With a week in the Caribbean near the end of a gruelling USL-1 season, the Vancouver Whitecaps could be excused for mixing a little pleasure with business.
But forward Nicholas Addlery said Saturday from Puerto Rico that, right now, the team's business is its pleasure.
The Whitecaps (13-6-6) face the Islanders (13-6-6) today and again on Friday in a pair of first-place clashes that will go a long way to determining who gets the quarterfinal playoff bye.
"We're in the middle of a big road trip, we're coming to the best part of the season, and we can't afford to slip up," Addlery said. "Yeah, we're going to relax a bit, maybe go to the beach, but we're not going to let up -- we've got to stay focussed. We need the six points."
Actually, four points should be enough to secure the summit. Vancouver has a slightly more favourable schedule in its final three games, hosting Minnesota and Montreal and traveling to Seattle. Puerto Rico plays at Rochester and Montreal before hosting Atlanta.
A win and a draw is a realistic goal, especially considering how busy Puerto Rico has been, and will be.
The Islanders, who drew 0-0 at Swangard on Aug. 17, are also competing in the CONCACAF Champions League and today is their third game in five days. They play their second leg against Costa Rican side L.D. Alajuelense on Wednesday before the rematch with Vancouver.
"We might be getting them at the right time," said midfielder and captain Martin Nash. "Hopefully by the second game, they'll be dog-tired and we'll be raring to go.
"It would be nice to get four points -- I think we can. But if we come away even, we have three games left after this, and I think the better schedule."
It was a taxing trip down to Puerto Rico -- eight hours in a plane and a three-hour layover in Houston -- which is why the Whitecaps, minus injured defender Wesley Charles, left early Thursday morning.
The early arrival also gave the squad time to adjust to the weather. Saturday they practised in near-100-degree heat. On their eastern swing a month ago that included stops in sweltering Florida and Atlanta, the Whitecaps went 2-2-0.
"I don't think anybody's at home in this heat," said the Jamaican-born Addlery, who has played professionally in Trinidad and Tobago and Vietnam. "It's not easy to come down here and play in this humidity and this heat, especially coming from Vancouver."
It is good beach weather, but that's beside the point.
© The Vancouver Province 2008