MLS Playoffs: For the Vancouver Whitecaps, There’s (Kinda) Always Next Year

As great as it has been for Canadians and their – what? – fifth sport this year, it’s been just as bad.

Sure, the women were terrific and inspiring at the 2012 London Games. They thrilled us and dropped our jaws with their fancy footwork and their defiance to give in to others who said they weren’t good enough or, as they really meant, too Canadian. They also lost.

You had the Canadian men controlling their own destiny while qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. They then lost 8-1 to Honduras.

And, on Thursday night, the Vancouver Whitecaps became the first-ever Canadian team to play in an MLS playoff match, while the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC sat at home with little more than a few souvenirs and rug burns to take away from the 2012 season.

Participation points are what most were expecting but, after a goal just three minutes in by Darren Mattocks gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead, an upset of the L.A. Galaxy was suddenly on the menu.

It lasted until late. Vancouverites watched the clock tick away. Some might have even felt relief as the final buzzer crept closer and closer. And then, suddenly and sadly predictably, the Galaxy struck twice for a 2-1 lead that stuck.

Landon Donovan’s penalty sealed it, in a game which was almost perfectly drawn to the MLS’s script. A Vancouver win might not have been what it didn’t hope for, but an L.A. win certainly keeps the league in its own good books.

David Beckham gets to play for another week, with his years and days in the MLS increasingly numbered as he gets older and does more and more appearances on Ellen.

Landon Donovan gets another chance to leave American soccer fans – the few, the proud, the privileged – with some memories.

L.A. faces San Jose now, in a fitting battle of California, the state that hosted the more important matches of the 1994 World Cup.

For Vancouver, most will say they have to wait another year. They might say it wasn’t their time, or that they had their backs up against the wall going in. That might be a little disrespectful, according to the Caps.

“People say we’ll stay in the game as long as possible, but it’s quite pessimistic,” said Vancouver’s Andy O’Brien, prior to Thursday’s playoff game from SoCal’s Home Depot field. “We’re realistic as well that they’re a good team but, like I said, we’ve got to impose ourselves, as well.”

Unfortunately for O’Brien and the Caps, the rest of the MLS world will forget his words, even though they never heard them.

But, I guess it’s true. There’s always next year. (It just sucks when you’re still in this year.)