be played midweek carrying with it extra travel time.

“It’s going to be nip and tuck between now and the end of the year without a doubt,” said Robinson. “We know where we are, we know we need to be better. I need to be better. We will be better.

“A lot of things need to be better after today.”

Where the Caps had found a bit of consistency in their play, being able to establish themselves on their opponents and find the back of the net, during their fruitful month-long road trip, they have taken a slight step backwards during their last two matches. The loss against Sporting Kansas City also marks the fifth time Vancouver has been shutout this season.

Image: Anne-Marie Sorvin / USA TODAY Sports

Robinson knows that this can’t continue.

“Today we had a number of chances, we didn’t take them,” he said. “KC had a number of chances and they took one of their chances.

“You can’t keep playing well in games and not taking chances.”