VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Vancouver Whitecaps FC lead the Western Conference with one match to go and clinched an Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoff berth weeks ago. That doesn't mean all is well at BC Place, though.
Vancouver have lost only four of 17 games since July 5, But with only one win in their last four outings -- and some questionable performances in all of those matches -- the 'Caps aren't exactly hitting the playoffs firing on all cylinders. Their postseason positional fate still very much lies in their own hands, but they now head to Portland next Sunday knowing that they need a win or a draw to finally secure the Western Conference regular-season crown.
Even so, the 'Caps aren't going to be heading down to Portland simply looking to secure a point.
“No matter what, the boys will be going out to Portland to win," goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic said after Sunday's 1-1 home draw to San Jose. "I personally don’t care if it’s away and I don't think that the team cares if it’s away. It’s going to be about a win. We definitely want to secure that top of the table place, and not leave it to any of the other teams to decide our fate for us. We want to do it ourselves."
The dropped points against San Jose could have even bigger implications for Vancouver. A loss next Sunday to Portland, coupled with a Seattle win at home against lowly Colorado, would see the Whitecaps fall to third. That's the lowest they can now finish in the standings, but it would kill off the Whitecaps' hopes of a first-round bye.
That makes it even more crucial for Vancouver to take something next weekend, but if manager Carl Robinson is feeling any pressure, he's certainly not showing it.
"Listen, there’s no pressure on us," Robinson said. "We’re at the top of the table and everyone’s trying to knock us down, which is fine. But we’re happy we’re there. We’d prefer to be there than fifth or sixth, and hanging on to our playoff lives.
"We’ve been in the playoffs for three games. We know we’ve got to go to Portland, difficult place to go to. They’re a good team, we know that. It should be a good game, it’s all set up nicely."
Things looked set up nicely on Sunday, when Yordy Reyna's 29th-minute goal put Vancouver seemingly on their way to their first-ever West title.
The match stayed that way until 13 minutes from time when Vako fired home an equalizer that breathed new life into San Jose's playoff hopes.
"It shows how far we’ve come that we are disappointed," Robinson said. "We’re sitting at the top of the table, and we’re disappointed because we haven’t been able to find three points at home, but we need to play better as well."