VANCOUVER, B.C. – With eight games to go until the MLS Cup playoffs, the Vancouver Whitecaps can see the finish line in sight.
Sitting fifth place on 37 points, and with FC Dallas just five points back in sixth, picking up wins needs to start happening soon, though.
Saturday’s match against the Portland Timbers (10:30 pm ET; watch LIVE online) has been called a potential “turning point” by captain Jay DeMerit, who is expected to return to the lineup after suffering a concussion in the club’s last win on August 11 against Real Salt Lake.
And while Vancouver’s season has been largely successful, certainly in comparison to last year, the team has struggled of late, picking up only 12 points from its last dozen matches while those teams around them have kept on pace – the LA Galaxy have 23 points over that spell, the Seattle Sounders have 17, while FC Dallas have collected 19.
Despite the recent drop off, head coach Martin Rennie doesn’t seem overly concerned, and wasn’t eager to label a win in Portland as the turning point DeMerit suggested it could be.
“Turning point would be suggesting you’re doing very badly and then you want to do very well,” Rennie told reporters at BC Place on Thursday. “I don’t think we’re doing very badly. We’re right up there in a good position on a good number of points in a playoff position. I think it would be more a case of continuing to do well rather than turning things around.”
Despite the last two losses in particular, John Thorrington – who is expected to step in for the suspended Gershon Koffie in midfield – suggested looking at the season as a whole rather than isolating the team’s recent inconsistencies.
“We’ve set a really good foundation so far this year,” Thorrington said. “I think we’ve had some really bright spots and great performances along the way. I think we just want to, starting Saturday, just develop a consistent, winning culture here that sets us up for the playoffs, and hopefully a championship.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.