VANCOUVER, BC — After a tough road trip that included losses to San Jose and Montreal, the Vancouver Whitecaps returned home where they faced New York City FC in front of an announced crowd of 17,512. Again the Whitecaps walked away with empty hands and their 3-1 defeat means the ‘Caps are now eliminated from the playoffs.
New York City FC was quick to take command of the match. In the 10th minute, Tony Rocha won the ball in midfield for NYFC, played it over to Alexandru Mitrita, who picked out Héber’s run into the box and the Brazilian slotted the ball past Vancouver keeper Maxime Crépeau.
The night went quickly from bad to worse for the Whitecaps. In the 14th minute, Vancouver lost right-back Jake Nerwinski to an injury.
“He is in a boot right now,” Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos said. “I don’t think it is broken but we need at least 24 hours [to assess the injury,” Dos Santos added.
Then just moments later, NYCFC lost Héber to an injury. Gary Mackay-Steven replaced the Brazilian striker. The injuries interrupted the flow of the game for New York only briefly, however.
Moments after being brought on Mackay-Steven found the space in the box and with Ali Adnan not interrupting easily beat Crépeau with a low drive.
In the 31st minute, Vancouver thought it had a lifeline. Sean Johnson had brought down Tosaint Ricketts in the box and referee Marcos de Oliveira initially pointed to the spot, but after consulting the video assistant (VAR), he waved the penalty off.
It was a decision that caused an outroar among fans and the coaching staff alike at BC Place, especially after the incident was shown on the big screen inside the stadium. Whitecaps staff Vanni Sartini and Youssef Dahha had to be escorted from the bench by security personal.
“Just no, I don’t want to answer that,” Whitecaps head coach Marc dos Santos said when asked about the incident. “I have three kids and want to take them to Disney one day.”
“Sometimes decisions impact games and a lot of stuff that go into a football match that is out of our control,” Doneil Henry said about the game in general. The defender, however, did not want to elaborate on the VAR decision. “I never going to talk about it, I don’t want to get fined,” the Whitecaps defender said.
“The way we came out in the second half that penalty would have given us momentum,” Dos Santos said. “Because if you go back and watch the first 20 minutes of the second half we were a team that went at them,” Dos Santos added
The Whitecaps did indeed have the better chances of the two sides to start the second half. In the 60th minute, Fredy Montero almost produced a highlight-reel goal. His bicycle kick, however, missed the goal by a whisker.
Johnson then had to produce two stops to keep the Whitecaps off the scoreboard. First, he kept out Inbeom in the 61st and then he produced a diving save to deny Montero in the 62nd.
One minute later, the Whitecaps finally scored. Reyna broke through on the right and beat Johnson with a shot into the top left corner.
Vancouver’s joy, however, lasted only a moment.
In the 72nd minute, Alexandru Mitrita curled home an impossible freekick to beat Crépeau at the near post. “That responsibility is [Maxime Crépeau’s],” Dos Santos said. “I know that Max is listening to this is going to grow even more,” Dos Santos added.
“I played it like every wide freekick just with the two men wall and it beat me at the near post,” Crépeau said. But the keeper was not quite willing to admit that the goal was his mistake. “I will see it again and I will tell you,” Crépeau said.
Whether the goal was Crépeau’s responsibility or not it sealed the game for New York City FC and also officially eliminated the Vancouver Whitecaps from the MLS postseason.
A new experience for Dos Santos, who before joining the Whitecaps has been successful at every level. “It is new for me,” Dos Santos said. “Not to be in a playoff or fighting for something in September,” Dos Santos added.
Vancouver Whitecaps (4-3-3)
Crépeau – Adnan, Rose, Henry, Nerwinski (Sutter, 16′) – Teibert, Erice (Chirinos, 46′), In-beom (Bair, 84′) – Reyna, Ricketts, Montero
New York City FC (4-3-3)
Johnson – Sweat, Callens, Chanot, Tinnerholm – Parks, Rocha, Moralez (Haak, 90′) – Mitrita, Castellanos (Ibeagha, 70′), Héber (Mackay-Steven, 21′)