VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Whitecaps were always going to need a lot of help to sneak into the Major League Soccer playoffs.
They instead saw their minuscule hopes snuffed out on another frustrating night in what has turned into a lost season.
Brad Evans scored on a penalty in the 81st minute Sunday as the Seattle Sounders beat Vancouver 2-1 to eliminate the Whitecaps from playoff contention in a heated game that saw both teams have a player sent off.
The match was turned on its head with the score tied 1-1 in 53rd minute when Vancouver captain Pedro Morales was shown a straight red card by referee Ricardo Salazar for an elbow to the head/throat area of Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan. Television replays showed that Morales made contact with Roldan, but it appeared to be light.
The Whitecaps and the crowd of 24,837 at B.C. Place Stadium were left stunned by the call, while Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson screamed at Salazar from the sidelines.
"Do you want me to tell you the brutal truth?" Robinson said after the game. "I think at a key moment in the game, and it was a good game between two good teams, you have to be sure. You have to be 100 per cent correct. And I just think that at that moment, the red card was issued within two seconds, three seconds.
"He didn't give himself time to think. Because I think if you look back at it then ... (he got) that one wrong."
Evans, who subbed on in the second half for his first action since the end of August, won the winning penalty after his cross struck the arm of sliding Vancouver defender Jordan Harvey in the Whitecaps' box. He then stepped up to the spot and buried his first of the season into the middle of the net past 'keeper David Ousted.
"Credit to him," said Seattle interim head coach Brian Schmetzer. "He's taken a lot of penalties for us (in) pressure situations."
But Evans was then red carded just three minutes later for what appeared to be an attempted head butt on Whitecaps defender David Edgar.
Morales scored on a penalty for Vancouver (9-15-8) in the first half before Osvaldo Alonso equalized for Seattle (13-13-5), which has won four straight and occupies the second-last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Whitecaps fell to 1-7-4 over their last 12 matches in MLS, and haven't won at home since mid-July. Vancouver is also an MLS-worst 5-5-6 at home this season.
"We were totally dominant in the first half, and disappointed not to go in one or two up," said Edgar. "Some decisions in the second half didn't go our way and it changes the game."
Vancouver opened the scoring in the 25th minute when Sounders defender Oneil Fisher, who came on as an early substitute for the injured Alvaro Fernandez, brought down Whitecaps midfielder Alphonso Davies in the Seattle penalty area after the 15-year-old made a great run.
Morales stepped up and cooly sent Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei the wrong way for his eighth of the season, and sixth from penalty spot.
Davies, who became the second-youngest player in MLS history to start a match last weekend, was at it again four minutes later when he moved past Fisher, but his stinging shot was right at Frei.
"He was good to watch, wasn't he? He played very free," Robinson said of his teenage sensation. "He was very enjoyable to watch and caused all sorts of problems for a really good Seattle team."
But the Sounders got back on level terms in the 39th minute when Joevin Jones was given too much time on the left to pick out a streaking Alonso, who lost his marker on a run into the Vancouver box, and fired home a one-timer for his third of the season.
Davies continued his bright play in first-half stoppage time with a great cross to an unmarked Harvey, but he flubbed his shot on a golden opportunity to put the Whitecaps ahead at the break.
"I can't fault the guys' effort and work, and I really enjoyed watching them in the first 45 minutes," said Robinson. "I thought there was some excellent stuff, but this year has been difficult for a number of reasons. The first 45 minutes probably summed it up.
"We were one goal ahead. We couldn't get the second goal, which we probably deserved, and Seattle hung around and managed to get a goal from our mistake."
Notes: Sounders midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro missed the match because of yellow card accumulation, while Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston also sat out after being sent off last Saturday. ... Vancouver doesn't play again until Oct. 16 at home against San Jose before wrapping up the regular season against Portland at B.C. Place on Oct. 23.
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