While Nico Mezquida was missing for the Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday night, it was clear the Whitecaps were missing Yordy Reyna.
It was clear after the smoke cleared Saturday night at B.C. Place, and the Seattle Sounders had emerged 2-1 victors, that the Caps desperately missed Reyna. The Peruvian forward has been the offensive catalyst for Vancouver, and without him, the team’s play in the final third rarely had the same threatening quality that had produced multiple goals in nine of the previous 11 home games.
Mezquida, who’d scored two critical goals in the Whitecaps six-game unbeaten run, had two gilt-edged chances to score, including an 11th-minute strike that he pushed over the bar.
“We missed Yordy — and I said that in the lead-up, he might have been the key difference maker for us, because he’s been that over the last four to six weeks,” said coach Carl Robinson. “We had a couple of early chances that fell to Nico, but it wasn’t to be.
“I cannot fault these players. They deserved to play. And the performance they put in, they deserve to play again.”
The Caps connected on 73 per cent of their passes in the final third, but all too often made the wrong pass, took an extra touch, or missed on an open teammate. Mezquida tied with Kei Kamara with a game-high seven shots, but only put two on target. Kamara had the Caps’ only goal, banging home a header off a corner kick in first-half stoppage time.
The Whitecaps outshot Seattle 21-7 overall, with all but two of them coming inside the 18-yard box. But nearly half of those didn’t force Stefan Frei into making a save, or were blocked by Seattle’s defence.
“The games are won in the boxes, and that’s why the boys up top are paid the big bucks. You hear that all the time,” said Robinson. “We got into some wonderful areas, and our final pass was over-hit or under-hit or we made the wrong decision. It doesn’t matter if you have all the possession in the world, it’s what you do in both boxes.”
“It’s decision making, it’s understanding the game, the personnel, your teammates around you,” said midfielder Russell Teibert, who had team-highs in passes (77) and completion percentage (88.1) against the Sounders.
“Knowing where your teammates are going to be around you, knowing the weight you have to have on the pass, all the little details that make a championship team. And if we want to be a championship team, we have to take care of fine details.”
Reyna missed Saturday’s game on yellow card accumulation, depriving the Caps of a player who’s picked up two goals and six assists in his last four starts. He’ll be back on the field next week when the Whitecaps host Western Conference powerhouse FC Dallas on Sunday.
The Whitecaps (11-10-7) are seventh in the conference, trailing both Portland and Seattle by four points, though the Sounders hold the tiebreakers — wins, then goal differential — over both teams. A single point ahead of them is Real Salt Lake, who have played a game more than the Timbers and Whitecaps, and two more than the Sounders.
The second-place Toros (14-6-8) haven’t won on the road since July and are in an inconsistent stretch that’s seen them go 2-3-2, including a scoreless home time with the Columbus Crew on Saturday. The Caps close out the season with back-to-back away matches at L.A. Galaxy and Toronto FC, home to Sporting Kansas City, away at Los Angeles FC, then home for what could end up being a win-and-you’re-in date against Portland at B.C. Place.
“I called this game a ‘championship game.’ I can’t even put into words the magnitude of the next game here, against one of the best teams in the league,” said Teibert. “You can’t rely on the table. You have to take care of business yourself. But we can’t look at this game and say we give up. We’ve got six games left and we’re right in contention.
“But if we want the table to take care of us the rest of the season, that’s not going to be possible. We need to take care of business, especially at home.
“I think the message is very simple: clear your mind, play smart, play with your heart and don’t look back however many weeks from now and have any regrets or excuses. Put everything on the line for this club to get to the playoffs.”
Sunday, Sept. 23
FC Dallas at Vancouver Whitecaps
4 p.m., B.C. Place Stadium, TSN, TSN 1040 AM
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