After the emotion faded, Kendall Waston was left facing the reality of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2-2 tie with the Houston Dynamo on Friday night.
Waston scored four minutes into injury time as Vancouver twice battled back from a goal down to earn a draw in a Major League Soccer game the Whitecaps believe they deserved a better result.
“Excited, frustrated, a lot of feelings,” said the Vancouver captain. “I think we should have won.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson.
“Anyone watching that game knows we should have won the game,” said Robinson. “Football is cruel sometimes.
“The last kick of the game is the best time to score a goal. I’m sure Houston will be devastated but we are super proud. We deserved something from that game. If not three points, definitely one.”
Jose Aja scored the other goal for Vancouver, while Brian Rowe made one save in the draw.
Tomas Martinez and Mauro Manotas found the back of the net for Houston. Joe Willis made three saves.
The Whitecaps improved to 4-5-2, but are 1-4-1 in the last six games.
The Dynamo are 3-3-1 but remain winless on the road this season (0-1-3) and are 0-3-7 in their last 10 regular-season away games. The Dynamo have never won in Vancouver (0-6-2).
Trailing 2-1 late in extra time, it appeared as though the Whitecaps were going down to defeat before Waston’s heroics.
With the Whitecaps desperately searching for the equalizer, midfielder Felipe sent a long ball toward the goal. Striker Kei Kamara headed the ball toward the net. The six-foot-five Waston leaped into the air and headed it into the goal.
“I just tried to jump as high as possible,” said Waston.
After scoring, Waston grabbed the ball and held it in his arms like a baby while a BC Place crowd of 18,813 cheered wildly.
Manotas gave Houston a 2-1 lead with his goal in the 90th minute. Martinez opened the game’s scoring in the 35th minute.
Vancouver’s Aja tied the game before half time with his first MLS goal.
The Whitecaps dominated most of the second half. They controlled the ball and created several quality chances. Forward Brek Shea twice had an open net but couldn’t connect. Aja headed a shot into the set of the goal.
“We kept creating chances,” said Robinson. “We had them on the ropes, but we were unable to put the punch in. Then we got sucker punched.”
Manotas scored what looked like the winning goal after Arturo Alvarez took a shot that was blocked. Manotas controlled the rebound and fired it into the Whitecaps’ goal.
Waston liked the resolve the Whitecaps showed.
“At the end, what I go home with is a positive feeling that we gave it our all,” he said. “The energy, the mentality that we had that we are going to fight until the end.
“Today for me is the best game we have played this season. From here, we have to build up and keep this momentum. The better we play, the more chances we create.”
Houston coach Wilmer Cabrera was frustrated that for the third time this year his team gave up a late goal.
“We need to keep pushing, we have to continue working,” said Cabrera.
“We need to win these games and we need to close the game, to try to get three points.”
Waston also played a crucial role in Aja’s goal in the 44th minute.
Felipe sent a ball deep that Waston chased down and took off the line just before it went out of bounds. He passed into the box where Aja, who celebrated his 25th birthday Thursday, flicked it into the net with his right foot.
Rowe made his first start in net for Vancouver after Stefan Marinovic suffered a left knee sprain in training Thursday. Rowe, acquired in a trade from the LA Galaxy in December, last started a game Aug. 12, 2017.
Watson came close to scoring in the 70th minute off a header on set piece, but Willis managed to get his hands on the shot.
For the first time this season, the Whitecaps had strikers Kamara and Anthony Blondell on the field at the same time. Both players had first-half scoring chances.
Three minutes into the match, Kamara headed a ball just over the Houston net. In the 27th minute, Alphonso Davies had a fast break then passed to Blondell, but his right-footed shot sailed high.
Rowe needed to look sharp in the 66th minute. Alberth Elis dribbled around a couple of Whitecap defenders before taking a shot that Rowe grabbed.
The Whitecaps defeated the Dynamo 2-1 in Houston in Week 2.
Vancouver plays San Jose at BC Place Wednesday night.
Jim Morris, The Canadian Press