Vancouver meets LA in first round

 

Formerly published in The Other Press. Oct. 30 2012

Whitecaps make Major League history in sophomore year
By Elliot Chan, Contributor

The Vancouver Whitecaps will have a chance to do what their sibling professional athletic club could not. Yes, it was only seven months ago that the Vancouver Canucks, Presidents’ trophy-winning team got knocked out in the playoff’s in the first round by the LA Kings. LA went on to win the Stanley Cup, leaving a bitter taste to linger in sport fans’ palates. Well, redemption has resurrected in the form of the Whitecaps, because once again a Vancouver-based team will face a Los Angeles titan in the first round.

With that being said, I wouldn’t plan any parades yet. For many, the real championship was being the first Canadian team to ever reach MLS post-season. Everything now is bonus. After starting the 2012 season in terrific form and being touted as the most solid defensive team in the league, the Whitecaps stumbled down the stretch going 3-9-3 in their last 15 games. Vancouver’s far from stellar finish was highlighted by their potential playoff clinching game against Cascadian rival Portland Timbers on October 21. In front of the home crowd at BC Place, the Whitecaps didn’t simply choke, but required the Heimlich Maneuver to get them through the game. Losing 0–1 to a team more than 10 points beneath them was not a good sign. Fortunately, on the same night, the Seattle Sounders defeated FC Dallas in a 3–1 finish. That game mathematically knocked Dallas out of playoff contention and allowed the Whitecaps to be stretchered in.

It is the Caps’ first foray into MLS post-season and the LA Galaxy—last year’s championship team—are as experienced as it gets. In the three regular season games between both teams this year, the Galaxy won the series 2–0–1 and outscored the Whitecaps 7–2. With one game remaining in the season, LA could finish anywhere from six to 12 points ahead of Vancouver. There is no denying that the Whitecaps have a huge mountain to climb on November 1 at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles.

Moreover, playing away from home has not been a strength Vancouver can lean on. July 4 in Colorado marked their last win away from BC Place. Their eight game losing streak on the road can be a distant memory if they are able to defeat Real Salt Lake in the last regular season game on October 27. Doing so would go a long way in rebuilding confidence for an underdog team facing the bright lights. After all, stars don’t come any brighter than those of the LA Galaxy, such names as David Beckham, Landon Donovan, and Robbie Keane are as internationally recognized as it gets.

November 1 at 7:30 p.m. PST, Vancouver Whitecaps will face LA Galaxy in the Western Conference Knockout Round. If Vancouver manages to pull off an upset, they will remain in sunny California and face the San Jose Earthquakes on November 4.

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