Preview: Whitecaps FC host second-place Real Salt Lake in important Western Conference encounter

Race to the MLS playoffs continues Saturday at BC Place

VANCOUVER, BC – After a three-match road trip, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (11W-10L-8D) are set to host Real Salt Lake (14W-10L-6D) Saturday afternoon in an important Western Conference clash at BC Place.

Kickoff for Saturday's match between Whitecaps FC and Real Salt Lake is set for 4 p.m. PT. There are limited tickets still available at whitecapsfc.com/tickets. The match will be shown live on TSN 2 and Bell mobile devices. 'Caps fans can also tune into TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 2 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match. Saturday's Match Night Sponsor is Bell.

Canadian Cancer Society launch My One Thing campaign. When purchasing their 50/50 ticket this Saturday, fans have the opportunity to write on a post-it note one simple change that can make a difference in reducing their cancer risk. Fans are encouraged to pledge their “one thing” and visit the Canadian Cancer Society booth at ‘Caps Kickoff or at Section 212 on the concourse at BC Place.

Saturday’s contest will be the third and final meeting between the two clubs this season, and the second time they have met in Vancouver.

With 41 points, the ‘Caps are currently in sixth place in the wild Western Conference playoff chase. They are just four points outside of the fifth and final playoff spot, held by Colorado Rapids. 

Real Salt Lake are still very much in the race for the Supporters’ Shield, awarded to the league’s regular season champion, as well as the Western Conference’s top seed. The Royals currently sit in second place with 48 points, just a single point behind Seattle Sounders FC.

Last match: Montreal Impact 0-3 Vancouver Whitecaps FC

WHITECAPS FC

The ‘Caps are coming off a three-match road trip, in which they compiled a respectable 1W-1L-1D record. Vancouver’s most recent outing was a 3-0 thumping of Montreal Impact to stretch their current shutout streak to two games.

Kenny Miller opened the scoring for Whitecaps FC, when he potted an early penalty after a handball was called on Impact defender Hassoun Camara. The ‘Caps then fought off a feisty Impact charge for most of the match, until second-half substitute Camilo gave them some insurance with a spectacular brace in the final moments of the match.

For the second straight week, captain Jay DeMerit stood tall for the ‘Caps defence alongside fellow centre back Carlyle Mitchell. Whitecaps FC have not conceded a single tally with DeMerit on the pitch this season. Goalkeeper David Ousted also made six key saves en route to the victory.

The inspiring effort kept Vancouver afloat in the crowded Western Conference playoff race. A win this weekend would close the gap to just four points between them and second-place Real Salt Lake.

Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie will hope to build off the impressive victory this weekend against a Real Salt Lake side that is winless in their last five road matches with a 0W-3L-2D record.

The ‘Caps will once again be without centre back Brad Rusin (right ankle sprain), who reinjured himself in his return September 14 against San Jose Earthquakes, and winger Omar Salgado (right foot fracture)  though Salgado has begun some light training with the main group.

Meanwhile, Rennie said on Thursday there was no update on the status of Miller, who left last weekend's match against Montreal with some tightness in his right dductor. 

Last match: Real Salt Lake 1-2 San Jose Earthquakes

REAL SALT LAKE

At second place in the Western Conference and third place overall, Real Salt Lake are currently enjoying one of their most successful seasons in franchise history. Inconsistency has plagued them recently, however, as they have collected a 3W-5L-2D record in their last 10 matches.

With 14 wins on the season and four matches remaining, the Utah outfit still have time to either match or beat their highest win total. Their previous club best was last year’s 17W-11L-6D finish, which ended in a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat at the hands of Seattle Sounders FC in the conference semifinals.

Real Salt Lake will be limping into this weekend’s pivotal match after having lost back-to-back matches. Their most recent outing was a 2-1 home defeat to San Jose Earthquakes on September 21.

All three goals came within a span of three minutes in the first half. Real Salt Lake had no answer for striker Steven Lenhart, who scored both goals for the Quakes, as they snatched away the much-needed victory.

Head coach Jason Kreis’ side will be looking to bounce back Saturday against Whitecaps FC, over whom they hold a slight edge with a 3W-2L-2D overall record. Vancouver’s stingy defence will be put to the test again against a Real Salt Lake side that has scored more goals than any other team this season – both overall and on the road.

Striker Alvaro Saborio has scored a team-high 10 goals this season, which is good for a tie for seventh place in the MLS Golden Boot race. He may not be in the lineup this weekend, however, as he has been battling a nagging calf strain.

Injuries to Rich Balchan (left shoulder surgery), Josh Saunders (left knee ACL), John Stertzer (right shoulder surgery), Kwame Watson-Siriboe (right knee ACL), and Chris Schuler (left foot pain) will also keep them out of Saturday’s contest.

April 13, 2013: Whitecaps FC 1 - 1 Real Salt Lake

HEAD-TO-HEAD

This Saturday’s matchup will be the eighth all-time meeting between Whitecaps FC and Real Salt Lake in MLS regular season competition. The ‘Caps have had mixed results against the Royals, posting a 2W-3L-2D record overall. They are undefeated at home against Real Salt Lake since they joined MLS, however, holding a 2W-0L-1D record.

In their previous meeting, Whitecaps FC suffered a 2-0 defeat to Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on May 4. Two second-half goals by Luis Gil and Javier Morales propelled the Royals to the shutout victory.

Back in April, Camilo’s 84th minute penalty-kick goals helped Vancouver earn a share of the points as the two sides played to a 1-1 draw at BC Place.

Among the player connections, DeMerit and fellow centre back Andy O’Brien played against Saborio and Robbie Findley in the English Football League Championship in 2010. Saborio played for Bristol City FC and Findley played for Nottingham Forrest, while DeMerit was with Watford FC and O’Brien played for Leeds United.

Real Salt Lake midfielder Khari Stephenson was also teammates with Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Joe Cannon with San Jose Earthquakes in 2010.

NEXT UP

Whitecaps FC will remain at home to host Cascadia rival Portland Timbers next Sunday, October 6 at BC Place. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. PT.