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Wileman: Whitecaps' season hinges on visit to Seattle

Luke Wileman
10/8/2013 6:03:32 PM
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It's all or nothing for Vancouver Whitecaps. Wednesday night could officially signal the end of the 'Caps playoff hopes if they don't beat Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field, live on TSN2 (10pm et/7pm pt).

The way in which Vancouver twice fought back to draw against Portland at BC Place with two sensational goals from Camilo created a feel-good factor around the club, but unfortunately a point against the Timbers likely wasn't enough.

Now the Whitecaps will probably have to win their remaining three matches in order to make the postseason. It's a position nobody expected them to be in when they were within touching distance of the Western Conference summit in mid-July, but a run of just two wins in their last 12 matches has seen the club tumble well outside the top five.

Right now it's a long shot. Mathematically it is still possible, but extremely unlikely. They're six points behind fifth-placed Colorado with three matches remaining for both teams, and they have to play the Rapids twice. The picture will become much clearer on Wednesday as both teams are in action. Colorado goes to San Jose, a team that is also chasing down the Rapids for the final playoff place.

The Whitecaps recent road results have been positive, tying in San Jose and winning in Montreal, but with the draw at home to Portland, Martin Rennie's men have now won just one of their last six home matches, losing three of them. Ultimately that will cost them their place in the playoffs.

They've also won just four of 21 matches against Western Conference opposition this season. That's plenty of points that they have handed to the sides they are competing with. Now they must achieve something they are yet to do in Major League Soccer, just to keep their season alive – win in Seattle. A victory against the Sounders would also move the Whitecaps into first place in the race for the Cascadia Cup, with one match remaining next weekend between Portland and Seattle.

Up until July, the Whitecaps hadn't beaten one of their Pacific Northwest rivals in MLS. They managed to put that right by winning against the Sounders at BC Place. A month earlier, they lost 3-2 to an understrength Sounders team in Seattle despite twice taking the lead. So both matches this season have shown the Whitecaps can live with their neighbours from down the I5.

Seattle are clearly one of the best teams in the league – especially at home. They will go into Wednesday night's contest anxious to put things right after a shock 5-1 thumping at Colorado on Saturday, a result that was the Sounders' heaviest MLS defeat.

Seattle's squad may be weakened by injuries, suspensions and international call-ups, but they will still go into the match as heavy favourites against a Whitecaps side that will also be missing the likes of Kenny Miller and Darren Mattocks.

The Sounders have been pretty much invincible at home. They are currently on the second-longest unbeaten home run in MLS history, not having lost since the opening day of the season when Montreal won 1-0 at CenturyLink.

A win for Seattle would clinch them a playoff spot for the fifth successive season since they joined the league in 2009. It would also take them into first place in the chase for the Supporter's Shield as the team with the most points over the course of the regular season.

If the Whitecaps could pull off a win in Seattle it would be one of their best results since joining Major League Soccer. That's how big the task is ahead of them. No one expects it, but a 3-0 victory in Montreal three weeks ago also seemed totally unrealistic. Rennie's side needs the win. They have to go for it. It should be an intriguing match between two long-standing rivals.

Camilo or Hassli?

There's a debate going on about the Whitecaps' best goal in Major League Soccer. Is it Camilo's super scissors kick from Sunday, or Eric Hassli's wonder-strike in Seattle back in June 2011? Ironically, both goals tied the game for Vancouver at 2-2 and both were scored against Cascadia opposition.

I absolutely loved Camilo's goal against Portland. It should be MLS Goal of the Year, but in my mind Hassli's is superior. Camilo's may have had a bigger impact because of the time of the season and the importance of the match, plus the way it capped off an incredible three minutes of play. But Hassli's goal was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It was a moment of individual brilliance which was executed to perfection, and quite rightly nominated for the FIFA goal of the year. Hassli should also have won MLS Goal of the Year, but that honour went to Darlington Nagbe from Portland Timbers, leaving most of North America – except those in Portland – questioning the way the league handles the voting for that award.

Like Hassli's effort, Camilo's goal was also taken superbly, and capped off a great move for the Whitecaps, but I think it comes second to the Frenchman. If you widen the selection to include other competitions, there is also the fantastic volley Hassli scored against Toronto FC in last year's Canadian Championship when talking about the best goals of Vancouver's MLS era.

Whatever your view on which goal was best, the fact is Whitecaps supporters have been treated to some spectacular strikes in the last few years. With the club set to miss out on postseason play in Major League Soccer, Camilo's two-goal performance on Sunday will likely be the highlight of the season.

Vancouver Whitecaps against Seattle Sounders is live on TSN2 on Wednesday at 10pm et/7pm pt.

Luke Wileman

Luke Wileman


Luke Wileman is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca.

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