VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps came in to Saturday's match with talk of showing their evolution from being a "good team" to a "very good team."
Instead, Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini said the resulting 2-2 draw with D.C. United showed they had missed that opportunity.
"I think today we've been a good team. We've not been a very good team. A very good team would have won today, because they would deserve to win," he said after the match.
The Major League Soccer contest between the Whitecaps (11-10-10) and D.C. United (9-10-13) featured defensive miscues and close chances cancelling each other out, as the chase for a playoff berth intensified.
“When you look at the goals we conceded … in a sense they’re self-inflicted goals," said striker Brian White.
Vancouver sits sixth in the Western Conference standings and could clinch a playoff spot in its next home game if the Whitecaps win and Minnesota United FC and L.A. Galaxy both fail to win.
The Whitecaps thought they had sealed the win when White was brought down in the box, with a penalty awarded after video review in the 57th minute.
Ryan Gauld stepped up and cooly dispatched the spot pick for Vancouver to once again take the lead in the tight match.
"We created chances. We had a million chances in front of the goal. Unfortunately, we've been a little soft again. We basically gave away a goal like it was a gift. And the second goal also," said Sartini.
"I use same term that they used in Salt Lake — we've been soft. And guys, if you're soft like this, it's hard to win playoff games and this today was a playoff game."
The White and Gauld combination struck early, as Richie Laryea broke down the left wing with his blocked cross finding an open Gauld who chipped it to the far post for White to nod home his 14th league goal of the season in the second minute.
"They're doing very well," said Sartini about the duo who have scored a combined 25 goals in regular-season play.
"And they need to continue doing very well because we need them. Again, the team is built in a way now that everything goes toward them in the final third. And not to put them under pressure, but they're the guys that have more chances and we rely heavily on them."
D.C. United struck back to tie the game at 1-1 in the first half on a defensive mishap from Vancouver in the 11th minute. Takaoka panicked under pressure with his weak pass out intended for defender Blackmon losing out to Ted Ku-DiPietro. The United player slid a pass across to an open Christian Benteke who rolled it calmly into the net.
"We’re not clearing what we need to clear, we’re not alert when we need to be alert and it’s costing us points. It’s from the top to the bottom and it’s something we need to address as this season goes on and we get close to the playoffs. It’s important that we fix that," said White.
Vancouver hosts Western Conference-leading St. Louis City S.C. on Wednesday, while D.C. United heads to Texas to take on Austin F.C.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 30, 2023.
Nick Wells, The Canadian Press