Plenty at stake in Whitecaps visit to Lone Star State
Vancouver Whitecaps FC start the final stretch of their MLS season Saturday on the road against FC Dallas following a two-week break.
With just six matches remaining in the regular season, this game could ultimately make or break the 'Caps playoff destiny. Will it be easy or difficult? It also leads to interesting player decisions head coach Martin Rennie needs to make.
First off, a win against Dallas and the 'Caps would effectively lock down a playoff position, albeit not mathematically. Vancouver would also be seven points up on the Texans and having a match in hand, would almost be guaranteed a spot in the post-season.
A loss, however, would make things rather interesting down the stretch.
While the 'Caps would still ultimately control their own destiny, they would be under pressure to get out of a slide that would be extended to five matches - something the club has never experienced - and with a red hot FC Dallas side on their heels.
The second part of the equation is what Rennie will do with the lineup. He has closed training to the media and public this week in an attempt to add some secrecy to his plan against Dallas, leading many to speculate as to what his decisions will be.
Up front he will have a tough decisions to make with Kenny Miller. Struggling since his MLS debut in late July, Miller is returning from almost 10,000 kilometres in travel while on international duty for Scotland's two World Cup qualifiers.
Similar distances have been covered by Jamaicans Dane Richards and Darren Mattocks.
The pair have been on a whirlwind trek of going to Kingston, Jamaica, to play the USA, where the hosts beat the Americans 2-1, before travelling to Columbus, OH, for the second match against the Americans last night. They then return to Vancouver before leaving for Dallas on Friday.
Travel weary Whitecaps are not the only issues Rennie faces. Which centreback pairing is best equipped to handle FC Dallas? If all are healthy, Rennie will need to decide which pair, from captain Jay DeMerit, Andy O'Brien or Martin Bonjour, can stop Dallas.
Other interesting questions about the Whitecaps include: Will resting Y.P. Lee and giving him an extra week off return the Korean to his early-season form that dominated the opposition? Is Alain Rochat rested after being an unused sub against the L.A. Galaxy, and can goalkeeper Joe Cannon regain the No. 1 spot from back-up Brad Knighton? Because who doesn't like a Vancouver goalkeeper conundrum.
Will the clash in Texas make or break the Whitecaps, and what will Rennie decide? It won't be dull, that's for sure.
Listen to Tyler Green on TEAM 1040 every Sunday at 9 p.m. He also co-hosts the Whitecaps pre- and post-game shows. On Twitter @tylergreen1040.