Rivalries can be funny things at times. Sometimes they're based on simple geography, like Vancouver's Cascadian derbies with Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders FC. It's been said that familiarity breeds contempt, and although it might be a little bit harsh, it wouldn't be untoward when describing the Cascadia Cup matches.
At the national level, the Whitecaps have the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC. FC Edmonton may consider Vancouver their rivals, but the sentiment won't be shared until the Rabbits can actually manage to take a point off their Yellowhead Highway neighbours.
Which is why the Whitecaps' rivalry with FC Dallas is so special. Separated by 3,562 kilometres, or 2,213 miles if you prefer, by club, country, and culture. Outside of Quebec, you wouldn't find a place in Canada less like Dallas than Vancouver.
But in spite of the difficulties, these two clubs have formed a lasting rivalry. And unlike Vancouver's other rivalries, this one was born out of the fires of competition. In 2012, Dallas's Under-18s beat Vancouver in the final of the USSDA. Three months later, Vancouver's senior squad pipped Dallas for the last spot in the Anschutz Cup.
Since then, new facets have been added to this tie. The last time they met in Frisco, Vancouver assistant coach Martyn Pert and one of Dallas manager Óscar Pareja's assistants were ejected from the game. When they met again in Vancouver, Pareja made a beeline for Pert after the game and had to be physically separated by Mauro Rosales and number of Vancouver's players.
And who could forget the birth of Vancouvering, something the Hoops thought would embarrass the Whitecaps, only to find the tables turned as FC Dallas were pinned with a reputation for Vancouvering. In case you needed a refresher, we've included the definition below:
VANCOUVERING, n. 1 to physically react to a severely disappointed moment. 2 to lay on the ground and bury one's face in one's arms in disappointment. ORIGIN first known usage by FC Dallas' Jackson Goncalves on Sunday, 24 April 2011, 1:10 PM, Empire Field, Vancouver, BC.
Heading into the match, Dallas had all the advantages. They came in with the better record, they got to host the match, and Vancouver had never won in Dallas, or even Texas in the MLS era. It was a sentiment that Vancovuer manager Carl Robinson used to motivate his players. If nobody expected Vancouver to win, tonight was an opportunity to prove them all wrong.
As we suggested earlier this week, Steven Beitashour's hamstring injury meant that he would take no part in the match. In his place, South African fullback Ethen Sampson would be given his second start in Dallas.
Gershon Koffie was also given a start in a tactical decision, taking up the position that Russell Teibert had called his own for the past few months.
Dallas brought their physicality from the first whistle, and they started with Vancouver's Captain. As Pedro Morales jumped up to receive a cross from David Ousted, Victor Ulloa joined him and put an elbow into Morales's face. Referee Mark Geiger didn't see anything wrong with it, and to his credit, Morales didn't protest.
Having spent the year adhering to a philosophy of sparing the officials any sort of public embarrassment, Whitecaps manager Carl Robinson would have been proud of his Captain.
A few minutes later Erik Hurtado pressured Je-Vaughn Watson into turning the ball over. When Morales picked up the errant pass, he looked set to take a shot at goal, but the referee was in his way and instead, Morales played it out wide to Sampson.
Knowing that they were under a heightened level of scrutiny, given that this was an Anschutz Cup match, Dallas waited until the seventh minute before they started Vancouvering. Kendall Waston had hooked his right hand under Mauro Diaz's right arm, and put his left hand on the midfielder's shoulder. The move had the effect of laterally dragging the Dallas man across the pitch. Of course, Diaz went down.
He allowed himself to fall backwards, falling in the opposite direction of the forces that Waston had been exerting, and during this fall, he began clutching his face with both hands. Although Diaz did manage to earn himself a free kick, Waston escaped without a caution.
Eventually, Diaz would have a hand in getting a Whitecap carded. But this one was legitimate. Gershon Koffie was on the wrong side of Diaz, and as Koffie fought to get past him, he tugged, grabbed, and pulled. The referee could have let it go. That sort of thing happens often. But it was perfectly reasonable for him to give a yellow card for it, as long as that would be the standard on which fouls would be judged.
Later, with Ulloa and Matías Laba chasing the ball, Laba got there late. Ulloa went tumbling into Laba's outstretched leg, going ass over teakettle, as Diaz picked up the ball. When no advantage emerged, the referee blew the whistle to award Dallas a free kick. Though Laba might have been late, it was only just.
Je-Vaughn Watson would earn himself a yellow card for smacking Erik Hurtado across the face as the forward looked up to receive a cross, meaning Waston would have to be careful about his play for the next 55 minutes.
In the 40th minute, Vancouver's streak of 433 minutes without conceding a goal would at long last, come to an end. The only bright side, if there can be such a thing, was that it was Tesho Akindele, a Canadian, who scored it. On second thought, even that didn't constitute a bright side.
Andy O'Brien was battling with Diaz for the ball as they approached Kendall Waston. A mixup occurred, leaving Diaz in possession of the ball and Vancouver's two centre backs colliding. O'Brien was the first to react, desperately trying to make up the ground, but Jordan Harvey had left his man to try and deal with Diaz. That left Akindele alone with only Ousted standing between himself and a Dallas lead. O'Brien, showing great determination, tried to intercept the strike, but it was too little, too late.
