By Andrew Friedlander, The Canadian Press
FRISCO, Texas – A late penalty-kick goal created by a controversial handball call brought the Vancouver Whitecaps’ season to a frustrating end.
Midfielder Michel stutter-stepped and slid his unmolested shot into the left side of the net in the 84th minute as Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted dived in the other direction to give FC Dallas a 2-1 victory in the knockout round of Major League Soccer’s Western Conference playoffs Wednesday night.
Dallas (17-12-6) will face Seattle in the two-game conference semifinal.
The loss ended the Whitecaps’ five-game unbeaten streak and closed out a season in which Vancouver (12-9-14) advanced to the post-season for the second time in its MLS history. The club has now lost all six of its games at FC Dallas’s Toyota Stadium.
This one just hurt more than the others.
“It was a big decision given the magnitude of the game,” defender Andy O’Brien said. “But these are things that happen.
“The game kicks you between the legs sometimes, and that’s how it feels tonight.”
The most painful kick came from referee Mark Geiger, who awarded a penalty when a bouncing ball in the Vancouver box barely glanced off the right arm of Kendall Waston as the Whitecaps defender tried to put his hands behind his back. The Vancouver players protested vehemently, but the call stood.
“Waston deliberately handled the ball, hence the PK was called,” Geiger said.
Waston disagreed with the “deliberate” part.
“I tried to put my hand on the back of my body and the ball hit me,” he said. “That’s different than putting your hand on the ball. But that was the decision of the referee. I respect it, but I don’t approve it.”
The Whitecaps had extended their shutout streak to 432 minutes â€” surpassing a run of 427 minutes in 2012 as the longest in club history â€” before watching that streak disappear in the 40th minute thanks to FC Dallas’s surprise starter.
Midfielder Mauro Diaz, making his first start since Aug. 9 and only his 10th in an injury-plagued season, turned a sliver of space into a dangerous run, slipping past O’Brien and Waston near midfield to break into the clear.
When defender Jordan Harvey came out to challenge Diaz, he slid a deft pass to Calgary-born Tesho Akindele, who fired a low shot just inside the far post for a 1-0 lead.
“I tried to stick my butt out into the guy (Diaz), and I thought Kendall was going to come and clean out,” O’Brien said. “But he nicked past him and then he was gone.”
Down and seemingly out â€” FC Dallas had dominated possession and scoring chances in the first half â€” the Whitecaps rose to tie the match with a stunning goal in the 64th minute, the climax of an inspired second-half effort.
The play began with a floating free kick into the Dallas box by Mauro Rosales that pinballed around before popping out to second-half substitute Kekuta Manneh. Manneh’s shot was blocked, but the ball fell at the feet of Erik Hurtado, and the Whitecaps forward slammed it past keeper Chris Seitz on the right side to give his team life.
Then it slipped away, to the sound of a whistle.
“I questioned my team at halftime because I thought we played with a little bit of fear,” Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson said. “The second half was the total opposite. My team gave me everything I asked and more. The performance they put in in the second half was not worthy of losing this game.
“We’ve got Mauro Rosales in there, who’s 33 years of age and who’s been very successful, and he’s crying his eyes out in there because he feels the result wasn’t what we deserved. And I agree with him.”