There was chaos, there was a loud crowd, there was poor officiating, and there was physicality but unfortunately, there weren’t goals for the Vancouver Whitecaps. This was a peak MLS game.
The 2023 season has come to an end for the Whitecaps. But they didn’t go out without a bang. Well, they didn’t score any bangers or any goals in game two against LAFC, but there were some fireworks.
This was a do-or-die game for the Whitecaps. A win would’ve sent the series back to Los Angeles for game 3. But in the end, the Whitecaps still only have one playoff win in their MLS existence.
Alexa play Fix You by Coldplay. That sums up the game.
For Whitecaps fans, it was a thrilling ride but the ride came to an abrupt halt. I’m sure many Whitecaps fans felt the same way I did on Saturday night after I watched the final episode of Attack On Titan: Empty and depressed. At least Attack On Titan’s ending was (mostly) satisfying. The Whitecaps and their fans aren’t satisfied with the way their season ended.
There is a lot to unpack so let’s get into it.
Best “What attendance issues?”
Well done to every Whitecaps fan who showed up to BC Place. Also well done to the club for promoting the game. It was loud in here, even before kick-off. That goes to show that if you put a good product and promote it, fans will come.
Best Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun
LAFC had six corners in the first half and nine in the entire match. The Whitecaps held their ground. They were winning the aerial duels and not preventing LAFC from finding the opening spaces. That’s something!
You could feel the tension in the building when LAFC was awarded a corner. But the tension was taken away once the Whitecaps cleared the ball. Everyone at BC Place let out a big sigh of relief like Robert Downey JR did when he was walking out in public which eventually became a meme.
Best….No…Worst of MLS officiating
I’m not going to sugarcoat this: That was a soft penalty. Ranko Veselinovic and Tristan Blackmon did a good job of sandwiching Mario González. Blackmon did seem to get the ball first and it was barely a push from Veselinovic. However, referee Tim Ford made the call for a penalty. To no one’s surprise, Golden Boot winner Denis Bouanga scored.
I really don’t get how they didn’t go to VAR. Sure, VAR might have called it a penalty anyway but the point of VAR is to help the referees do their jobs better. If they don’t use it when it is needed, what’s the bloody point of having it in the first place!
The Canucks were here and they are better suited than me to comment,” said Sartini after the game on referee “He must be excited we are in Canada and wanted to try too…I don’t understand why he didn’t stop…the referee was a disaster.”
“No questions to the players about the referees,” he also said. “Let me take all the fines.”
Best momentum shifter
Once LAFC scored, they knew they were in control. You have to give props to them, especially with the way they defended. They really clogged the 18-yard box and looked primed to counterattack. Maxime Crépeau only faced five shots on target, but he stood tall.
I say betrayer
I swear I’ve given you so much, naysayer
I watched as you just lapped it up unwilling
Addicted to be without dignity, a cheater
You thrive on lechery
I don’t know what I expected
Was our time even real?
Your callous heart never seemed affected
Does a liar even know how to feel?
Those are the lyrics to the opening verse of Trivium’s Betrayer off their 2017 album The Sin And The Sentence, the first of three phenomenal albums featuring the monster behind the kit, Alex Bent. They sum up how Whitecaps fans feel about Crépeau.
Whitecaps fans will never let go of the fact that Crépeau requested a trade before the 2022 season to reunite with current LAFC assistant coach and former Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos. So they rightfully let their feelings be known. The boos got louder every time the former Whitecaps goalkeeper touched the ball.
He made an excellent save in the second half of Ali Ahmed’s header, (which was the first Whitecaps shot on target) and eventually the save that ended the game off Ryan Gauld.
Well, the boos seemed to have fueled Crépeau. He didn’t want to die a hero, instead, he lived long enough to see himself become the villain.
Best where’s the consistency?
I don’t understand why VAR wasn’t used for this one either. Apparently, Ford was all like: “I pretend I do not see it.” But apparently Blackmon and Veselinovic surrounding González trying to be a human wall was not OK.
“To me, the penalty for them is a penalty if it was called on Richie,” said Sartini. “So in the end we didn’t have a fair chance to be honest. Unfortunately, the referee didn’t have a good game.”
Best Lucas Cavallini impression
First of all, Yohei Takaoka was the Whitecaps’ player of the match. He stopped six out of the seven LAFC shots. Without him, the fans would’ve headed for the exits at halftime. The former Yokohama F. Marianos goalkeeper was once again his calm self, even when Bounga was running down the flank.
