Signing Kendall Waston turned out to be the most important personnel decision of Carl Robinson’s first season as manager of the Vancouver Whitecaps. Without the big Costa Rican center back, Vancouver wouldn’t be in the playoffs right now.
In his 10th match and ninth start on Saturday, Waston scored the only goal that the Whitecaps needed to defeat the Colorado Rapids in a must-win game. The set-piece specialist outworked and outmuscled his opponents on a corner kick again for his second of the season.
He was even more impressive on the opposite end of the field. Just as he did against the Seattle Sounders in a tough road win a couple weeks ago, Waston held down the Vancouver back line. His 13 interceptions led the league last week by a wide margin (teammate and defensive partner Andy O’Brien tied for second with eight).
As expected, Waston also won every aerial duel he attempted, including two in the attacking penalty area and three on top of his own 18-yard box. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound defender transferred from a high-pressure environment at Deportivo Saprissa in his native country, and he’s fit in as a team leader in a vital time in Canada.
He won a Costa Rican Cup and Campeonato de Verano title in Costa Rica, which also uses a playoff system. That experience could come in handy as the Whitecaps will have to play five nearly perfect games to have any chance at winning the MLS Cup.
Waston is joined by 10 others in the final Planet Fútbol Best XI of the MLS season:
Planet Fútbol MLS Best XI — Week 33
• Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire): Johnson made a whopping eight saves in a 2-1 win over Houston, including seven in the first half. He single-handedly kept Chicago in the game at the break before two second-half goals won it for the Fire.
• Chris Tierney (New England Revolution): Tierney assisted the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win over Toronto. He created two total goal-scoring opportunities, overlapping down the left, and completed 87 percent of his passes.
• Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps): He’s not on the shortlist for Newcomer of the Year, but Waston’s contributions in his short time in Vancouver have been astounding. He scored again on Saturday to clinch a playoff spot in a 1-0 win over Colorado, won 100 percent of his aerial duels and made 13 interceptions.
• Jeff Larentowicz (Chicago Fire): Larentowicz isn’t normally a center back, but he’s done well in that role this year when called upon. He scored on a penalty against Houston and won 100 percent of his aerial duels and tackles.
• Marco Pappa (Seattle Sounders): Pappa only needed about 20 minutes to put in one of the best performances of the week in a 2-0 win over LA. He scored both goals and finished with all four of Seattle’s shots as he provided a much-needed spark off the bench to deliver the Supporters’ Shield.
• Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake): Beckerman made RSL’s attack tick in a 2-0 win over Chivas, completing 92 percent of his passes from the base of the diamond midfield and creating two goal-scoring opportunities. He also scored the second goal of the game to seal it after Álvaro Saborío’s first-half strike.
• Victor Ulloa (FC Dallas): Ulloa had eight interceptions and completed 86 percent of his passes, including one that led directly to a shot, in a 2-0 loss to Portland. He was the one bright spot in an otherwise drab performance for Dallas.
• Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers): In the last game of the season, Nagbe finally scored his first goal. It was a throwback performance to 2013, as Nagbe completed every one of his attempted passes and successfully completed five of eight dribbles.
• Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls): Wright-Phillips went into the final game of the year needing a hat trick to break the single-season goals record, and he nearly got there in a 2-0 win over Kansas City. He scored both of his team’s goals, including one after a workmanlike dispossession of Aurélien Collin, and had several chances for the third, but he just couldn’t capitalize on a couple late chances.
• Jairo Arrieta (Columbus Crew): Arrieta scored Columbus’ first goal and hit the bar with another in a 2-1 win over Philadelphia. He also went 2-for-3 on the dribble on the edge of the Union penalty area.
• Omar Cummings (Houston Dynamo): Cummings scored Houston’s goal against Chicago, and he provided most of the Dynamo’s threat in his 75 minutes on the field. He completed 83 percent of his passes, put both of his shots on target and created three goal-scoring opportunities for his teammates.