Had it not been for the mixup between Waston and O'Brien, or Harvey leaving Akindele to cover Diaz, the score would still have been level. But mistakes happen. They weren't the first, and they wouldn't be the last.
With the clock approaching halftime, Dallas began trying to kill time. When Laba challenged Ulloa for the ball, Ulloa went down, first clutching his face, then his left knee, and finally his left shin. Replays showed that Laba had brushed against Ulloa's left thigh, and possibly stood on the very tip of Ulloa's left boot.
Shortly after play was waved on, Morales had a hand on the right side of Michel's chest. The Brazilian immediately spread his arms as wide as he could and lifted both legs, separating them as he leapt off the ground. Before he landed, he brought his knees together and positioned his hands to cushion the short fall. For added effect, he finished it up with a somersault. And for this, Morales was given a yellow card.
After the break Walker Zimmerman ran into Sebastian Fernandez's path, making no attempt to play the ball. At the last minute, he turned his body, making an L-shape with his arm, and executed the kind of bodycheck you'd expect in a hockey rink, not a football pitch.
Unwilling to leave his teammates to have all the fun, Blas Pérez got involved in the Vancouvering when he lost the ball to Kendall Waston. The way he clutched his face, which received no contact, and went down, staying down, you'd think he was dead. After the simulated tumble, his body did not move for several seconds.
We could go on about Dallas's vancouvering, but really, what would the point. Dallas does it, and they're never going to stop until the officials start coming down hard on them for doing it.
Pedro Morales, who had not lived up to his usual high standards, came off in the 58th minute, being replaced by 19-year old Kekuta Manneh. Against Colorado, Manneh's introduction have proved a masterstroke, so perhaps he could become a supersub in as many games.
With Teibert still on the bench and Morales taken off, Koffie took on the Captain's armband. And he almost got sent off. Although he had won the ball, the referee gave him a stern talking to about what the referee erroneously perceived to be a foul on Diaz.
At times like these, it's easy to understand the so-called "Euro Snobs", people who refuse to take an interest in MLS. While they usually refer to the talent of the players, they also have a distaste for the level of officiating in this league. And yet, Geiger officiated at the World Cup. But that was then, and today was not his best performance.
In the 63rd minute, Mauro Rosales won a free kick. At first glance, it didn't look to be a dangerous spot, just inside the Dallas half. But after it was headed away from goal, it fell to Manneh, who put it into traffic. The ball richocheted through the bodies, eventually finding Hurtado, who quickly fired it into the back of the net.
As they did in their last trip to Frisco, the Whitecaps had come back to tie it at one. With twenty-five minutes left, they had everything to play for. The winner would get a date with the league leading Seattle Sounders FC, a absolutely mouth-watering prospect for the visiting side.
As the match wore on, it became clear that the Hoops were unsettled. Hurtado's equaliser had rattled them. And their players knew they had limped into the Anschutz Cup, having lost five of their last nine. Meanwhile, the Whitecaps came in on a high from going unbeaten in their last five.
Sensing he needed to change things up, Dallas manager Pareja replaced Ulloa with Kellyn Acosta. The story was somewhat different on the Vancouver side of things, as the 33-year old Mauro Rosales kept pleading with his manager, asking for another five minutes. In the end, Vancouver's next substitution would not be Rosales, but instead see Hurtado replaced by Darren Mattocks.
Sensing the very real possibility of an extra thirty minutes, Pareja brought on Andrés Escobar for Diaz. While he probably did it because he needed the fresh legs, we're not sure why Diaz would be tired, considering all the time he spent on the ground.
And then Geiger decided to give Dallas a gift. The ball bounced off the pitch from a Dallas throw, striking Waston's chest. The ball first made contact with Waston's torso. From there, it brushed against Waston's arm. Sensing the danger, Waston tried to pull his arm further back, but Geiger thought the ball had hit his arm first. In any event, it was ball to hand, but the damage was done. The penalty kick was given.
It is always a shame when the decisions of the referee decide games of this magnitude, but sometimes it can't be helped. Had he not given the penalty kick, Dallas's supporters would have protested strenuously. For the referee, it was a lose-lose decision, no matter how you slice.
"In a game of this magnitude, I think he was a brave man to give that decision. I don't think it was conclusive at the time. It's cost us the game," said Andy O'Brien who hopefully will be back next year. He went on to say, "It's about how you recover from these things. And we're looking forward to next season."
Before the match, we said that this was the most successful MLS season yet for the Whitecaps, and it remains so. They finished with 50 points. They completed La Quinta by winning their fifth Cascadia Cup. They qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League. And they made it to the qualifying round of the Anschutz Cup. That they take no further part in the tournament cannot detract from this fact.
2014 has been the best season yet for Vancouver in the MLS era. And now, we must look forward to 2015. Depending on what happens to Sporting Kansas City, we will 12th or 13th in the draft. We have CD Chivas' dispersal draft to look forward to. And they have the Champions League to look forward to, which usually takes place in February or March.
But best of all, in Carl Robinson and the rest of his coaching staff, the Whitecaps are in good hands.
After all, we have a Cup to defend.