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Whitecaps miss prime opportunity to rocket up West

The West’s first-place team has 10 wins. The seventh-place team has nine. That’s how close things are in the wild, wild Western Conference. The Vancouver Whitecaps missed their chance to add to the chaos Saturday night.

The Caps ended their three-game road trip with a 1-0 loss the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on a night the Seattle Sounders took over first place in the West by downing Sporting KC, missing out on vaulting four teams to move from seventh place to third.

Instead, the Whitecaps (9-4-9) stay in seventh, six points back of the surging Sounders (10-7-7), who haven’t lost since June 17, winning five times and drawing three.

Saturday’s result ended the Caps’ modest three-game road unbeaten streak, in which they’d gone 2-0-1 and outscored their opposition 7-2. Vancouver hasn’t gone four consecutive regular-season games unbeaten in the same MLS season since the 2014 season, when they had a four-draw run over a month between July and August.

The Revs (8-5-10) are 8-2-2 at Gillette Stadium, but haven’t won away from home and are still a long way from playoff contention, though the 53rd minute game-winner from Canadian forward Teal Bunbury helped their cause as they eye the final third of the schedule.

Vancouver played a disciplined, possession-oriented game in the first half, staying clear of their usual questing long balls in favour of safe back-passes. They finished the game with 50.8 per cent of the ball, much higher than their usual counter-attack style allows.

New England Revolution’s Kei Kamara heads the ball in front of Vancouver Whitecaps’ Jake Nerwinski during the first half Saturday.

The game’s complexion changed when Matías Laba went down with a right leg injury in the 29th minute. He’d hurt it on a previous play, requiring treatment, then once play resumed, he went down clutching his leg after planting his foot, immediately waving to the sideline for a substitute. Andrew Jacobsen replaced him.

His absence was felt in the second half when the Revs’ Kelyn Rowe controlled a goal kick at centre field from Vancouver’s Stefan Marinovic — making his first start for the Caps, as David Ousted took the night off — took off down the right flank, and laid the perfect cross on the foot of Bunbury, who’d snuck in behind centreback Tim Parker. Marinovic had no chance on the volley from eight yards out.

From that point on, it was mostly Vancouver, who pressed relentlessly for the winner. Cristian Techera and Jake Nerwinski rampaged up and down the wings on both defence and offence, with both sending in dangerous crosses that the Caps just couldn’t get on the end of.

The closest the Caps came was when Techera rang a free kick off the crossbar from 20 yards out. It was more of the same in injury time as Fredy Montero came agonizlingly close at the death, but the Colombian couldn’t beat Cody Cropper from in close to find his 10th of the season.

Vancouver was the more disciplined side again this week, as the Revs had a 17 fouls to the Caps’ 10, and three of the four yellow cards on the night.

The Whitecaps return home next Saturday when they take on the Houston Dynamo at 7 p.m. at B.C. Place.

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