Vancouver, BC (SportsNetwork.com) - There will be plenty at stake when the
Portland Timbers head to BC Place to face Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday.
Not only will the Cascadia Cup rivals have a derby atmosphere to look forward
to, but there will also be playoff implications on the line as both clubs look
to make strides toward the postseason.
Portland enters the contest in third place in the Western Conference with 49
points, eight points better than the seventh-place Whitecaps.
The Timbers did extremely well to give themselves some breathing room in the
table as Maximillano Urruti's lone goal gave the club a 1-0 win over the Los
Angeles Galaxy, bringing Portland four points clear of Bruce Arena's side.
"It's a big step," Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said after the match.
"Obviously, every step is important, but this was a big one. It puts us four
points clear of L.A. and Colorado. Our goal is to not just limp into the
playoffs, but to get in a good position, hopefully in the top-three, and to
avoid the play-in game. From that standpoint, it was a big step.
"It also was a big step for this club, just moving forward to continue to show
that we can beat anybody. That team, they were full strength with their top
guys in there. They clearly came to play. They knew what was at stake. They
knew the importance of this game. That was reflected in their performance,
L.A. played well."
The Timbers are aware of the importance of each remaining contest, and the
derby atmosphere BC Place will bring will reinforce the do-or-die mentality
that they have adopted.
"It's definitely tight and we know it's tight, so every game you've got to
play like it's the championship game, so we fight to win games and get good
results," said Timbers striker Darlington Nagbe.
Unlike Portland, Vancouver has little room for error.
A poor run of form that has seen Vancouver go 1-4-2 over its last seven league
games to drop the club to the outside of the playoff picture, meaning that the
'Caps do not hold their fate in their own hands. Vancouver most recently
dropped a disappointing home match in a 1-0 loss to a largely second-choice
Real Salt Lake squad.
"For the third game in a row, we started the game badly, which is really
frustrating, and it's something we've worked on," said Whitecaps head coach
Martin Rennie. "We made sure we were focused and ready to go. We put ourselves
in a bad spot to start with, and I just thought our quality was really poor.
It was a disappointing performance, especially given how well we've played in
our last two games.
"We've all got to look at it and see how we can do better. We've now put
ourselves in a difficult spot as we go forward. But we've still got plenty of
time to get the wins that we need. We need to turn it around starting next
week against Portland."
Including Sunday's meeting with Portland, Vancouver's four remaining matches
come against Western Conference teams occupying postseason positions.
"We know how important this game is to us, we don't need to put extra onus on
our rivalry," Jay DeMerit said after the loss to RSL. "Whether it's Portland
or someone else, even in the Eastern division, these games are all must wins,
and we've got to make sure that we reflect that in our performance. We just
didn't do that tonight."
The 'Caps will head to CenturyLink Field to face Seattle Sounders FC on Oct. 9
before closing the season with a home-and-away series with the Colorado Rapids
on Oct. 19 and 27.
The Sports Network