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04 September 2:45 pm

September has arrived. Time for many to bid farewell to summer and head back to work (or school) after holidays in the sunshine and warm weather.

The month also dawns the start of Major League Soccer’s 2012 regular season run-in and the aim of securing spots in the postseason. With only a handful of rounds remaining, a closer look at the Western Conference playoff picture reveals some interesting facts.

The last few games have been tough viewing for Whitecaps FC supporters, and while Vancouver’s recent form needs turning around, Martin Rennie’s squad know their six remaining fixtures offer opportunities to take them towards a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs. This is especially true in the timing of their next couple of games.

Many are focused on Whitecaps FC’s next match at FC Dallas, who only trail fifth-place Vancouver by four points for the last postseason berth in the MLS Western Conference. After a 1-1 home draw with Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday, The Hoops know they cannot move past Vancouver, should they earn a result against their Canadian foes.

In many ways, the Saturday, September 15, match is one that Whitecaps FC can relish for the opportunity it provides. Should the Blue and White earn a result in Texas, they would return home for four straight games on Bell Pitch at BC Place - the first of which is a major chance to add further distance between themselves and Dallas. Their clash with Colorado Rapids on Sunday, September 23, is Vancouver’s game in hand on The Hoops, as the Texas club will not be in action that weekend.

While that scenario is in Whitecaps FC’s hands, Chivas USA have three games in hand on Vancouver. If one considered those three matches as victories, it would take the Southern California outfit level with the ‘Caps on 37 points.

Problem is The Goats have not shown signs of making a late surge up the Western Conference standings. Sunday’s 4-0 defeat at San Jose Earthquakes took Chivas USA’s winless run in the league to five matches, with Robin Fraser’s side facing a season-defining month.

The Goats play five more times in September, including difficult trips to in-form sides Seattle and Columbus Crew, plus Eastern Conference playoff chasers D.C. United. They also have challenging home games versus San Jose and Real Salt Lake this month. They too need to find form and in a short space of time.

Another note to keep in mind - there are enough matches left for Whitecaps FC to reel in the frontrunners in the West. On the surface, that task may prove difficult when you consider the form of sides like Seattle (two games in hand) and LA Galaxy, but it’s important to remember that most of the remaining league games are all-conference match-ups.

Results from those games can easily alter the picture of the Western Conference standings (same scenario in the highly-congested Eastern Conference), and that means we’re all in for an intriguing and exciting end to this regular season campaign.

A message to my fellow ‘Caps faithful - We thrilled in joining MLS in 2009, we thrilled in winning our inaugural match in 2011, and the great moments that followed! Surely, the next few weeks will be even more thrilling!

Enjoy the World Cup qualifying break! Until mid-September…

15 August 10:30 pm

There were many happenings in and around BC Place on Wednesday night, and all of it contributed to a sense of optimism that it would be another enjoyable match day at BC Place.

There was a gathering of Whitecaps FC alumni in the stadium suites, which brought together former members of the Blue and White from the club’s many eras.

Before kickoff, the glow of Olympic success resonated through the crowd when three members of Canada’s bronze-medal women’s soccer team walked out with both teams for the national anthems.

Following on from Saturday’s fine win over Real Salt Lake, there was also anticipation for what newcomers Kenny Miller and Andy O’Brien could do in their first MLS starts.

In the end, it was FC Dallas that enjoyed a second win in as many seasons in Vancouver, and one that keeps their playoffs hopes alive in this final stretch of the regular season.

It was one of those matches where the ‘Caps could have been in one of two places by the end of it – such is the tight nature of the Western Conference standings.

Victory on Wednesday would have taken Vancouver to the 40-point mark and put major distance between themselves and their midweek visitors, who occupy sixth place in the west.

Instead, Dallas moved closer to the ‘Caps and the west’s top five with Wednesday’s result. They also claimed the unique distinction of being the first MLS club to defeat Whitecaps FC at both Empire Field and BC Place.

So where did all the promise of Wednesday night end up? Are we all a bit guilty for expecting too much? The simplest answer might be a more classic one. One team (FC Dallas) performed better than the other (Whitecaps FC).

Remove the likely debate that will surround the performance of match referee Matthew Foerster, Whitecaps FC were not at their best on Wednesday. And like Martin Rennie stated, it was also a match that struggled to get going.

Neither side really claimed the initiative before the break. After halftime, soccer’s fortune fell to The Hoops, who took the lead in opportunistic fashion, then sealed the win on the counter attack.

Though not endearing himself at times to Whitecaps FC fans, the return to fitness of David Ferreira is a big boost for Dallas. The qualities that earned him the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2010 always make him a player to watch…and so it was the case at BC Place…

Where many hoped that a Miller, O’Brien, John Thorrington, or Atiba Harris would write the headlines, it was a diminutive Colombian in Dallas colours that played the main role in this contest.

For Whitecaps FC, it simply wasn’t to be on this warm mid-August evening, and there will always be days and nights like this during a season. Whose to say we won’t see a turnaround as early as this weekend (Seattle, anyone?).

It’s also important to remember that BC Place disappointments have been very rare in 2012. Most times, the ‘Caps faithful have all left the club’s downtown Vancouver home satisfied.

Trying to achieve the goals of this season was never going to be easy. Remember that this is only Vancouver’s second season in MLS. The club has grown a lot, but a lot more growing still needs to take place.

Like with any other setback in 2012, Rennie’s side have been excellent at putting those experiences behind them and bouncing back. Maybe a derby clash in The Emerald City in three days’ time is not so bad after all…

Until our weekend gathering!