VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps’ postseason hopes may be long gone but their motivation heading into their regular season finale against the Portland Timbers on Sunday (4 p.m. ET; TSN1 in Canada, MLS LIVE) is massive.
It’s also two-fold, with the Whitecaps having a chance to knock their fierce local rivals out of contention for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and lift a record-breaking sixth Cascadia Cup in the process if they can win by three goals or more.
Ending a difficult season with some silverware would be “a little bit of a silver lining” for Vancouver, according to veteran defender Jordan Harvey. But the Whitecaps' driving force heading in to the match goes far beyond that, as memories of last year’s playoff exit at the hands of the Timbers still burn deep.
"It was a tough loss, one of the toughest of my career," said Harvey. "I don't really forget those things. I know you want to move on, but you definitely remember those little instances in a game that started changing.
"There is a little bit of a satisfaction [in knocking them out] and just beating a rivalry team. It's been a tough season, and this is a way to find a little redemption."
After a 0-0 draw in the first leg of last season’s Western Conference semifinal, Portland headed to Vancouver and came away with a 2-0 win. It was a loss that left ‘Caps goalkeeper David Ousted devastated, and he admitted that he would like nothing more than to end the defending MLS Cup champion's season before this year’s playoffs have even begun.
"[It still hurts] a lot," said Ousted. "Anyone that was here, that hurt a lot. Our first home playoff game, and against a rival, and they knock us out in a way that we weren't happy with. It hurt a lot, it hurt me a lot, and that's why we want to go in on Sunday and hopefully pay them back a little it."
That playoff defeat ramped up the already-tense Vancouver-Portland rivalry another level, and there’s no doubting that the Timbers are the team the Whitecaps players love to beat.
It’s a rivalry that even the new recruits in Vancouver have quickly latched on to.
"In any derby, you want to win, but to make sure they don't make the playoffs would be extra sweet," said center back David Edgar, who joined the ‘Caps in the summer. "To finish the season on a high is the main thing and get three points. And to hopefully not have them in the playoffs."
Portland need a win to guarantee a return to the postseason and a chance to defend their crown. A draw may even be enough for the Timbers depending on results elsewhere.
All Vancouver cares about is getting the win, and while ‘Caps coach Carl Robinson has said his players won’t be heading into the match with a “gung-ho” approach, he wants nothing more than to dump his good friend Caleb Porter out of the playoff mix and will have his team fired up and ready to go for the occasion.
"Putting aside the importance of the game for Portland, because they need to get a result, it's a derby game," said Robinson. "Anyone who doesn't realize the importance of a derby game, any derby game, at any time, shouldn't be playing. I'll make the players aware of it. It's against our rivals… Anything goes in derbies."