It's been a long seven-game winless streak for the Vancouver Whitecaps, but Wednesday's match against Chivas USA at BC Place simply must be won.It’s the lowest hurdle yet.
After two months of adversity which has seen the Vancouver Whitecaps lose five games in a row before claiming two draws, Wednesday’s match against Chivas USA presents a match that leaves little room for anything but a win.
It’s not away. It’s not a derby match. It’s against the worst team in the Western Conference – a team that has nothing to play for and is winless in 10, having lost its last five on the hop.
If the Whitecaps have been poor over the past couple of months, Chivas have been diabolical.
To hear some of the excuses being presented by certain members of the ‘Caps over the last while, one new to the game might wonder if any team in soccer ever claimed points on the road, or against a rival.
Well, the best teams generally don’t win all of those games, but they do win some of them. That’s how teams win championships – or at least qualify for tournaments, such as the MLS Cup playoffs, that could potentially lead to silverware.
But, perhaps beating the bottom feeders is even more important in a league context in terms of picking up points. A draw against the Seattle Sounders is not a bad result, even if it was at home. But this Chivas game represents a chance to draw a line under a terrible spell and put the pressure on FC Dallas to win its next game – also against Chivas USA – this Sunday.
The Whitecaps still have their two-point gap over the Texas-based club, and sit on 39 points in the final playoff spot allotted the Western Conference, but it could be argued that FC Dallas has the easier of the two run-ins.
Dallas plays Chivas USA home and away, in matches where it’s difficult to imagine Schellas Hyndman’s men claiming less than six points. The club also play Seattle away in a match that is decidedly more difficult.
Vancouver, on the other hand, first plays Chivas USA, then the Portland Timbers – both at home, before finishing with an away match against Real Salt Lake.
Based on the way the ‘Caps have struggled on the road in the second half of the season, it’s hard to foresee an away win against RSL on the final day. So, if Martin Rennie’s men are the ultimate procrastinators in terms of finding moments to pick up points, these next two matches are the opportunities to finally do so.
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It’s always difficult to get into the prediction game, but on paper Vancouver will likely defeat Chivas USA, draw the Portland Timbers and lose to RSL. The Timbers are very beatable but the ‘Caps have struggled against them and the Cascadia teams in general.
If that prediction holds true, Vancouver will finish on 43 points. As mentioned above, Dallas plays Chivas twice, in games one would expect the club to claim six points. Most likely the team will lose in Seattle.
In that scenario, Dallas would finish on 43 points and advance to the MLS Cup playoffs given the first tiebreaker is goals scored.
Sports reporters often use the phrase “must-win,” and while it’s a tired term, perhaps the more appropriate statement at this stage would be, “any win will do.”
This is Chivas USA. This is home. The game simply must be won.
And if the club can overcome the likely absence of Darren Mattocks, who suffered a hamstring injury against the Sounders on Saturday, and claim all three points, perhaps that will be enough of a boost to spur the club on to its first ever win against Cascadia opposition against the Portland Timbers at BC Place on October 21. Depending on other results, that could be the match in which the club secures its first-ever playoff berth.
And what an occasion that would be.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for Goal.com Canada.