It wasn’t the prettiest of matches, but the Vancouver Whitecaps aren't complaining. They grinded out a scoreless draw with Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night to wrap up the regular season with their first point on the road since July 7.
While the attack managed just four shots all night, the defensive deserved kudos. They earned the team's first clean sheet on the road since the same date, perhaps setting a template for how to cause a major away upset against the LA Galaxy in Thursday’s one-off Knockout match in the MLS playoffs.
“As far as preparation goes for the playoffs, you got to come in on a bit of a run,” captain Jay DeMerit told Vancouver radio station TEAM 1410 following the match. “You need to have good results going into those games and I think tonight was a good result for us.”
While the ‘Caps shouldn’t be described as being “on a bit of a run” -- only one win in the final 10 matches of the season -- the group has defended well over the past few matches with three clean sheets in the last four.
“From what I’ve seen so far in MLS, that’s probably the blueprint for playing on the road and tonight we didn’t manage to nick the goal we would have liked, but we did stay very solid,” head coach Martin Rennie told TEAM 1410. “That’s very important to take with us as we go into Thursday and the playoffs.”
The Scotsman made three changes to his starting lineup, dropping the Designated Player pair of Barry Robson and Kenny Miller, in addition to Camilo. In their place, Darren Mattocks and Dane Richards played up front, with John Thorrington slotting into midfield.
“We showed a starting lineup that worked well and then we had players that were able to come on and change the game,” Rennie said. “At the end I think we looked more dangerous, and I think Barry and Kenny played an important part in that.
“So, we’ve got a couple of decisions to make going into the game in LA.”
On a practical level, the point bumped Vancouver ahead of the Montreal Impact to ensure the ‘Caps will be Canada’s top seed in next season’s Canadian Championship.
“One of the big disappointments of last week, losing to Portland [Timbers], was I felt it might slip away from us, of getting that first seed for next season,” Rennie said. “But we kept going and tonight we managed to get the point we needed to get us there.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.