In 19 seasons of Major League Soccer, 119 players have combined to keep 1,925 clean sheets. On Saturday night at BC Place, Vancouver's David Ousted made it 1,926. It was his 13th of the year and two better than his closest rival, DC United's Bill Hamid.
It's been a great start for the Dane. He now has 17 clean sheets in only 47 matches. Among players with 12 or more games played, only Michael Gspurning can boast a better record of clean sheets per ninety minutes, and he now plies his trade in Greece.
But Ousted's numbers aren't that far off. During his time with the Seattle Sounders FC, Gspurning recorded 18 clean sheets in 49 matches. Ousted can do one better that with a clean sheet in Texas on Wednesday night. And even if FC Dallas does manage to end the Whitecaps streak of 393 minutes without conceding a goal, Ousted will still have the chance to go level with Gspurning against Seattle on Sunday, or at the start of next season.
It's been said that scoring wins games, but defence wins championships. And while there is still a lot of work to be done, this is already the most successful season for the Whitecaps in the MLS era.
On October 10th, they completed La Quinta by winning the Cascadia Cup for a record fifth time. Seven days later, they qualified for next year's Champions League, where they will be joined by Seattle Sounders FC, Los Angeles Galaxy, DC United, and 20 other clubs from across CONCACAF.
And of course tonight they qualified for the Anschutz Cup for the second time in three seasons. Their 50 points represents the best total yet from a Canadian club in MLS.
Their next match will be on Wednesday, a qualifying round game against the Hoops, who had earlier lost to Portland by a score of 2-0. While Vancouver manager Carl Robinson insisted that his players remain in the dark about the result in Texas, he watched the match in his office.
But before they could worry about that, they had to deal with the Rapids, who they hosted for the third time in four seasons on Matchday 34. In 2011, after Alain Rochat and Jeff Larentowicz had traded goals, they lost thanks to an 84th minute strike by the imaginatively named Tommy Thompson. In 2012, they had to travel to Salt Lake for a scoreless draw. Last year, Camilo Sanvezzo scored a dramatic hat trick to win the Golden Boot. And tonight, Kendall Waston scored the goal that sent Vancouver back to the Anschutz Cup.
It was a nervy match from the off. Vancouver, whether the players knew it or not, needed to win as Portland won to temporarily slide into fifth place in the Western Conference. Colorado, already eliminated, were playing for pride. They hadn't won in 13 matches, and they certainly didn't want to see it reach 14.
As is often the case, possession told the story. After the first forty-five, the Rapids could claim the ball for a mere 34.2% of the time. But for all of Vancouver's want and desire, they could not convert that possession into a goal.
At halftime, with the score still deadlocked, Robinson told his players that they needed to score. They could read into that what they will, but they needed to score.
If they were to do that, they would need more firepower. First, Robinson brought on Kekuta Manneh in the 56th minute, replacing the tireless holding midfielder known as the Canadian Soccer Jesus. A little over ten minutes later, Darren Mattocks joined Teibert on the bench, this time replaced by the ever improving Erik Hurtado. The moves proved to be a masterstroke.
Their impact was immediate. From the moment Manneh took to the field, Vancouver had a new life. With Manneh on the left, Hurtado in the middle, and Sebastián Fernández on the right, you could sense a goal was imminent.
The crowd rose to their feet, their voices could be heard, not in a discernible chant, but in just a singular, deafening roar. At pitch level, you could feel the hairs stranding up on the back of your neck.
After some hard work, Manneh thought he had won a penalty, but it was a case of ball to hand rather than the reverse. Instead, Vancouver got a 69th minute corner.
The Captain, Pedro Morales, lined up to take it. Nick LaBrocca took the near post, while Erik Hurtado was closely guarded by Shane O'Neill. Andy O'Brien ran forward, dragging Zat Knight with him. Jordan Harvey went for the far post and got Chris Klute turning as he struggled to keep up. As Hurtado moved away from goal, Kendall Waston went the other way, confusing the Rapids. Deshorn Brown tried to stay with the Costa Rican centre back, but it was too little, too late.
Vancouver were outnumbered ten to five in the box, but they managed to get six of the Rapids out of position. Waston and Hurtado were targets, while Brown, O'Neill, and LaBrocca tried to defend them. The Whitecaps went right over the Colorado defenders, throwing themselves at the ball. And the Whitecaps had the lead they needed.
They say you're never more vulnerable than when you've just scored, and that was the case here. Brown could have had a decent chance of his own if not for the efforts of O'Brien, who shepherded him away from goal. By the time Colorado was set to launch another attack, O'Brien was coming in to win the ball from Dillon Serna, who had set up at the top of the circle.
In the first half, Sam Adekugbe had come in for Steven Beitashour due to a hamstring injury. Because of the switch, Jordan Harvey was moved to the right. And while Sam acquitted himself well on the left, Harvey just isn't the same player when he's on the right.
As much as we enjoyed seeing the hard work by Adekugbe, we expect Ethen Sampson to start against Dallas. Right now, Harvey and Sampson is just a better combination than Adekugbe and Harvey.
Vancouver's success this year is all the more remarkable when you consider that during the close season, Vancouver lost a Golden Boot winner in Camilo Sanvezzo. In June, they lost Designated Player Kenny Miller. And then they lost Captain in Jay DeMerit to an injury forced retirement. They even lost their longest serving player, Gershon Koffie, for a few months due to an ankle injury. Add it all together and that's a lot for a new manager to deal with in his first year.
But through it all, the Whitecaps have persevered. Thanks in large part to penalties, Pedro Morales, a midfielder, finished the year as the club's top scorer, and their only one who got into double digits.
Next year, that'll be a different story. Robinson will have another transfer window to add to his squad, and they'll have Waston for an entire season. But just because the MLS season is over doesn't mean that there isn't still a lot of football to be played.
There's still the Anschutz Cup, and the Whitecaps will try to make it past the qualifying round on Wednesday night in Frisco when they visit FC Dallas. It'll be an all or nothing affair. Win, and they'll meet Seattle in the Quarterfinals. Lose, and they're out.
It's a tough task, but the Whitecaps have won four out of their last five, and are unbeaten during that run. Still, they haven't won in Lone Star State in their last seven attempts. Robinson said he plans to use that to motivate his quad. They go in as the underdogs and have nothing to lose.
But this time they're going to do it. This time will be different. Because at long last, it's time to start messing with Texas.
2014 Anschutz Cup Qualifying Round Schedule