MLS playoffs are set; Vancouver Whitecaps are in! But ….
Fans and media have spent significant time and energy over the last few weeks worrying about and dissecting whether Dallas or Vancouver would take that last available playoff spot in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference.
And we should make a big deal of it. It’s the playoffs, after all, one of the bedrocks on which all domestic sports are built. The best way to issue a rudimentary “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” on a season comes down to that basic question: “Did you make the playoffs?”
So, good on the Vancouver Whitecaps, the first Canadian team to find their way into MLS post-season play.
But to look at things another way, aren’t we really just talking about extending Vancouver’s season by four or five days?
Because, does anyone really believe the Whitecaps, who will finish fifth and will therefore travel to Los Angeles for the one-game knockout playoff encounter, can bother a talented, confident Galaxy team?
The Whitecaps deserve congratulations, but mostly for what they accomplished over the season’s first few months, before management unwisely rebuilt the team around two Scottish DPs who haven’t repaid that leap of faith.
The Whitecaps called Sunday’s match at BC Place the most important in their short history. And yet playing at home, against a team long-since eliminated from post-season sniffing distance, they could not manage a single goal. Martin Rennie’s team fell 1-0, but backed into the playoff spot later in the evening when sixth-place Dallas fell to Seattle.
Rennie’s club has one win in nine matches since mid-August – and that was at home, over Chivas USA, easily the league’s worst side over the second half of the season.
The Galaxy, meanwhile, has been one of the best. Last night’s 2-2 draw in San Jose, even without three injured starters, including David Beckham and Landon Donovan, is more evidence of a confident side.
Going a little further, Vancouver has three road wins this year but just one since May. And none of the three were against playoff sides – they were 1-0 results over Columbus, Chivas USA and Colorado.
As we know, anything can happen in the playoffs. Upsets certainly are possible – but it’s awfully hard to see a way through for Vancouver in this one.