FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The Vancouver Whitecaps' depleted lineup and weary performance on Saturday reflected the importance the club has placed on the upcoming Amway Canadian Championship final.
Lee Nguyen scored twice, Saer Sene and Shalrie Joseph added goals and the New England Revolution routed the Whitecaps 4-1.
Camilo, Jay DeMerit and John Thorrington all remained in Vancouver ahead of Wednesday's first game of the two-game series against Toronto FC.
Their absences – and starting central defender Martin Bonjour's place on the bench – disrupted a side that had won three straight games in MLS play and contributed to uncharacteristically sloppy defensive performance from a group that had conceded just seven goals in nine previous MLS games.
“We see it as a way to get into the CONCACAF Champions League and a chance to win a trophy," Vancouver coach Martin Rennie said. "Tonight, some of what we did was based on that. We still thought we had enough to put out a better performance than we did.
"We let ourselves down tonight.”
Vancouver striker Eric Hassli capped off a neat team move with his third goal in four appearances in all competitions to give the Whitecaps a fifth minute lead. Hassli's early goal suggested the Whitecaps would cope just fine even with the changes at the back, but New England (4-6-0) replied less than a minute later through Nguyen and romped for the remainder of the night.
Revolution striker Saer Sene collected a Nguyen pass and turned too easily to slot home his fourth goal of the season in the 24th minute, while Shalrie Joseph thumped home a missed clearance eight minutes later to place the Revs in firm control of the match.
Nguyen capped off the Whitecaps' miserable night and sent them to a first MLS defeat in four matches with a 25-yard volley in the 72nd minute
“We were a little unlucky with a couple of bounces, but we didn't help ourselves with our shape and our effort,” Whitecaps goalkeeper Joe Cannon said. “But it's over and you have to turn the page rather quickly.”
The congested schedule over the next few weeks gives Vancouver little time to dwell on this particular setback. If the Whitecaps (5-3-2) want to lift the Canadian Championship for the first time at BMO Field on May 23, then they must shift their focus immediately and welcome back those missing regulars to prepare for the task ahead.
“Where this team is at right now, we're going to get some wins and we're going to have some disappointments along the way,” Rennie said. “How we respond is important and how we responded last time we lost was to win five in a row. We need to do that again and, if we do that, we'll have a fantastic end to the month.”