The Whitecaps extended their unbeaten run in Major League Soccer to five matches, but Saturday's 2-2 tie at home to Seattle Sounders finished in controversial fashion, denying Vancouver the three points their performance deserved.
The penalty call by referee Ismail Elfath on Jay DeMerit late in the game was baffling, and it took the shine off an entertaining Cascadia Cup battle in which the Whitecaps created numerous chances with their impressive attacking style of play
Credit to Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson for keeping his cool post-game. Had he launched a scathing attack on the referee, no one would have questioned him. But in public, Robinson reacted with dignity and humour rather than spending his time complaining about the officiating. It was a refreshing approach. Maybe Robinson just didn't want to lose any more money - earlier in the day, he lost a bet with Chilean midfielder Pedro Morales over which team would win the Champions League final and the coach will now have to take the whole squad out for dinner!
As my colleague, Jason deVos said after the match, if that was a penalty, he would have been sent off four or five times in every game of his career! The decision let the Sounders back into a match in which they had rarely threatened, but they could have won it late in the game when Obafemi Martins went close, as could the Whitecaps, who had two or three excellent chances after Seattle had tied things up.
Cascadia Cup matches very rarely disappoint. The atmosphere, the drama, the fast moving play were all evident on Saturday in front of the Whitecaps' sixth successive sell-out in MLS this season.
The performance shows just how far the Caps have come in a short space of time, considering how easily they were out-battled by the Sounders in a couple of early preseason meetings. Carl Robinson has created an identity for this team, and very quickly they have become one of the most entertaining in MLS to watch. The youthful exuberance was on show once again on Saturday with the pace and trickery of Kekuta Manneh and Sebastain Fernandez causing the Sounders problems, and Erik Hurtado's new-found confidence in front of goal a joy to watch. Hurtado's superbly taken goal tied things up just three minutes after a well-placed header from Chad Barrett had given Seattle a surprise first half lead.
Hurtado is certainly enjoying his football now. Saturday was the first time in his pro career that he has made consecutive starts. He scored in both of them, and with the goal against Toronto thrown in as well, it is three goals in three matches in all competitions for the man who has certainly taken the chance that has been provided to him following the hamstring injury to Darren Mattocks and the departure of Kenny Miller.
Carl Robinson told me before the match that the difference with Hurtado now is that he isn't trying to over-think things. He certainly gave Seattle's defenders plenty to think about when he turned them inside out on the goal.
Gershon Koffie played his best match of the season - one of his best as a Whitecap. At only 22 years old, he has so much potential. He took his goal really well to give the team a 2-1 lead, capitalizing on a mistake by Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei but his all-round play was superb. Koffie and Matias Laba have been developing a good relationship in the Whitecaps midfield, and it is starting to pay off. Koffie was an attacking threat throughout and could have had more than the one goal.
Once again, there were many positives for the Whitecaps to take away from the game, but the next step will be to win against the top Western Conference teams on a regular basis, especially at home.
Caps president Bob Lenarduzzi said at half-time on our MLS on TSN broadcast that in his short time as head coach, Robinson has "done everything the club has asked of him and then some." The former Wales international is moulding a young, entertaining team playing a brand of football that people are excited to watch.
The 'Caps could have won the game in the first 20 minutes. They were quick out of the blocks, but couldn't find a finishing touch. It has been a familiar theme over the last few games. Lots of chances are being created, but sometimes the killer instinct is missing in front of goal.
Robinson has made no secret of his desire to add a top striker to his squad when the transfer window opens in July (a return for Camilo?) and that with all of the chances coming the Caps way, that would be a mouthwatering prospect.
Next up is another Cascadia clash on the road at Portland Timbers next Sunday (live on TSN2 at 9pm et/6pm pt). It's another great chance for the Whitecaps to test themselves against a team that will be challenging them for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.