VANCOUVER – You’d have been hard pressed to find someone to say so publically, but the Vancouver Whitecaps' Friday night match at home to the San Jose Earthquakes was as close to a must-win game that you’ll get with ten matches of the MLS regular season still remaining.
That was an urgency that was missing from Vancouver's performance on the night, as the lacklustre 'Caps were outplayed by an Earthquakes side that struck once in each half to claim their first road win of the season with a comfortable 2-1 victory.
With both teams sitting outside of the playoff places in the Western Conference, San Jose headed to BC Place two points behind Vancouver, but with two games in hand. Only one team played with the required passion from the start and that was the visitors, a fact disputed by Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson, who did admit that his side's performance wasn't up to the required levels.
"The result disappoints me because it was a very big game against a conference rival," Robinson told reporters after the match. "We give ourselves a little bit of a mountain to climb with the early goal. I won't fault my guys for passion and determination.
"We tried to win the game of football. Sometimes when it goes against you, it does go against you, and at the moment it is going against us. Do we need to be better? Of course we do. It's my responsibility for the guys to perform. At the moment they're not performing so they need to be better all round."
Quincy Amarikwa and Simon Dawkins had given San Jose a two goal lead by the hour mark. Nicolas Meqzuida's stoppage time header at least ended Vancouver's goal scoring drought, which had extended to over 400 minutes of soccer, but it was too little too late.
Vancouver’s home form has been patchy this season, with five wins, five draws and now three losses from 13 games at BC Place so far. That’s 19 points dropped on home turf, and the reason as to why that is escapes Robinson.
"I'm not sure," Robinson admitted. "If I had the answer I'd win every game at home. We've been very good [at home] up until this season. The first game of the season, we played very well and we lost 3-2, but we made two howlers if you want to call it. That's probably set the tone.
"It's not become the fortress we'd like. Teams like coming to play here and you saw that today with San Jose. We need to change that but it's not going to happen overnight and it's not going to happen just from me saying it's going to happen. We all need to collectively do it."
With games running out, the ‘Caps know that securing as close to maximum points from their remaining home matches could be the make or break factor for their already fading playoff hopes.
Every point dropped at home forces Vancouver to pick up more points on the road, making next week’s trip to Sporting KC all the more crucial, as the Kansas-based side sits four points and three positions above the ‘Caps in the Western Conference standings.
With the way the Western Conference is playing out this season, it's hard to put an exact points total required for the Whitecaps to make it to the playoffs, but Robinson knows his team needs to start winning quickly to kickstart its faltering campaign.
"Let's try and get one win to start with," Robinson mused. "That would be a start. It's probably going to take 45 to 48 points I believe. We've lost three points today at home, to a rival. Everyone's playing everyone, so we know that there'll be weeks that it'll change. We can concentrate on ourselves. We have to.
"If we start scoreboard watching and things like that and relying on that, then it comes to bite you on the bum. We won't do that. We need five or six wins out of nine games. If we don't get them, we probably won't get to the playoffs. That's a fair thing to say. We've got a big game next week."