The Vancouver Whitecaps looked to continue their string of unbeaten play in the 2014 season, up 1-0 in the 77th minute and coming hard at the injury-depleted back line of the Colorado Rapids. Then Matías Laba, pushed roughly to the turf by Rapids midfielder Nick LaBrocca, corralled the ball with his right hand as he appealed to the referee for a foul. Unfortunately for the Caps, the man in yellow whistled at Laba, not LaBrocca, and the intentional handball garnered the Whitecaps midfielder an automatic yellow card. Double alas, it was Laba’s second yellow of the match, meaning that card had to be traded in for a red card.
Miller: “You know, you got away with one there.” Irwin: “Yeah, yeah.” Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Within three minutes of Laba’s ejection, the Rapids had not only erased the Whitecaps goal advantage, but scored a second time to take a 2-1 lead themselves.
“If you miss the first call, you don’t penalise the second player with a yellow,” said Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson after the loss, lamenting the official’s role in deciding the outcome. “Unfortunately the 20,000 fans leaving here today won’t be talking about the football that was played here today — and it was a good, tough game played between two very good teams.”
While it’s true LaBrocca could easily have been called for his takedown of Laba, it’s a fact that the Whitecaps haven’t capitalized on long stretches of 11-on-10 play — most notably against Chivas USA in their second game of the year. That Vancouver so quickly capsized after going down a man to Colorado doesn’t speak well to their ability to adapt to unpredictable situations.
Kenny Miller is probably right when he says it should have been 2-0 by the time Laba got his red card anyway. Pedro Morales missed a glorious opportunity just minutes after Mattocks had made it 1-0 in the 65th minute; his shot glanced off Colorado keeper Clint Irwin’s right leg and trickled wide of the far post. Long before that, in the first half, Miller himself was tripped up by Irwin in the box. The referee waved off appeals for a penalty kick, despite clear replays showing the keeper interfering with Miller as he ran for the ball. Let’s not even get into the half-dozen quality scoring chances lost to a poor final touch on this day. Russell Teibert alone wasted four free kicks in dangerous territory and at least two corners by alternately skying the ball well over every attacking Whitecaps player and toeing short passes directly into the shins of Rapids defenders.
Carl Robinson post-match press conference:
Kenny Miller post-match media scrum: