The Vancouver Whitecaps went from euphoric to despondent in less than two minutes.
When things were finally settled their playoff chances were gone.
Gabriel Torres scored two goals for Colorado, including one in the 77th minute, and the Rapids eliminated the Whitecaps from post-season contention with a 3-2 win Saturday night.
Kekuta Manneh and Camilo Sanvezzo scored for the Whitecaps, who needed at least a tie to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“We came here for a win and we didn’t get that,” goalkeeper David Ousted said. “Disappointed being out of the playoffs.”
Vancouver was vying for its second straight post-season appearance in just its third season in Major League Soccer. The Whitecaps set a team record for points and wins this year but weren’t rewarded with a playoff berth.
“There are a lot of positives throughout the season,” defender Jay DeMerit said. “Our two main goals were to make the playoffs and win the Cascadia Cup. We won the Cascadia Cup and just missed the playoffs. I wouldn’t call that season a failure.”
For a while it appeared as though they were going to stay alive in the playoff race. After Sanvezzo tied it on a penalty kick in the 75th minute with his 19th goal the Whitecaps looked like they were heading home for a winner-take-all showdown against Colorado on Oct. 27.
A minute later Torres held off defenceman Jordan Harvey long enough to turn and blast a shot over Ousted and off the crossbar to put the Rapids in the lead again.
“That was an unbelievable strike by Torres. Undefendable,” Vancouver coach Martin Rennie said. “We could have defended better. The bottom line for us we haven’t defended well enough. We’ve been scoring goals and losing 3-2.”
Defence was an issue when the Rapids took a 2-1 lead early in the second half. Goalie Clint Irwin sent a ball downfield and Deshorn Brown beat defender Young-Pyo Lee to the ball just inside the box.
Ousted tried to get to it first, but he was caught out and Brown lofted a shot over him that bounced into the net in the 51st minute.
“I was trying to get into a position where I can put him under pressure,” Ousted said. “Obviously I’m not in a good position at that point. I didn’t get there.”
The Whitecaps (12-12-9) survived an early push by Colorado, including a close call when Brown sent a shot just wide in the 24th minute. Later in the half, his shot went off Carlyle Mitchell’s face, temporarily knocking the defender out of the game.
Vancouver started to put pressure on the Rapids and it finally paid off when Manneh lofted a shot over Irwin into the top right corner in the 32nd minute to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead.
“We scored a fantastic goal to go ahead 1-nil, we were playing reasonably well at that time,” Rennie said.
The Rapids got it back late in the first half when they were awarded a penalty kick on a foul by Mitchell. Torres easily beat Ousted to tie it in the 41st minute.
“It was a big decision to give a penalty kick. It was a very soft free kick in the first place and the ball was over the players’ heads and he was given a penalty kick,” Rennie said. “That was a very soft penalty kick and that was a big moment.”
It turned out to be pivotal when Torres scored his second goal on a great individual play and kicked the Whitecaps out of the playoffs.
“When it got to 2-2 it was whoever scored next,” DeMerit said. “Both sides created chances. After we pulled it back and got a penalty of our own, it was a back-and-forth game from that point and credit to them. It was a great finish by their forward to make it 3-2 and they made it hard for us to come back.”