VANCOUVER — After capping a disappointing season with yet another loss, the Vancouver Whitecaps are turning their attention to the future.
The 'Caps (8-16-10) dropped a 1-0 decision to Real Salt Lake ((16-13-5) in Vancouver on Sunday and finished the year last in Major League Soccer's Western Conference.
"We all know statistically how the season ended. But if you look deeper and you dig deeper, it was a season filled with ups and downs," midfielder Russell Teibert said after the loss.
"But we're building something here. This was always a rebuild year and we're going to continue to grow."
It's been a difficult season for the Whitecaps, who underwent a major roster overhaul last winter and struggled all year to find an offensive spark.
Despite the challenges, the squad went into the final contest of the year on a three-game unbeaten streak. But Vancouver's scoring chances were once again limited in Sunday's effort.
The 'Caps had 16 shots but only five were on target, and RSL controlled 55.6 per cent of possession throughout the game.
Nick Rimando had five saves for Real Salt Lake, collecting his 10th clean sheet of the season.
Whitecaps goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau stopped three-of-four on-target shots.
The visitors put away the lone goal in the 28th minute, making some quick passes around the box before Corey Baird put a shot on net. Damir Kreilach took the ball on his head, bouncing it past Crepeau to put Salt Lake up 1-0.
Baird and Kyle Beckerman each registered an assist on the play.
Vancouver nearly netted an equalizer in the 69th minute after striker Yordy Reyna sent a long pass across the field to a streaking Chirinos. The Honduran international got a nice shot off, but Rimando got a hand on the ball, poking it into the post. It rolled along the goal line and eventually cleared the net.
"Salt Lake played a playoff game where they were deep, dangerous on the counter," said Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos.
"We deserved a goal, we deserved at least a point. We did enough for that but in the second half, we didn't have the spark, a little bit of luck."
The 'Caps players and coaching staff stayed on the pitch long after the final whistle, saluting fans and signing autographs.
"They were there for us all season, win, lose, tie, home and away, they were there. So it's important for me to stay behind and say hi to each and every single one of them," said goalie Maxime Crepeau.
The 25-year-old native of Greenfield, Que., excelled in his first season with the Whitecaps, taking over the starting role and keeping the team in tough games with mind-boggling saves.
Still, Crepeau feels like he has more to give.
"I do whatever I can to help this team but at the end of the day, we're at the bottom of the West. It's the reality," he said.
"It's difficult for me because I wanted to give so much more to my teammates, to the organization, to the fans, to everyone."
As the season ends, Dos Santos — who's finishing his first year as an MLS coach — said work is already underway to improve the club for next season.
"The commitment and the work and the pieces that are happening behind the scenes, the thought process, the moves is huge right now. Huge. Huge," he said.
The biggest positive the coach is taking away at the end of this year is that he has a lot to work with going forward.
"I feel now that there's something to build on. And when I arrived, I didn't feel the same," he said.
While Sunday's loss marked the end of the Whitecaps' season, Real Salt Lake has secured a spot in the Major League Soccer playoffs and will face the Portland Timbers in the first round.
The post-season begins on Oct. 19.
NOTES: Fredy Montero was the 'Caps top scorer this season, tallying eight goals and three assists. ... Vancouver midfielder Georges Mukumbilwa made his MLS debut, coming on for Andy Rose in the 80th minute. ... Sunday marked RSL 'keeper Rimando's final regular-season MLS game. The 40-year-old Californian is retiring after 20 seasons in the league.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 6, 2019.