After his side failed to record a single shot on target in a drab first leg to their quarter-final, Vancouver Whitecaps FC manager Carl Robinson rolled the dice with an attack minded eleven in the all or nothing rematch.
That gamble came up snake eyes.
Clint Dempsey scored twice in the second half Thursday as Seattle Sounders FC defeated the 'Caps 2-0 to end Vancouver's season, and advance to the semi-final, which will played against either Houston Dynamo or Portland Timbers. Those clubs also played to a scoreless draw in their first leg, with the return match set for Portland on Sunday.
"The deservedly beat us over two legs," said Robinson. "We just weren't quite good enough to get over that hump."
The offensive minded pair of Yordy Reyna and Cristian Techera, who could only sub on in the second half of the first leg thanks to nagging injuries, returned to Vancouver's starting 11 despite Robinson's assertions this week they probably wouldn't be fit.
But the pair looked more like bystanders than threats to score, while the Seattle stars like Clint Dempsey and Nicolás Lodeiro grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck for the defending League Cup champions.
Of course, such comparisons are hardy fair, given that Dempsey and Lodeiro earn a little more six times that of Reyna and Techera.
"They were off it," Robinson conceded. "As a manager, you make gambles. We made a gamble today because on Sunday I wanted to be safe with them, but today we knew it could be our last game. The risk didn't work."
Vancouver directed just one shot towards Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei, a weak header in the second half, marking their first and only effort on target in 180 minutes of the two-legged tie.
Seattle, meanwhile, had five shots on goal, to go with their one from the first leg, and led Vancouver in attempts 20-7 Thursday and 26-14 over both games.
"We got in some very good areas and we didn't execute," said Robinson. "That's the difference between us and them."
The teams' uneventful draw in the first leg at BC Place set a League Cup record for attacking futility, with just one combined shot on target, which Seattle mustered in the second half.
There would finally be a breakthrough early in Thursday's second half at a cold and soggy Seahawks Stadium when Dempsey beat Whitecaps 'keeper Stefan Marinović from the top of the penalty in the 56th minute, following a clever back heel from Will Bruin, glanced off teammate Harry Shipp, before landing on the boot of the American international.
The Seattle striker then iced the game in the 88th minute when he got in front of Vancouver defender Jordan Harvey, who subbed on in the first half for the injured Jake Nerwinski, and tapped in a cross from substitute Víctor Rodríguez.
"He's a great player," Whitecaps captain Kendall Waston said of Dempsey. "He's a special guy that if you give him a [little] space, he can do things like tonight."
Dempsey returned to the starting eleven after getting sent off in Seattle's season finale. The 34 year old could have been banned another game or two for the elbow that resulted in the red card, his sarcastic applause directed at the referee, delaying the game by refusing to depart the pitch, and eventually slowly leaving the pitch, but the American international escaped further reprimand, as is often the case with players of his calibre in the Major League.
Robinson, whose side beat San Jose Earthquakes 5-0 in the knockout round for the club's first ever League Cup win, dodged a question post game about whether Dempsey should have even been involved at all, choosing instead to applaud his ability.
"As a neutral you want to see him on the park because he's a wonderful player," said Robinson. "He's enjoyable to watch. As an opposition manager he's the villain in the room sometimes."
After the Sounders went ahead Thursday, the Whitecaps needed an away goal to advance, with Robinson throwing on 17 year old Alphonso Davies in the 64th minute, hoping that the birthday boy could repeat his heroics from Vancouver's Champions League quarter-final victory earlier this year.
Vancouver found a bit of life, and got its first shot moments later on a Christian Bolaños header that Frei stopped with ease, but a toothless attack offered little else going forward before Dempsey put things to bed.
The Whitecaps lost at the same stage of the 2015 League Cup to Portland by the same 2-0 aggregate final, and have now failed to score a single goal in four quarter-final matches.
"You just got to find better players," Robinson said when asked what his team must do to get to the next level. "I believe we're in a better place than we were two years ago.
"What's the difference in the teams today? Quality. We've got really good players as well, but we were slightly off."