Before the first blow of the whistle, athletes like to warm up. They will run and jump and try to simulate match-like situations. For the Whitecaps, this includes leaping up for headers, crossing the ball to their teammates, and other things that you would naturally expect of a professional footballer. But Dallas, they're a funny lot. When they warm up, they like to fling themselves to the ground. At least two of them practiced that today. We're not making any judgements, but it was quite a peculiar sight to behind. We've never seen anything like it before. Perhaps they were curious about the new turf at BC Place and wanted to test it out for themselves.
After seeing that, you might expect a Dallas player to be the first one to hit the ground. But that honour was reserved for Cristian Techera. In the second minute, Zach Lloyd pushed him from behind, sending the diminutive Uruguayan tumbling to the floor, and Dallas conceded the first free kick of the day.
Two minutes later, Blas Perez decided to get in on the fun. Coming up behind Gershon Koffie, who turns 24 on Tuesday, the Panamanian put two hands onto Koffie left shoulder, and pushed him down. Just like before, Dallas conceded a free kick, but nothing came of it.
By the fifth minute, Vancouver had another player on the ground. But this time it was entirely accidental. Kekuta Manneh and former Whitecap Atiba Harris went up for the ball, there was a clash of heads, and the Gambian got the worst of it. There was no malice in it. But these things happen.
Matías Laba had a fantastic sliding tackle in the eighth minute when he managed to win the ball as Fabian Castilo ran with it. Laba's foot slid right between Castilo's moving legs, but unfortunately it fell to Victor Ulloa, and Dalls regained possession. Still, Laba timed it to perfection.
With a nickname like the Bug, Cristian Techera might not be the biggest man on the pitch, but he still proved too much for Zach Lloyd. Caught on the wrong side of the Uruguayan, Lloyd hooked one hand around Techera's elbow, and stopped his run cold.
Having fouled Techera twice in the first ten minutes, Lloyd earned himself a talking to from the referee. Ismail Elfath must have been feeling generous. Another official would have booked him.
Later, Techera jumped up for a ball. Again, Lloyd approached from behind, but as Techera tried to control his landing, his left arm rose to make contact with Lloyd's face. Techera could not see Lloyd, he could not control it, there was no intention, but his arm did touch Lloyd's face.
Lloyd went to ground, at first clutching his left ear. Then, as the referee approached, he lowered his hand to instead caress his chin. We're not sure what part of Lloyd got hurt, but we find it curious that the pain jumped from area to another.
It was the first foul that Techera had committed, but he was still given a yellow card for it. Sadly, that's the kind of officiating you can expect in the Major League.
At the other end of the pitch, Kendall Waston continued his battle with Blas Perez. As Waston came up behind the Panamanian, Perez closed his feet together, showing Waston the bottom of his cleats. We're not quite sure what force caused this action, but it's a curiosity with FC Dallas's players. Gravity, or something else, always seems to have a stronger pull on them than the rest of us.
During the course of his fall, Perez clutched the ball with his left arm, and did it before the whistle had blown. Once on the ground, he slowly separated his feet, and then quickly brought one into contact with Waston's knee. It seemed like a definite kicking motion. But Perez probably felt justified.
Waston did such a masterful job of containing him that after the match, the Whitecaps tweeted that they had found Blas Perez in Kendall Waston's pocket. FC Dallas could pick him up from the Lost and Found on their way out.
Containing Perez just one part of the game plan. In order to go top of the league, the Whitecaps had to score.
Kekuta Manneh has made some remarkable strides this year. There was a time when he would try to play through bodies. But in the 32nd minute, he ran into space. He ran around no less than four Dallas players before threading a ball to Cristian Techera, who despite having his shirt tugged, managed to score with the back of his heel.
Playing against someone like Techera is no easy task, as Atiba Harris found out in the 35th minute. Both players went up for the ball, and there really wasn't anything of it, but Techera tumbled, he winced, and Harris went into the book. Unless Dallas can win on appeal, he'll miss their next match through yellow card accumulation.
Towards the end of the first half, the referee awarded a controversial free kick to Dallas after Octavio Rivero was fouled, and then Blas Perez tried to con him into giving a free kick at the other end, but the referee wasn't interested.
In recent times, the Whitecaps have proven that they can score, and that they can score goals in bunches. But that wasn't in the cards today. One was enough. Dallas was better in the second half, but they never seriously tested David Ousted, and the Whitecaps were able to see out the match.
Because DC United lost earlier today to the San Jose Earthquakes, the one nil lead was enough to return Vancouver to the top of the table. And though it might be short lived, with Los Angeles Galaxy expected to easily dispatch the hapless New York City FC on Sunday, the Whitecaps have positioned themselves well.
By the end of tomorrow night, Vancouver might trail Los Angeles by one point, but they will have a game in hand on the Galaxy. Sporting Kansas City has to win both their games in hand to overtake the Whitecaps. And the Red Bull New York will need to take at least seven points from their three games in hand. Everyone else is hoping that Vancouver drops points.
As Carl Robinson said last Saturday, if Vancouver's going to do something special, they won't get help from anyone. "We're Vancouver. We're from Canada. We're going to have to do it against all odds. No one, and I mean no one, is going to help us."
With eight games to go, all Vancouver needs is for two clubs to lose one match. And both of them have to yet to visit the Rose City.
Now wouldn't that be something special. With a little help from the Portland Timbers, Vancouver can win the league.
But before that can happen, the Whitecaps have a Cup final to contend with. With either a win or a low scoring draw on Wednesday night against Montreal, the 'Caps can add another trophy to the cabinet.
After that, it's off to Houston for a league match on Saturday, and then home for a mid-week encounter with the Colorado Rapids on September 9th.