When the Whitecaps play the Galaxy, they usually come off second best. Before tonight's match, they had faced each other eleven times, and the Caps had a mere five points to show for it, with none of them coming in California. And unfortunately, they'll have to wait one more season to get it right. Unless of course they end up meeting in the Cup, like they did back in 2012.
The game started as it usually does, with Robbie Keane getting the better of Russell Teibert. In the 3rd minute, he won a free kick after losing the ball. In our eyes, that was a 50/50 challenge, but sadly, we don't have a whistle. Barring a schedule change, we'll have two opportunities next year to ask Keane where he got his.
The game's opening goal came after Andy O'Brien leapt over Marcelo Sarvas to win the header, knocking the ball into open space. With Teibert and Keane closing in, the Irishman won his second battle of the night to power it past five bodies, finding Landon Donovan, who got the easy tap in on the far post. It should prove interesting to see how good the Galaxy are next year when they won't have the services of Landycakes.
The Caps had their first penalty appeal in the 8th minute, when Darren Mattocks leapt up into the air to get on the other end of a Teibert corner, but was pulled back from behind by A.J. DeLaGarza, who had his hands around the Jamaican's waist, tugging him down and impeding his effort. But referee Allen Chapman did not see the infraction.
As the clock ticked towards the end of the first quarter hour, Pedro Morales took a short corner to Kekuta Manneh, whose shot grazed against the wrong side of the crossbar. The final effort may not have been perfect, but it was a good idea, fooling the Galaxy defenders and the keeper.
In the 21st minute, Dan Gargan earned himself a yellow card for grabbing onto the Kekuta Manneh's hips from behind as the Gambian had control of the ball, and no defenders in position to stop him. There was a defender closer to goal, but he was on the opposite side of the field. It was a deliberate move, what is called a professional foul, and could have easily been a red card on another night, or against another club.
The second goal was a comedy of errors for the boys in blue. After Donovan slipped the ball towards Sarvas, O'Brien, Teibert, and Steven Beitashour tried to close in on him, but he was able to back heel the ball to Keane who was marked by Sebastián Fernández, though you wouldn't have known it. Keane was able to send the ball back between O'Brien and Teibert, finding Sarvas, who beat David Ousted on the far side.
Between the goals, the Whitecaps dominated the second half, having the majority of the ball, the play, and the chances. Before Sarvas's tally, you could have said that it was an ear perfect half up to that point. But there was the Donovan goal, and the rest of the half to play.
By the time the halftime whistle finally blew, the Galaxy had outshot the visitors 9-2, held 61% possession, and had forced Vancouver into making 20 clearances. The Galaxy had made a mere 7, just over a third of their opponents.
In the second half, Mauro Rosales came on for Fernández. And he almost made an immediate impact, being involved in a give and go that nearly led to a Kekuta Manneh breakout, but alas, the ball bounced off his heel, and the attack fizzled out. But it was still a sign of things to come.
He had a great effort around the 50th minute, when he chested the ball down, ran into space, and tried to find Mattocks, but unfortunately, the final ball was intercepted. Considering it was only yesterday that he met most of his teammates for the first time, the Argentine seems to be settling in nicely.
In an amusing anecdote, Rosales learned that he had been dealt to Vancouver while at the airport, waiting to board the flight to Boston for CD Chivas's match with the Revolution. While he was spared from the continental flight, his boots weren't. But he was able to find a replacement pair in a black and white chequered pattern.
In the 55th minute, Manneh received the ball on the edge of the box, slipped the ball around Juninho, kept running as Omar González pulled at his shoulder from behind, went around Gargan, but he couldn't beat the goalkeeper, Jaime Penedo. It had to be at least a sixty yard run.
With this being the Galaxy's third match in eight days, it was the hope that runs like that by Manneh, Mattocks, Teibert, and the rest of the team, would tire the Californians. But as the game entered the third stage, when substitutes usually come on, the scoreline still read Los Angeles Galaxy 2, Vancouver Whitecaps FC 0.
The 64th minute saw a clash of heads between Juninho and Manneh, though Manneh committed the foul and was the worst for wear from it. The Galaxy were quite happy about it, as the delay ate more of the clock.
Trailing by two and with less than a third of the match to play, it was the Whitecaps who made the first two substitutes, Rosales at half time, and Erik Hurtado coming on for Mehdi Ballouchy in the 67th minute.
There were times when the Whitecaps looked to be the better team, but they were few and far between. The Galaxy, for whatever reason, just seemed to be a class above. But not above Rosales. He would have fit into either squad and not looked out of place.
He even helped organise the defence, being vocal with his new teammates, pointing out gaps that needed to be closed, and leading on the pitch and by his actions, unlike the man he replaced.
There were positives. Rosales was one of them. Kendall Waston was another, making his debut as a striker in the 78th minute when he came on for Manneh. With his height, the Costa Rican stands 6'5", he'd be a commanding presence in any box.
But the Galaxy, there have been many an article extolling their virtues, their class, their ability, and they're all right. Waston laid the ball off to Mattocks in as the match entered its final ten minute, but Penedo made the save.
With seven minutes remaining, González pushed Mattocks in the back after he realised that he lacked the pace to keep up with the Jamaican. Mattocks went tumbling, and finally, the referee gave him a caution. It was deliberate, it was a professional foul, using the letter of the rulebook to defeat the spirit of the rulebook.
Sadly, these kinds of things are common when playing the Galaxy. For whatever reason, they know that they seem to get the majority of these kinds of calls. And so they feel safe to make the infraction. That isn't to take away from the Galaxy's quality, which is certainly there, but when they bring the game into disrepute, it's hard to understand their popularity at the league offices.
Do they get these advantages because they are the class of the league, or are they the class of the league because they get these advantages? We may never know, but we will always wonder.
On the cusp of stoppage time, Johnny Leverón won the ball and the follow through of his leg knocked Alan Gordon down. Referee Allen Chapman issued Leverón a straight red. Yet somehow, we doubt that would have happened had Gordon done the same to Leverón. Hopefully, the powers that be will overturn that red card, or at least downgrade it to a yellow.
Down a man, trailing by two goals, the Whitecaps continued to press, getting some decent chances in the four minutes of stoppage time, but there was only ever going to be one winner. The Galaxy even had a chance to go three up when Keane's shot bounced out of Ousted's hands, hitting the crossbar before the Dane could finally gain control.
With the loss, Vancouver find themselves seven points back of the Galaxy, having played one more game, and no longer level with Salt Lake in the loss table. The only saving grace is that they remain two points ahead of Portland, and three above Colorado, who have played one extra match.
Vancouver's next match will be at home against Portland, who can leapfrog the Whitecaps with a win over Seattle on Sunday. But whatever Sunday holds for their Cascadian cousins, the Whitecaps remain well positioned in their Quest for La Quinta. They were the first to win four Cascadia Cups, can they be the first to five as well? Join us at BC Place on Saturday to find out.