Time for a tune-up.
For Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Saturday’s match against Real Salt Lake (6 p.m. PT, SNET ONE, TEAM 1410 radio) is meaningless in terms of points, but could mean everything for the team’s confidence ahead of their November 1 Knockout Round date with LA Galaxy in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
“I think there are certainly advantages to this game,” midfielder John Thorrington told reporters following a training session at Burnaby Lake field this week. “Going to a place that’s tough to play, a team that has a lot of success at home, which is exactly what we’ll be facing in the first round in the playoffs.
“So it is sort of like a good dress rehearsal for us. In addition to that, it’s a chance for us to go into the playoffs on the right foot.”
Getting on the right foot might be a bit of an understatement for a team that’s struggled to find a foothold of any sort since a slippery midseason descent down the Western Conference table, but the game represents a chance to finally get a grip.
“History has shown that the important thing is just getting to the playoffs, and we’ve achieved that, which is fantastic,” Thorrington said. “But, we certainly are looking forward to Saturday’s game as a chance to get a good performance in and head in to LA with the confidence we can advance.”
The fact the match is on the road will also make it a useful exercise, as the ‘Caps have been without an away victory since July 4 against Colorado Rapids.
If Vancouver can grind out a result on Saturday, it could plant that seed of belief within the squad that this team is capable of going to Los Angeles and causing a major upset of the defending MLS Cup champions.
“We’ve locked up a playoff spot and you can pretty much write off this last game, but that’s not how we’re approaching it,” goalkeeper Brad Knighton said. “We’re approaching this as a huge tune up for us. We feel like [the Galaxy and RSL] play similar styles.
“If we can do the things that we want to do right defensively this weekend, it’s going to bode well for Thursday. We’re looking for a strong foundation defensively and the rest will take care of itself.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com