'Caps have work cut out for them as playoff push begins

Martin Rennie and staff

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BURNABY, B.C. – It’s not quite playoff time yet for the Vancouver Whitecaps, but it’s starting to feel that way.

Sitting in the fifth and final playoff place in the Western Conference on 37 points, with FC Dallas close behind with 32 points, each of the club’s eight remaining matches take on a heightened importance.

Adding to the pressure cooker situation is the fact all of those matches are conference affairs, starting with the LA Galaxy on Saturday, before the club takes on FC Dallas in what will surely be one of the tensest affairs of the season.

WATCH: Rennie speaks Monday after training

“What that does is make you control your own destiny,” captain Jay DeMerit told reporters this week after a training session at Burnaby Lake field. “For us, as a group, to be in this position is where want to be. There’s a lot of other teams in this league already this year that aren’t even considering [the playoff race].

“For us to be in those positions and for us to be fighting for these spots is a positive.”

With the ‘Caps struggling of late with three consecutive defeats and battling disciplinary issues with suspensions and red cards coming on a weekly basis, it’s looked a bit like a team hitting the self-destruct button.

But with upcoming matches against teams near the club in the standings, head coach Martin Rennie is looking at the opportunities provided by the situation rather than the potential risks.

“All the games are important – they always have been – especially in the [Western Conference],” Rennie said. “I think for us now you start to gear up toward that point where you want to be in a good position at the end of the season and playing at your best. We’ve got a lot of work to get to that form but we know we can do that.”

Ulisses links up with the squad

This week the club welcomed Tiago Ulisses to the training field. The 23-year-old defensive midfielder signed with the club on August 3, but didn’t arrive until this week as his paperwork was finalized.

“He’s a good young midfielder,” DeMerit said. “You can see he gets around the ball, he gets behind the ball. He’s tough in the tackle. You can see he settles things down as far as when we take possession. Again, it’s early on and he’ll fit in where he does and where he can, but it looks like he’s got a good attitude.”

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.