BURNABY, B.C. – On the surface, it's just another midseason match.
But this Saturday’s encounter between the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Colorado Rapids (7 pm ET; watch LIVE online) takes on a heightened importance given the pair’s proximity to each other in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
Vancouver sit fourth with 22 points, while the Rapids are three points back in fifth spot.
“The swing can be quite big if you get those three points, so in that sense people look at in-conference games as that kind of six points, but at the end of the day you get three points for a win,” head coach Martin Rennie told MLSsoccer.com after a training session at Burnaby Lake field on Friday. “It would put us in a good position if we get it, and it would get us that seventh win for the first time in the club’s history, so that would be a big milestone for us, too.”
To get that historic win, Rennie explained that despite last weekend's 3-1 win over Houston, he plans to make changes to his lineup to account for the differences Colorado bring to the table.
One man hoping to get a start will be defender-cum-midfielder Jordan Harvey, who came on to score his first goal as a Whitecap to seal the result agains the Dynamo.
“In the Western Conference, all of these games are so important,” Harvey said. “Every game in MLS is important. The swing can change any given two weeks, when you have a bye week, games in hand – a Western Conference battle is a good test for us, and being at home we’ll shoot for three points and hopefully it comes out.”
With Vancouver in the middle of a three-game home stand before playing five consecutive away matches, captain Jay DeMerit views this weekend’s match as a vital chance to pick up three points ahead of the midseason’s big push.
“All of these Western Conference games are important as we jockey for position as we get into the main part of this season,” DeMerit said. “Ultimately what we need to worry about is our home games. Any of the Western Conference teams or anyone who comes into our home stadium needs to know they’re coming into a tough environment and a hard place to come and beat us.
“That’s the No. 1 thing we have to do – make our home stadium a fortress and make sure teams come in expecting a hard game.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.