VANCOUVER, BC – For what feels like umpteenth time, Vancouver Whitecaps FC are about to face their biggest game of the season.
This time the opponent is Chivas USA, the worst team in the Western Conference, as the ‘Caps try to claim a first win in eight as they cling on to the fifth and final spot in the conference on Wednesday (7 p.m. PT, Sportsnet Pacific, TEAM 1040 radio).
Vancouver sit on 39 points, two ahead of chasing FC Dallas, and while the team claims confidence is high after a hard-fought scoreless draw with Seattle Sounders FC last Saturday, getting a win – finally – would surely calm the nerves of both players and supporters.
“It’s massively important,” centre back Andy O’Brien said after a training session at BC Place on Tuesday. “I said before the Seattle game that it would be like a cup final, and this is another one. Looking at it we need to win two out of the next three games to guarantee our position, so the sooner we get that the better.”
On paper, Chivas USA look like just the team for a struggling team to rebound against – the Goats are winless in their last 10, and have lost six consecutive matches.
And while the Whitecaps have struggled to score this season – especially over this winless streak, where they have only scored three goals in seven matches – a porous Chivas USA defense which has conceded 17 over their last seven matches could be just the scenario to give the misfiring ‘Caps a chance to find their scoring boots.
Following Saturday’s match, head coach Martin Rennie suggested service from the flanks is an area that could be improved – and that’s been a theme ahead of this match as well.
“We’ve got excellent delivery in Jordan Harvey and Y.P. Lee,” said midfielder Barry Robson on Tuesday. “They’ve got great quality, but maybe that second earlier they need to get balls in, but then us guys in the middle need to make sure we flood into the box and try and get on the end of them.”
A big question mark going into this match is the fitness of rookie striker Darren Mattocks. The Jamaican ruled himself out of Wednesday’s game following Saturday’s match, but Rennie suggested there is a chance he could still be fit, with the coach describing the player’s progress as “quite good” following Tuesday’s session.
John Thorrington, however, looks set to miss out after similarly leaving Saturday’s match with a hamstring injury.
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com