To say Vancouver Whitecaps FC are underdogs against the defending MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy in Thursday’s one-off Knockout Round match (7:30 pm PT, TSN, RDS2, TEAM 1040 radio, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) would be the understatement of the 2012 postseason.
To pull off arguably the most improbable upset in Major League Soccer in perhaps three years or more would be, in a word, epic.
“It would probably be the shock heard 'round the league,” Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Brad Knighton said following the club’s final training session on Wednesday. “I think everyone’s already written us off, so why not make everyone wrong, prove everybody wrong, and prove to some people that we deserve to be here?”
The underdog label Vancouver now carry is well deserved, and for as good as the LA Galaxy have been since their difficult start to 2012, Whitecaps FC have been extremely poor to close the season.
With only three road wins in the league this season – the last one coming on July 4 against the Colorado Rapids, and just one win in the final 10 leagues matches – even the most diehard of 'Caps supporters will be sober about the magnitude of the task at hand.
Add in the scoring woes up front, where the team has remarkably been shut out in seven of those final 10 matches, and the prospects of victory don’t get much brighter.
Still, with many having already penned in the Galaxy for the next round, the players are using that as a point to rally around.
“Any advantage you can get as you prepare is something that you want to use,” defender Jay DeMerit told reporters. “Being the underdog has its advantages of course, because when the pressure is a little bit off, you have a chance to concentrate on what you really have to do and getting a solid game plan.
“That’s what the last couple of days is about and now it’s about lighting the fire under our own bellies and making sure we’re ready to play and ready to do what we’ve prepared for.”
While the ‘Caps may still be a team trying to find its identity, there’s plenty of experience of big pressure games behind a core of veterans in the squad, such as Young-Pyo Lee, Barry Robson, Kenny Miller, John Thorrington, and DeMerit, who have all played at some of the game’s top levels for both clubs and country.
“We’ve got a lot of veteran guys,” Thorrington told MLSsoccer.com. “We’ve got guys who have played in World Cups, we’ve got guys who have played in Champions League, national team games – big occasions – and that experience will really help us.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.