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The view out West: Examining the conference's playoff picture

04 September 3:45 pm

The view out West: Examining the conference's playoff picture

By Simon Fudge

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…