Whitecaps face final test before playoffs
The last time Camilo (right) and the Whitecaps faced Tony Beltran (left) and Real Salt Lake FC, Vancouver won 2-1 at BC Place. The teams have split their two meetings this season. (Reuters)
Had they not already secured a playoff spot — in fine backdoor fashion — the need to beat Real Salt Lake this weekend would have been much higher for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Fortunately for them, that’s not the case.
The ‘Caps will close out the regular season Saturday in anticipation of their post-season debut next Thursday against the Los Angeles Galaxy. But first, they must focus on the task at hand, up against the third-place team in the Western Conference.
Having not won a road game since July 4 against Colorado, and amassing a 3-10-3 record away from home this season, the visit to Salt Lake City serves as a pre-playoff test for Vancouver.
“We just have to carry on as business as usual,” captain Jay DeMerit said. “Right now all of us know there’s still lots of things to work on and that comes with training. There’s no better way to prepare for the playoffs than a game against a good team in Real Salt Lake.”
Vancouver understands they must quickly recover from their uninspired 1-0 loss to the Portland Timbers at home this past Sunday, which left more questions than answers.
“We let people down with that performance and that result especially,” coach Martin Rennie said. “It’s frustrating because the great achievement of getting into the playoffs is tainted a little bit by a disappointing result in that game so we need to get back on track against Salt Lake in the next game. That’s what sports and soccer and life is all about: not what you just did, whether it was good or bad, but it’s about what you do next. That’s what we’re focused on.”
The first-year coach said he plans to use their Saturday match in Utah as a precursor to picking his lineup for the one-game playoff knockout next week.
“How we do and how we play against Salt Lake will obviously be a factor as to who plays against L.A.,” he said.
Alain Rochat was subbed out in the 61st minute against Portland, soon after he was dealt a hard tackle. The defender called the quad injury a “dead leg.” However, the French-Canadian is healthy enough and available for selection this weekend.
“I feel better,” he said Wednesday. “I still have a little pain but it doesn’t bother me for practising.”