Whitecaps thump Earthquakes 5-0 for first playoff victory in franchise history

The third-seeded Whitecaps will now face the Seattle Sounders

The Vancouver Whitecaps have lived and died off set pieces in 2017.

A clinical performance Wednesday helped the franchise to its first-ever playoff victory.

Cristian Techera scored on a stunning free kick before Vancouver poured it on late in a 5-0 drubbing of the San Jose Earthquakes in Major League Soccer’s single-elimination knockout round.

The Whitecaps scored 15 goals off dead-ball situations during the regular season and added three more in what turned into a dominating night after some early jitters.

“If you work hard at things you get your rewards,” said Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson. “We’ve got the takers, the deliverers of balls, and we’ve also got people who can get on the end of things.

“Anyone who comes by our training sees the amount of work we spend on it.”

Nicolas Mezquida, with two, Fredy Montero and Kendall Waston had the other goals for Vancouver, which had three losses and a draw in four previous post-season matches since joining MLS in 2011.

“I’m delighted for everyone involved with the football club tonight, and everyone involved with the city,” said Robinson. “We needed a little bit of success, and we got a little bit of success today.

“But that’s all it is.”

The third-seeded Whitecaps will now face the Seattle Sounders, who finished second in the Western Conference and won last year’s title, in a home and away aggregate semifinal that starts Sunday at B.C. Place Stadium.

“We’re playing against the champs,” added Robinson. “We know we’re going to be underdogs. I like the underdog role.”

After setting up Montero’s opener in the first half, the pint-sized Techera curled a left-footed free kick over the wall and into the top corner from 30 yards out past a helpless Andrew Tarbell in the 57th minute to send the crowd of 21,083 into a frenzy.

Waston added Vancouver’s third goal seven minutes later off a corner after the ball pinged around the San Jose penalty area before being bundled over the line.

Mezquida, who subbed on in the 68th minute, then scored in 78th and 80th to complete the romp as the Whitecaps scored five times in a game for the first time this year.

“There were a number of top-class performances,” said Robinson. “The heart and the desire and determination to want to win the game … the boys don’t quit.”

Montero gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead in the 33rd minute after a nervy opening when Waston redirected a Techera corner right to the designated player, who made no mistake from in close.

The Colombian striker said he’s never been on a team that has relied this much on set pieces for offence.

“This is something unique,” said Montero. “We should keep believing we can keep hurting teams with this weapon.”

Vancouver returned to the MLS Cup playoffs after missing out by eight points in 2016, while sixth-seeded San Jose made the post-season for the first time since 2012 thanks to Sunday’s dramatic 3-2 stoppage-time victory over Minnesota United.

The Whitecaps could have avoided Wednesday’s winner-take-all encounter with a victory over the Earthquakes at home on Oct. 15 in a game that ended 1-1, or by grabbing at least a draw in a 2-1 weekend road loss to the Portland Timbers.

Vancouver instead limped to the regular-season finish line with a 1-3-1 record, but were full marks on this night.

“We talked about set pieces being a huge key,” said Earthquakes head coach Chris Leitch. “That was the element that was really our Achilles heel.”

San Jose had a decent opportunity to equalize while down 1-0 less than a minute into the second half when Whitecaps goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic had to be sharp on Chris Wondolowski’s shot from in tight, but after a couple more half chances, that would be it for San Jose.

With the stadium’s retractable roof open on a chilly evening, Vancouver started tentatively and was almost made to pay in the fourth minute when Anibal Godoy forced a leaping save out of Marinovic on a free kick from 25 yards out.

The hosts looked nervous with a number of errant passes and giveaways early on, but started to play better as the half wore on and looked the more likely side to score when Montero finally broke through.

“You saw what it meant to the players and the club,” said Robinson. “We were so determined to get that first playoff win, and we did.

“Did we do it style? Yeah, we probably did.”

Notes: The Earthquakes’ bizarre regular season that included a minus-21 goal difference — good for third-worst in all MLS — saw the club get outscored by two goals or more in 12 of its 14 defeats by a combined score of 42-6. … Since the league expanded its playoff format in 2011, five of the 16 teams to advance from the knockout round have made the MLS Cup, with three clubs winning it all, including the last two years.

Just Posted

Friends, family remember Dan Sealey, stepson of Minister of Agriculture, in private gathering

Lana Popham confirmed Sealey died of an accidental drug overdose earlier this month at age 23

Mommy’s Inside Voice: A little piece of you

Mommy’s Inside Voice is a biweekly column by Amie Jay, a local mother of three

High school graduation rates on the rise in Greater Victoria

High school completion up from 71 to 86.8 per cent over 10 years

Pacific Centre Family Services Association a winning design in Colwood

Victoria Real Estate Board winner a welcoming sight

Victoria curling foursome looks to defend provincial title

2019 BC Junior Curling Championships held in Vernon from Dec. 27, 2018 to Jan. 1, 2019

Unique technology gives children with special needs more independent play

UVic’s CanAssist refined seven prototypes aided by $1.5M government contribution

Greater Victoria holiday craft fair roundup for Nov. 16 to 18

Check off all of the items on your shopping list at these great events

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 14

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

High-end B.C. house prices dropping, but no relief at lower levels

But experts say home ownership remains out of reach for many for middle- and lower-income families

Worker killed in collision at B.C. coal mine

Vehicle collision occurred at approximately 10:45 a.m. this morning

B.C. asking for tips on ‘dirty money’ in horse racing, real estate, luxury cars

Action follows a Peter German report on money laundering in B.C. casinos

Canadian dead more than a week after plane crash in Guyana: Global Affairs

Global Affairs said it couldn’t provide further details on the identity of the Canadian citizen

Children between 6 and 9 eligible for $1,200 RESP grant from province

BC Ministry of Education is reminding residents to apply before the deadline

Privacy concerns over credit card use for legal online pot purchases

Worries follow privacy breaches at some Canadian cannabis retailers

Most Read