Also, this was a very cool tifo. Well done.
But given the fact that I saw a BC Lions player and a Calgary Stampeders player (can’t remember their names unfortunately) have a very heavy head-on-head collision at BC Place the day before, I felt quite sensitive regarding heads. (Both were down for a while but eventually managed to get up.)
Apparently, González decided to stomp on Takaoka’s head like he was dancing on the floor at the Shark Club or something. González did get a yellow and fortunately, Takaoka was fine. But remember Lucas Cavallini got a straight red for doing more or less the same thing to Nashville SC’s Alex Muyl last year.
Why is a call fine in one instance but not in another? I understand being a referee isn’t easy. It is one of the toughest jobs. But consistency needs to happen in officiating, not just in soccer but in any sport.
Best Did We Just Become Best Friends?
Will Ferrell is part owner of LAFC and he was in the building. He did not become friends with Whitecaps fans as the boos for him were just as loud as the ones for Crépeau and Ford.
As you can see, Ferrell wasn’t in a glass case of emotion. He embraced the boos.
There were a lot of other famous people in the building. Players from the Vancouver Canucks and BC Lions were there as well as Canada Women’s National Team head coach Bev Priestman, Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim and the pride of Burnaby Michael Buble.
I’m not surprised, not everything lasts
The Whitecaps and and their fans had their hearts broken so many times, I stopped keeping track
Best Hey I’ve Seen This One!
The Whitecaps played well but not well enough to win.
But we’ve seen this many times this season. There were too many passes around the 18-yard box and not enough shots. The crosses did not reach the heads of the players in the box. They were too cute in the attack and not intense enough. There was a lot of hesitation.
The lack of intensity in the final third is a huge reason why their season ended early. It is also a huge reason why they didn’t finish higher with the quality of the squad they have.
“If we had more killer instinct this season we would have three or four points, it would’ve been different,” said Sartini.
There was also a lot of overthinking. For instance, Adekugbe and Laryea had chances to cross but they chose to cut inside instead. Pedro Vite, Gauld and Ahmed had one or two chances to shoot but chose to pass. As the old saying goes: Sometimes less is more.
Gauld did not look like himself for most of the game. Well except for that tackle on Bounga late in the second half, that is why he is called the Working Class DP. But he was marked heavily by LAFC players such as Murillo, Aaron Long, Ilie Sanchez and Timothy Tillman. It turns out, he hurt his foot in game one after colliding with Carlos Vela as revealed by Sartini after the game.
White has been dynamite with his head all season long but it is fair to say the header in the second half needed more power. It was too easy for Crépeau.
Best…actually worst (and bizarre) ending
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a game ending like this, ever. In hockey, the refs always try to get out of the way. It looked like Ford wanted to get into the action himself and run into Alessandro Schöpf. Bouanga ( of course) would score into the empty net as Takaoka and the rest of the Whitecaps ran back. But VAR called the goal off because it was offside.
Why didn’t Ford just move out of the way? Or why couldn’t he have stopped the game, apologized and let the corner kick be re-done?
I know I’ve been really hard on MLS referees but this has to be the worst one yet. In fact, this has to be some of the worst officiating I’ve seen in any sport.
And no, I’m not blaming the Ford for the loss entirely. The other reasons were stated above. But it really feels like the Whitecaps were robbed. If the penalty call was different, this would’ve been a different game. Would the Whitecaps have won? Maybe. Or maybe not.
The point is, that was horrible officiating. Sartini, the players and the fans had every right to be angry. By the way, Sartini got sent off and apparently, he gave Ford the double bird after he got sent off and had to be stopped by security.
Speaking of BC Place security, Ford was escorted off the pitch by them and the fans in the Southside threw garbage at him. So they can do their jobs properly after all! Ford probably got a special escort to the airport too. Too bad Sartini couldn’t tell him he was a disgrace to his face like Jose Mourinho did to Anthony Taylor after Roma’s loss to Sevilla in this year’s Europa League final.
But Didier Drogba told the world: “It’s a f***ing disgrace” after Chelsea got knocked out controversially by Barcelona in 2009. That’s how Sartini felt and how the players and the fans felt on Sunday night.
It was a f***ing disgrace indeed.
Quote of the night. Wait, quote of the year. Sartini probably wants to go full Rumbling on PRO Referees headquarters at this point.
