VANCOUVER, BC -- Vancouver Whitecaps FC center back Andy O'Brien has watched from the bench now for two games after recovering from a hamstring injury that kept him out two months.
With just 10 games remaining in the season, head coach Martin Rennie is itching to get his star defender some playing time, and Saturday's home match against the LA Galaxy (6pm PT - watch live on TSN2 or listen live on TEAM 1410) could be the perfect moment.
“It's the manager's decision,” O'Brien said of whether he'd be in the lineup for this weekend's game. “I've trained for a couple of weeks now and if selected I'll look forward to playing.”
The towering former Irish international has had some strong performances against the Galaxy, so if Rennie does give him the nod, it could bode well for Vancouver. O'Brien, 34, was arguably the team's best player in last year's playoff defeat to the Galaxy, and this season he was key in a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles outfit at BC Place in May.
Still, given the timing of this match, O'Brien realizes if he is called upon, it's a pressure cooker to which he will return. Whitecaps FC sit in the Western Conference's fifth and final playoff spot with 36 points, tied on points with the sixth place FC Dallas and just one point back of the fourth place Galaxy.
- Get more Vancouver Whitecaps news at WhitecapsFC.com
Essentially every team but ninth-place Chivas USA are in the West playoff hunt, with the eighth-place San Jose Earthquakes just three back of Vancouver.
“The points situation deems it that you can fall behind if you don't get the right results,” O'Brien said. “When you talk about results, wins are better than draws. It will make it an interesting end for the neutral. But we know that we need to get results more favorable now – from now until the end of the season.”
One player who won't be in consideration this weekend is captain Jay DeMerit. There had been talk earlier in the week that the Green Bay native would return from his Achilles tendon rupture to the squad for this match against the Galaxy, but on Friday Rennie ruled that out.
The 33-year-old center back will be busy, however – he marries Canadian Olympic gold-medallist skier Ashleigh McIvor in Whistler on Sunday.
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.