It was a youthful line up that greeted the Dallasites on Saturday evening in Frisco, Texas. The Whitecaps were Captained by their 21-year old vice captain, Russell Teibert, who wore the armband in Pedro Morales' absence.
The backline included the 20-year old Ethen Sampson, who played as something of a wing back. At times, the South African pushed Andrés Escobar all the way back into his own penalty area.
Looking to end his personal scoring drought, the 24-year old Darren Mattocks called for the ball in the 9th minute. Mehdi Ballouchy had other options, but Mattocks had time, space, and a reasonable angle from which to attack the goal. Unfortunately, he fluffed the attempt and his drought continued.
In the 21st minute, the 21-year old Christian Dean was marking Blas Pérez along the touchline, near the corner flag. The Panamanian fired a shot that arched high, well over Dean and goalkeeper David Ousted, surprising everyone when it dipped into the back of the net on the far post. Whether it was skill or serendipity, it will be a serious contender for Goal of the Year. Sometimes these things happen.
Dallas almost made it 2-0 in the 27th minute, but the goal was waved off on account of an offside. Seconds later, the 24-year old Sebastián Fernández had a chance at the other end, being fouled in the box, though the referee saw that the foul had begun outside the box.
With Dean making his first start of his MLS career, and Kendall Waston on his 4th, Carl Robinson could forgive them for making the odd mistake. Had Dallas's finishing been better, they could have been two or even three goals up on the Caps.
The presence of someone like Andy O'Brien wouldn't have changed the opening goal, but we have to believe that the backline would have been better prepared to deal with the hoops attack with the Englishman standing in front of Ousted.
As the clock ticked towards half time, the 22-year old Matías Laba collided with Dean, who was under pressure from Tesho Akindele. Vancouver's Young Designated Player came off the worst of it, and though he stayed on, in truth, he had a very quiet first half.
In first half stoppage time, Mauro Rosales prepared to take a quick free kick, but Pérez refused to retreat. Teibert came in to usher him the ten yards away, but the deed was done, and Dallas was able to organise their defence. When Dallas won the ball back, Teibert found himself chasing Escobar.
With a defender between Escobar and Vancouver's goal, Teibert deliberately committed a foul, putting a toe on Escobar's heel to knock him off his stride. He didn't want to concede a penalty, but he did want to stop the attack.
Martyn Pert got a head start on the walk back to the locker rooms, as one member of each club's staff was asked to leave the pitch over the amount of discussion the 4th Official had to deal with during the first half.
Early in the second half, Rosales won the ball, getting it to Fernández, but Zach Loyd handled it well. Rosales pounced, giving the ball to Darren Mattocks, who should have hit it first time, but hesitated, and the attack fizzled out.
The jury's still out on Mattocks. His play off the ball has improved dramatically. In the first half, he had a notable spell with Loyd, who had to retreat all the way to his own corner flag, but Mattocks' first touch still needs work, and he seems to lack the finishing of a true striker.
But as long as the finishing touch eludes him, it might be worth looking at playing him on the wing, perhaps playing off someone like Omar Salgado in the middle. It wouldn't be the worst idea to give him a penalty kick either, to help shore up his confidence. Of course, were he to miss the penalty, all bets would be off.
In the 57th minute, Ballouchy came off for Pedro Morales, who immediately took up the armband from Russell Teibert. Five minutes later, Mattocks was taken off in favour of Erik Hurtado. And five minutes after that, the game was tied.
Rosales was making a run at goal, used his strength to keep Matt Hedges at bay, and found Hurtado, who scored his first goal since the 3-3 draw with Philadelphia back in June. It was his sixth goal of the season.
At the other end of the pitch, Ethen Sampson came in with a late effort to concede a corner, but saved Waston and Dean's growing partnership from more blushes.
As good as Steven Beitashour is, if Ethen Sampson continues to grow at the rate we've seen, it won't be long before the Mitchell's Plain native becomes a regular fixture in the Whitecaps starting eleven.
But it won't be happening this year. Sampson may have had a solid, if not spectacular, 0outing, but in the 78th minute, a ball ricocheted back to Pérez, who buried it to restore the Dallas lead. Sampson might not have been able to intercept it, but when he stopped his movement, it gave the Panamanian all the time he needed.
Sampson almost won a penalty moments later, when he won the ball in the air with a raised foot, but the referee gave the call the other way, judging Sampson's boot to have been too high. On another night, with another referee, that would have been a penalty. But these kinds of calls rarely seem to go the Caps way, and are almost unheard of on the road.
There looked to be a hand ball in the 93rd minute, but appeals for hand ball were waved off. Loyd's arm was up, well away from his body, blocking Waston's header. Dallas gained an advantage as the result of the movement and position, so we can only assume that the referee did not see the contact. It wouldn't be the first time.
With the loss, the Caps now find themselves trailing Dallas by eight, a seemingly insurmountable margin with only six games to play. Elsewhere, the Timbers were able to pick up a point against the Rapids, putting them one point back of fifth. Next week's Cascadia Cup match was a must win before this game, so we're not even sure what to call it now?
At least Toronto drew with Chicago, meaning that Vancouver are still three points ahead of their Canadian cousins in the race for Canada's berth in the CONCACAF Champions League. But there is still a lot of football left to play.
The Quest for La Quinta continues at 2:00 PM in Portland on Saturday. After that, the Caps return home for a tussle with the boys from the Riot, Real Salt Lake.