Sartini has given us many great quotes since he became the Whitecaps manager but this one takes the cake. Also, I hope the cops don’t show up to his apartment tonight.
Stat of the night
18 to 10 were the fouls in favour of the Whitecaps. Though you could say some of the ones on the Whitecaps shouldn’t have been given.
30,204 showed up at BC Place on Sunday. It was the biggest Whitecaps crowd of their MLS era.
Despite the loss, the Whitecaps have raised the bar. Next season, it should be top four or bust, not playoffs or bust.
It will be an interesting offseason. Will Laryea and Hoilett stay? Is this the end of Russell Teibert as a Whitecap? Will Gauld have his contract extended? We will find out the answers to those questions and more over the next couple of months.
The Whitecaps won the Canadian Championship and Voyageurs Cup in 2023. They also got to play in the playoffs in front of their fans at BC Place for the first time since 2017. If you were at the game on Sunday, well done. It was really loud and it would have been deafening if the Whitecaps scored. This should be the standard for Whitecaps games: Packed and loud. In 2024, let’s have this kind of atmosphere again, in the playoffs. Hopefully, there will be more than one game.
The Whitecaps are a good team but if they do the right things in the offseason, they could be a great team. LAFC are the defending MLS Cup Champions and a powerhouse. Vancouver should aim to be at that level or better yet higher.
No, they don’t need to spend money on big names like they Toronto FC or Inter Miami do. The Whitecaps are cheap and aren’t ambitious narrative needs to die. When they brought in Gauld, Andres Cubas, Takaoka, Adekugbe and Laryea, they showed they were ambitious without needing to spend much. If they spend wisely, they can be up there next season with LAFC, Philadelphia Union, Seattle Sounders, Columbus Crew or FC Cincinnati. But that’s a big if.
The bar has been raised. Fans are becoming interested again. The Whitecaps need to build off what was in a vacuum, a successful 2023 season and make 2024 their best one yet. It is up to CEO and Sporting Director Axel Schuster to cook up a great meal.
The 2023 Whitecaps were fun. They were also chaotic and at times, frustrating. But the bar isn’t on the ground anymore, they raised it to the roof of BC Place or even higher than that. This isn’t the Whitecaps of years past.
They need to keep moving forward until the goal of winning MLS Cup has been achieved. The window is open but can they open it wider? They can but they need to do it right.
Sartini not only brought great quotes but he captivated a market with a team that includes the working class DP and a striker who can finish while thinking of the…wait, I shouldn’t say it here. If you know, you know. If you don’t, well I’m sorry. Sartini and his players brought an exciting style of soccer and are helping the narrative around the Whitecaps change in this city.
“I think we brought an exciting style of soccer and we got more people watching the Vancouver Whitecaps this year,” said White after Sunday’s game.
“There was a feeling we could do something in the playoffs,” said Gauld on the loss. “This leaves a bitter taste in our mouths. We’re gonna work harder for next year.”
It was a season of coulda, woulda, shoulda. Whitecaps fans might have lost sleep on what could’ve been. But times are changing. A new era has begun. The dark days are over and the light at the end of the tunnel has been seen.
Like the whitecaps in the Pacific Ocean on a windy day in Vancouver, the soccer team named after those white foamy crests are named after looks to bounce back from a tough playoff exit and come back in 2024 with fury and be a wonderful sight for the people on the shores.
Let the waves of a new era wash upon the shores.
That is the end of the Whitecaps season and my second season of covering them here at the Area 51 Sports Network. On behalf of Nathan Durec and myself, thank you for reading our articles and listening to Terminal City FC. As two guys who are looking to make it in the Vancouver sports media scene, your support means a lot.
We’ll have more content in the offseason and next season for you all.
You might be wondering why my post-game articles are different from Nathan’s and so unorthodox. Well, you might be able to tell I was heavily inspired by the late Jason Botchford’s famous Canucks post-game articles called The Provies. (now called The Stanchies and mainly written by Wyatt Arndt on Canucks Army) I wanted to incorporate that style of writing for the Whitecaps games. (minus the GIFs because I don’t know how to make those and with Apple TV, that might be tough.)
Botch and The Provies inspired me to go into this industry and I still to this day regret not reaching out to him in high school and college. I never interacted with him but his reporting really captivated me. I may never be like him and let’s face it, no one will be but I want to keep the spirit and passion he had alive.
I do want to keep doing this format next season. It might need a name.