Goals change games and their timing does, too.
Vancouver's long-ball goal just before Wednesday's halftime reminded Minnesota United of that in a 2-1 loss at B.C. Place.
A goal by Loons second-half substitute Fanendo Adi in the 91st minute wasn't enough to get at least one badly needed point out of a midweek game with two left in the regular season.
Wednesday's loss ended a three-game unbeaten streak and moved the Loons under the playoff line and into eighth place because of a tiebreaker with Real Salt Lake that for now gives RSL seventh place and the West's final playoff spot by the slimmest of margins.
The Loons are one point ahead of ninth-place Los Angeles FC and four points away from a home playoff game.
Vancouver went momentarily from ninth place all the way to fifth and two points from fourth-place Portland and that home playoff game.
"Disappointing result," Loons coach Adrian Heath said. "As I said last week, I think it's going to go all the way to the wire and tonight didn't change anything for me that way."
The Loons have kept themselves atop the playoff line all this time but now will find themselves chasing in final games Sunday at home against Western Conference-leading Sporting Kansas City and a "Decision Day" finale at currently sixth-place LA Galaxy a week after that.
"We always knew the last few games here were going to be hugely important," Loons veteran midfielder Wil Trapp said. "That doesn't change for us."
They're even more so after Wednesday's loss in which the Loons allowed two untimely goals.
The first was a 45th-minute own goal off defender Michael Boxall. The second was Vancouver's Brian White's left-footed, one-touch goal from 10 yards away in the 63rd minute. It came little more than a minute after Loons striker Adrien Hunou's shot went through Whitecaps keeper Maxime Crepeau legs, hit the right post and bounded away.
"Two disappointing goals," Heath said. "They didn't have to work hard enough for the goals."
The first came on a 50-yard long ball played over Boxall and the Loons defense, as Vancouver tried to do all evening, and aimed at White on a full run after three opponents converged on him.
White tried to control the pass with his chest while Boxall, right back Romain Metanire and goalkeeper Tyler Miller all closed in just outside the 18-yard penalty box.
The ball bounded off White and Miller tried to swipe it away out of the air. But the ball hit Boxall as all four players' momentum carried them toward the goal. The ball beat all of them, crossing the goal line just as Boxall's sweeping slide came a stride too late.
"Boxy, as soon as he comes in halftime said, `Hey, that goal is on me,' " Heath said. "You can't get done with a long straight ball like that. It's not like the guy has made a clever run or anything. He's just chased the long ball through the middle.
"You can't get beat on a 70-yard straight ball, so that was poor from our point of view."
Smith scored in the 63rd minute when he freed himself in the middle of the 18-yard box and swept a crossing pass behind Miller just after the Loons nearly tied the game.
"Adrien has a chance to make it 1-1 and then they go straight down the other end and get the second goal, which again was poorly defended," Heath said.
Vancouver entered Wednesday's game 6-1 at home since the club fired head coach Marc Dos Santos on Aug. 27. The Whitecaps are now 7-1 there and 7-2-3 under interim coach Vanni Sartini with a run that had brought them right up behind the Loons.
Heath tried to spark change with 71st-minute substitutions also intended to get some of his starters some rest before Sunday's game. Striker Adi, young Joseph Rosales and veteran Jan Gregus came on for Hunou, and defensive midfielders Ozzie Alonso and Wil Trapp. Ethan Finlay later came on for Robin Lod.
The Star Tribune did not travel for this event. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the event.