SPORTS

Whitecaps have eye on playoffs as they get set to face FC Dallas

09/12/2014 07:00 EDT | Updated 11/12/2014 05:59 EST
VANCOUVER - By ending a scoring drought and managing to win their first game in a month the Vancouver Whitecaps hope they have planted a seed that will bloom into a Major League Soccer playoff berth.

The Whitecaps head into their game Saturday against FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium believing they have cleared a hurdle in their race to reach the playoffs for the second time in three years.

"I continue to stick to my belief in the way the game should be played and they (the players) continue to stick to their belief within the system," said Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson.

Vancouver's 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquake Wednesday leapfrogged the Whitecaps past the Portland Timbers into the fifth and final playoff spot in the MLS Western Conference. The Caps have an 8-6-13 record for 37 points — two more than Portland.

Dallas sits fourth in the West with 42 points (12-9-6).

After riding a 10-game unbeaten streak Dallas has lost its last two matches, both on the road. They were beaten 2-1 Sunday by Real Salt Lake.

"It's been tough the last two weeks, road trips getting no points, but that's the league," head coach Oscar Pareja told the Dallas FC website. "The league is tough like that and I'm proud of this team.

"They've done an excellent job so far and they control their own destiny. The boys have done so many good things this year and maybe these last two results can't bring us down. We need to keep pushing. We know where we are, we know where we want to be at and we will be fine."

The Whitecaps are feeling good about ending a 450-minute scoring drought that saw the team go four games without a goal. Prior to the San Jose game Vancouver had just two wins in 11 matches.

Robinson said the victory makes the flight to Dallas a little more relaxing.

"It was very important for us," he said. "It gives us a little bit of confidence. It gives us a good standing going into a very difficult place.

"We are chasing them, so it can drag us a little closer to them if we can get a win there."

Goalkeeper David Ousted, who leads MLS with nine shutouts, said the victory was important but the team has to focus on the future.

"It was nice to get the goals, and you saw how happy the guys were and the fans, but it's back to work now," said Ousted, who has played every MLS game for Vancouver this season.

"We need to go to Dallas and still have a strong performance, get goals and points."

The Dallas match will be Vancouver's third game in eight days. The Whitecaps tied D.C. United 0-0 at home last Saturday.

Veteran defender Any O'Brien said winning helps fight fatigue.

"When you're winning games you want games to come thick and fast," he said. "When things aren't going so well you're anticipating the next game.

"It's nice to go into the next game with a good result at home. You know we've been waiting for solid goals to come."

The tight race in the West means the Whitecaps can't afford any slips. Only seven points separate seventh place Colorado from Vancouver. All three teams have seven games remaining.

Portland plays in Colorado Saturday.

Dallas hasn't been a friendly place for the Whitecaps. Since entering MLS in 2011 Vancouver is 0-0-4 in Dallas and has been outscored 8-1. The Whitecaps, who are 2-3-8 on the road this year, settled for a 2-2 draw with Dallas in Vancouver on July 27.

Heading down the stretch the Whitecaps play in Portland Sept. 20 and end their season at home Oct. 25 against Colorado. Vancouver also has another game against Dallas and play league-leading Seattle on the road.

The fifth-place finisher in each conference plays the fourth-place team in a winner-take-all match. The winner of that game then faces the conference's top seed in the semifinals.

Robinson doesn't want to predict how many wins his team will need to clinch a playoff berth.

"I just want to be above that red line," said the first-year coach. "That's all we have to aim for.

"If I knew a points total I would be able to tell you. It could be high, it could be low. It could be two wins, it could be five wins, it could be seven wins. Every week it seems to change, every result it seems to change."

The Whitecaps need to focus on what they can control, Robinson said.

"All I've said all along is take care of your business. That's all we can control.

"We can't control what Colorado, what San Jose, what Portland does unless we are playing them. We have control of ourselves. Saturday is another one that is in our hands."

MORE:cpSports