CARSON, Calif. – The Vancouver Whitecaps have won just three of their last 17 games, just one of their last 10 and haven't posted a road victory since spoiling Colorado's Fourth of July party as significant midseason roster changes played havoc with their form.
It's said the hot teams have the advantage when the MLS Cup playoffs get underway, and “hot” is not what you'd call Canada's first MLS playoff side. Does that matter when they visit the LA Galaxy for Thursday night's Knockout Round game (10:30 pm ET; NBCSN, TSN/RDS2 in Canada; LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com)?
“Absolutely not,” Galaxy associate head coach Dave Sarachan said. “The slate's wiped, as far as we're concerned, for all teams, and it's a new beginning. It sounds cliché, but it's true.”
The Whitecaps have gone 3-9-3 since they started altering their roster in mid-July, bringing in Dane Richards and Kenny Miller while jettisoning Eric Hassli, Davide Chiumiento and Sébastien Le Toux. And they've failed to find the net in four of their final six regular-season games.
“That makes them all the more dangerous ...,” midfielder Mike Magee said. “If we look at it that way, then our season is going to be over in a couple of days.”
The Galaxy expect Vancouver to bunker in at the back and counter, utilizing the speed of Richards and rookie Darren Mattocks to stretch the field and get behind the backline. The status of Designated Players Barry Robson and Miller, who came off the bench in the Whitecaps' 0-0 draw this past Saturday at Real Salt Lake, isn't much of an issue, they say.
“I think they've made a real effort to be a collective group when they don't have the ball,” Sarachan said. “They're making it difficult to penetrate and find space. And they obviously have a component that's dangerous, in speed, if Mattocks is on the field and if Dane Richards is on the field.”
The Whitecaps have never beaten the Galaxy, haven't scored in three games against LA at the Home Depot Center, and saw a tremendous effort in the July 18 meeting in Vancouver go wrong, with David Beckham and Jose Villarreal tallying in the final 10 minutes for a 2-2 draw.
Those games won't be in LA's thoughts, however.
“We have to realize our season could be over in two days,” left back Todd Dunivant said. “I think that hits home.
"I think we can learn a lesson from earlier in the year, [in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals in March] against Toronto, when we got a good result, 2-2, at their place, came home feeling pretty good about ourselves, thinking we just needed a win at home, no problem, and then we lose. Dallas two years ago, same thing. Western Conference final [at HDC] and we lose, 3-0.
“It can happen at any time, and we have to be aware of that.”