MLS

Whitecaps fight to keep playoff hopes alive on TSN2

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The Canadian Press
10/9/2013 9:18:51 AM
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VANCOUVER -- Coach Martin Rennie's season-long struggle to field two dangerous strikers in the same game will continue tonight as his Vancouver Whitecaps fight to keep their Major League Soccer playoff hopes alive in Seattle.

You can watch the game on TSN2 at 10pm et/7pm pt.

Rennie faces another major test to find a suitable strike mate for Camilo, the current Major League Soccer player of the week, as the Whitecaps (11-11-9) seek a win against a Sounders squad (15-9-6) that has lost only one game at home and routinely attracts crowds of over 45,000.

The Whitecaps sit six points out of the fifth and final post-season berth in the Western Conference with only three games left and a possible nine points up for grabs.

As usual, injuries and international call-ups are making Rennie's second striker choice difficult.

Darren Mattocks would have been the ideal selection to complement Camilo after they excelled together in a 2-2 draw Sunday with the Portland Timbers. But Mattocks, who has been in and out of the lineup all season due to injuries, inconsistency and international duty, has left the club to join Jamaica's national team in preparation for a World Cup qualifying match Friday against the U.S.

"That's one of the things that's been frustrating a little bit this season," said Rennie. "Any time you get him kind of in and around the team, he seems to be gone again. That's something that has hurt him a little bit this season. It's hurt us as well, because on Sunday there we found out just how good a player he is."

Rennie would have liked Mattocks to build on the effort against Portland.

Kenny Miller would also be an ideal fit, because he and Camilo have combined for 27 of Vancouver's 44 goals, posting many while playing alongside each other. But Miller, who has eight goals, is questionable after missing the past two games with a groin injury.

Miller's anticipated absence poses concern because the Whitecaps have won more games with him in the lineup than when he was out due to injury or while playing for Scotland's national team, from which he has since retired.

Striker Tommy Heinemann is available but the St. Louis native, who is strong in the air but not fleet afoot, did not work overly well with Camilo in a 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake on Sept. 28.

Consequently, 18-year-old rookie Kekuta Manneh, will likely be counted on to play a significant role either in a rare start or his usual substitute function.

"It means a lot," said Manneh, a Gambia native, of his chance to play in the big game. "I feel like every rookie, that will be their dream to come to the team and be a part of the team. Hopefully I can bring something to the team and we can win."

Manneh possesses world-class speed and skill, but Rennie has limited the rookie's playing time -- usually dressing him in the 18-player lineup while infrequently putting him into games -- as he takes a cautious approach to his professional development.

"We know he's got so much talent," said Rennie. "We're just not 100 per cent sure what we're going to get (each game). But we do know if it's good, then it could be great. That's something we have to consider once we know how (Miller) is."

Manneh has two goals and two assists while logging 529 minutes over 17 games. He often lines up as a midfielder and pushes forward, creating many scoring opportunities.

He feels much more prepared for a contest of this magnitude than he was at the start of the season.

"I've come a long way," he said of his improvement.

But it remains to be seen how much he can help a struggling Vancouver side that has gone 2-6-4 in its past 12 games.

The Whitecaps will likely depend even more on Camilo, who scored both of their goals against Portland. He booted one goal on a long free kick and the other on a sideways bicycle blast.

"Camilo has done that for us all season," said captain Jay DeMerit. "That hopefully has to continue now in the final games because we need him."

Notes: Whitecaps central defender Johnny Leveron will also be away on international duty for World Cup qualifying with Honduras. a The Whitecaps will be eliminated if they lose once and Los Angeles or Colorado posts a single win in their remaining games. Vancouver closes out its season with two games against Colorado. a Clint Dempsey, the highest paid player in MLS at US$5 million this season, will dress for the Sounders after being sidelined since Sept. 13 with a hamstring injury. Fellow striker Obafemi Martins is also slated to suit up after missing their last game in Colorado with a groin injury. a Seattle's Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans will be away with the U.S. team, while Zach Scott serves a one-game suspension for a red card.

Martin Rennie (Photo: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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