The international break allowed a quick fitness friendly for some on the back up players who had no trouble in beating Santa Ana at BC Place.
Having breezed past Santa Ana Winds we remained at home to take on the worst team in the league, the Chicago Fire. Midfielder Joshua Galloway whom we had “money-balled” out of Dallas reserves put in a stellar performance with his vision and passing setting up a magnificent hat-trick for Argentinian striker Gonzalo Castillejos with goal coming in both halves. However, Gonzalo was out done by a magical strike from Tardelly, who playing on the left flank, cut inside going past two players before unleashing a powerful shot into the roof of the net. Philippe Davies contributed with a stunning strike of his own from 25 yards out to complete the demolition.
The one set back of this win was an injury to Tardelly who will most likely miss the rest of the season.
Next we travelled to Houston where along with superb goalkeeping the woodwork denied us the victory three times. We had no such excuse in Commerce City Colorado where we decided the more prudent thing to do was to pass backwards once we had the ball into the 18 yard box resulting in our second 0-0 draw in a row. We made it three out of three with Shea Salinas beating the offside trap to put us ahead in Washington but a miss-timed jump by RB Sarkodie allowed the home side the equalizer and a point.
We really hadn’t performed to the best of our abilities this past month but did however retain the overall lead in the play-off table though it was beginning to look a bit fragile…
We started out the final month of the regular season as dismally as we had finished off the last with yet another draw this time at home to New England to make it four in a row, thus surrendering top spot to Sporting Kansas City.
On the international front the final phase of North American World Cup qualification was completed with Mexico winning the group. Canada just missed out on a play-off game by a single goal. As Canada moved up to 44th place in the FIFA rankings I think it’s unlikely I’ll get a shot anytime soon at becoming national coach.
With two games left to play our poor run of form continued as we suffered a 1-0 defeat away to Salt Lake City making it 5 games without a win. This called for an “assertive” team meeting that resulted in a positive outcome but would that transfer to better performances on the field?
It didn’t, as we crashed at home to Toronto FC of all teams playing our worst game ever and deservedly were booed off the field after a 4-1 defeat. What has gone wrong with this team?
Even though our calamitous efforts on the field have produced a string of terrible results we still ended up top of the Western Conference standings by quite the margin over LA.
Still we totally blew it in the overall standings handing Sporting Kansas City the honour of being the top team in the league for the regular season.
The Play Offs
Western Conference Semi-Final 1st Leg
With a bye in the first round of the play-offs we travelled to Houston for our semi-final game where we took the lead through Castillejos in the 27th minute. Extensive second half pressure by Houston created an own goal to tie the game up and despite our hosts being reduced to 10 men we could not break them down and the game ended in yet another draw.
Western Conference Semi-Final 2nd Leg
Our return to BC place for the second leg also marked the return of Brazilians Edhino and Tardelly who had both been out with injuries for quite some time. It took just 10 minutes to take the lead with Tardelly hitting a cracking shot into the roof of the net off a through ball from Edhino. A sublime back heel by Castillejos opened the door for Tardelly’s second of the game and he completed his hat-trick from the spot in the second half after Jarju was brought down in the box. This was our first win in the MLS since mid-September.
Western Conference Final
The best record in the west meant home advantage and a packed BC Place to see us take on bitter rivals LA Galaxy for a place in the MLS Final in which the first half got totally bogged down in midfield with few clear cut chances. Frustration began to build resulting in a series of bookings. Just on the hour mark youngster Villalobos picked the ball up on the left flank, cut inside beating two LA defenders and tucked it into the corner of the net for a magical goal to separate the two teams and send us through to the MLS Final for the third straight year! The irony was I was thinking of trading Villalobos too.
Two weeks after winning the conference championship we faced Philadelphia for the MLS Cup. It was Philly who got off to the better start creating several chances that kept Edson busy in goal as well as centre back Alain Rochat whose last ditched tackles kept the score at 0-0. Five minutes from half time we finally found some room down the left with Tardelly whipping in a low driven cross which was met by Castillejos on the half volley…..Goal!!! Minutes later the same move ended with the same result 2-0! But wait the linesman had his flag up – offside. Cuesta went berserk, arguing with the referee and was sent off. We would be down to 10 men for the second half and only 1 centre back!
Somehow we completed dominated the second period with DMC Santiago Ostoloza breaking down Philly’s attacking moves and Edhino’s slick passing setting up numerous chances for Tardelly and Castillejos. In the end though delightful free kick from 20 yards out by Edhino made it 2-0 and was a fitting end to his match performance and the season as a whole.
Amazingly we had triumphed winning our third straight MLS Cup after what amounted to several weeks of bad performances. This team really knows how to step up for the big occasion and we always seem to bounce back in the face of adversity.
This remarkable achievement now just puts us one title short of equalling DC United’s four MLS Cups which gives us something to aim for next season.
Well that’s it for this update though the season is not quite over for us as we are off to play in the World Club Championships (December 2013) so a special report will be coming up that will also feature any MLS related post season activity as well.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and I look forward to your comments.