The Vancouver Whitecaps find themselves comfortable with two matches left to play, just needing one win to secure a first-ever MLS Cup playoff berth.
While the club’s 4-0 demolishing of Chivas USA last Wednesday was to a degree expected, it was FC Dallas’ surprising failure to beat that same team that has all but secured the ‘Caps a spot in the postseason.
The Texas-based club’s inability to take care of business at the decisive moment, drawing 1-1 with Chivas on Sunday, means all Vancouver has to do is win one of its final two matches and Canada gets its first MLS playoff participant.
“It was a good boost for us, but at the end of the day it means we have to win our next game, and that’s important, so we’re in a good position in that regard,” head coach Martin Rennie said after a training session at Burnaby Lake field on Tuesday. “But of course the game against Portland [Timbers] is a huge game for us anyway.”
That match against the Timbers won’t be played until October 21, meaning there’s a bit of a gap – perhaps not an ideal situation for a club trying to build on a three-game unbeaten streak following a bit of a rough patch.
“I would most preferably like to have just kept going but the international break has slowed that down,” Barry Robson said. “That’s the frustrating part, but we’ll get a wee break, get some fresh legs, and be ready for the big game.”
Those fresh legs could include a potential return for Omar Salgado, who has been out of action since May with a fractured foot, but who has been in full training for a few weeks.
Darren Mattocks and John Thorrington, who both suffered hamstring injuries in the first half against the Seattle Sounders on September 29, should also benefit from the break.
Neither was eager to guarantee a return to fitness for the big derby match when asked on Tuesday, but both seem happy with how their muscles have responded to treatment and quietly optimistic that at the very least they’ll be in contention come the week of the game.
Off the field, captain Jay DeMerit proposed to his Canadian girlfriend Ashleigh McIvor, an Olympic gold medallist in ski-cross, this past weekend.
DeMerit has been sporting a mullet which he has dubbed the “playoff hunter” since the scoreless draw with Seattle, and joked on Twitter that meant McIvor’s affirmative response signified true love.
“You know when you propose to your girlfriend with a mullet and she says YES, she's the girl for you. So happy!!”
The Green Bay native said he made the big move at a “secret waterfall” in Pemberton near where McIvor has a cabin.
“That’s where it all went down,” DeMerit said. “It’s a place close to our hearts and I felt that was the most fitting place to do it.”
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While the majority of the team will be using the break to work with the coaching staff, four players will spend time away on international duty.
Kenny Miller is with the Scottish national team in preparation for World Cup qualifying matches against Wales and Belgium. Craig Levein’s men are still on the hunt for a first win after drawing their opening pair of fixtures against Serbia and Macedonia in September.
Dane Richards has linked up with Jamaica for CONCACAF World Cup qualifying action. First, the Reggae Boyz play Guatemala on Friday, before playing Antigua & Barbuda on Tuesday. Jamaica currently sits tied at the top of Group A on seven points.
Carlyle Mitchell and Atiba Harris, meanwhile, have linked up with Trinidad & Tobago and St. Kitts & Nevis, respectively, as their nations participate in the 2012 Caribbean Cup.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for Goal.com Canada.