After six matches and only one goal scored, what more needs to be said about the play of Vancouver Whitecaps FC? Well, they didn't concede against a very good DC United side, and the point did move them into the lead for next year's Champions League berth.
With eight games left to play, Vancouver's season could go either way. The Caps were knocked out, on penalties, in the Semi-Final of the CSA Cup. The Supporters' Shield, while still a mathematical possibility, is unrealistic at this point. But Canada's place in next year's Champions League is theirs to lose. All they have to do is equal Toronto's efforts from here on out and it will be theirs.
But that will be for next year. There are still eight games to play this year, and if they can perform better than Portland, they'll make the Qualifying Round of the Anschutz Cup. Get four points from their games against Portland and Seattle, and they'll win the Cascadia Cup too.
One goal from six matches and they can still challenge for the Champions League, Anschutz Cup, and Cascadia Cup. It hardly sounds possible, but it is. Probable on the other hand is another matter entirely. If the Caps are to fight for Silverware, they'll have to do it by beating clubs ahead of them in the table.
Seattle Sounders FC look well on their way to their first Supporters' Shield. Real Salt Lake are aren't far behind. FC Dallas, whom we still have to play at home and away, have improved on last year's edition. Portland and Colorado are fighting with us for the last spot in the Anschutz Cup. And we have two matches left to play against San Jose, the first one coming on Wednesday at BC Place.
The match will go a long way to determining how the season goes. It will be the last of the so-called easy games until the penultimate match of the season, which coincidentally, is also against the Earthquakes.
With the Transfer Window now closed, help won't be coming from overseas. But before you go blaming Carl Robinson, remember, this is still largely the same group of players that Martin Rennie assembled. Of the 28 players currently under contract, 16 of them were either acquired by Rennie or already part of the academy system.
Only 12 of them can be considered Robinson's, and two of them were loaned out to the Charleston Battery of USL Pro. No matter what happens over the next eight matches, we hope that the front office gives Robinson time to build his squad as he sees fit. After all, one only has to look to Toronto FC to see the alternative.
When they replaced Ryan Nelsen with Greg Vanney, he became their ninth manager in less than eight seasons. By comparison, Vancouver is currently in our 39th season of competitive action, and Carl Robinson our 17th manager.
As for tonight's game, it did mark Ethen Sampson's first competitive appearance for the club. In the 11th minute, Sampson headed the ball forward despite being marked by Fabian Espindola and David Estrada. Mauro Rosales, Pedro Morales, and Sebastián Fernández would carry the ball up the field, finally picking out Darren Mattocks.
While Mattocks could have tried a shot, instead he tried to flick the ball onto Rosales for a tap in, but the pass was intercepted. It would find its way back to Mattocks, who fired off a shot, but it was fired well over the crossbar. The miss was made all the more glaring by the fact that DC United's goalkeeper, Bill Hamid, had his back to Mattocks when the shot was taken.
Later in the half, Russell Teibert put Andy O'Brien under pressure with an errant pass, but O'Brien was able to handle the danger from Davy Arnaud, Estrada, and Taylor Kemp, eventually finding Rosales after some nifty play along the sidelines.
With the action taking place a scant few metres from manager Robinson, we can only hope that such play will stay with Robinson when it comes time to decide whether or not the extend O'Brien's stay here on the West Coast.
Referee Drew Fischer missed a clear penalty in less than a minute later when Steve Birnbaum caught Fernández after the Uruguayan had already passed the ball to Mattocks. To Fernández's credit, he got back on his feet quick enough to receive a pass from Mattocks.
Birnbaum would again press his luck with a late challenge on Morales, though this was well away from the penalty area. But Fischer felt that a talking to was enough. How differently that could have played out. On another night, Birnbaum may have earned himself a yellow card and conceded a penalty for his late challenge on Fernández, and then a second yellow for the challenge on Morales. It would have turned the game on its head. But it wasn't to be.
Kendall Waston had a fantastic chance to break the deadlock in the 31st after Perry Kitchen played everyone onside, but the Costa Rican just couldn't stretch his 6'5" frame enough to get on the other end of Morales' dead ball.
Where they had played fairly close together against Portland and Los Angeles, Morales and Rosales used more of the width of the pitch, respecting each other's space. As we had expected, they are starting to figure out how to play together. If tonight was anything to go on, that partnership should prove to be one of the strongest in the league for as long as they ply their trade here in Vancouver.
David Ousted was called into action in the 38th minute when Fabian Espindola was in alone against him, but the Great Dane spread his arms wide, making himself as big as he could, and Espindola's effort flew high and over the crossbar.
As the clock ticked towards halftime, the Whitecaps won a free kick in their own half. Not wanting Vancouver to take a quick free kick, Espindola picked up the ball and began walking away, giving his teammates time to get into position. Fischer didn't like this, and stepped between Espindola and Morales, who was going to take the free kick.
When Espindola did not retreat beyond the ten yards required of him, Morales put the ball right into the back of Espindola's shirt, using the number nine as a bullseye. It was the perfect response from the Captain, and we wish more players would take this route when faced with this kind of opposition.
With Steven Beitashour missing the game through injury, it was unfortunate that Sampson came off in the 54th minute with what looked like a nasty cramp. Sam Adekugbe came on, moving to the left side, while the more versatile and experienced Jordan Harvey dutifully moved to the right.
Depending on how Beitashour and Samspon do, Adekugbe and Harvey may well be Vancouver's starting fullbacks on Wednesday night against San Jose. Of course, Christian Dean is also an option to consider. As much as we enjoy Adekugbe's immense potential, there's something curiously satisfying about the prospect of a backline that includes the 6'3" Dean, 6'5" Waston, and 6'3" O'Brien going up against the 6' Chris Wondowlowski and his 10 goals this season.
Speaking of goals, the Whitecaps could use one. In the 69th minute, Kekuta Manneh came on for Fernández, while Medhi Ballouchy came on for Rosales, the latter being a precautionary move given the knocks Rosales had sustained during the match.
But the changes weren't enough. As the clock ticked down, DC settled into a defensive posture, trying to bottle the game up. They were quite content to take the away point. But at least they brought on former Whitecap Kyle Porter with six minutes to go.
Waston would give the Canadian a warm welcome, muscling him off the ball or away from danger at almost every opportunity. No doubt energised by playing his former club, Porter was one of the few DC players to be adventures late in the game.
The next match for the Caps is the aforementioned Wednesday night tilt with San Jose, and after they, they head to Dallas on the 13th, Portland on the 20th, and then back home for a match against Salt Lake at home on the 27th.