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Playoff Push: Vancouver Whitecaps face another key home game against FC Dallas

10/03/2014 01:21 EDT | Updated 12/03/2014 05:59 EST
VANCOUVER - The message to the Vancouver Whitecaps has been clear — don't take the foot off the gas.

The Major League Soccer club moved into the fifth and final Western Conference playoff spot with a 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake last weekend, one point up on the Portland Timbers.

Vancouver and Portland each have four games remaining, with the Whitecaps (9-8-13) facing a critical home test against FC Dallas (14-10-6) on Saturday.

"Don't stop now. We've got a lot of work to do," said Vancouver midfielder Russell Teibert. "We have to focus on this week and we can't drop our levels. We've set the standard."

The Whitecaps have been counted out on more than one occasion this season, especially during a slump that saw them fail to score a goal in the equivalent of five straight games. But they're now in control of their own destiny.

"People can doubt all they want, but the belief in this locker-room is never going to break," said Teibert. "I don't think anything can really shake us. We've been through a lot this season and we've overcome a lot. We still have a lot to play for. Everything to play for, for that matter."

Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson has hammered home to the players that last week's come-from-behind home victory will all be for naught if they don't match that energy and performance at B.C. Place Stadium against Dallas.

"There's still a lot of football to be played for. The hard work is still ahead of us," said Robinson. "We're in front at the moment, but that's irrelevant if we don't take care of our own business. We've got to come in with the same mentality, the same work ethic and let our football do the talking."

The Welshman is also well aware that his team will probably face even more adversity as the schedule ticks down, and Saturday takes on even more meaning with Portland travelling to San Jose to take on the lowly Earthquakes.

"There will be more twists and turns, mark your cards about that without a doubt," he said. "Every week it will probably change. We're ahead at the moment but it counts for nothing.

"If we don't take care of business we've only got ourselves to blame."

The key cog for Vancouver all season has been midfielder Pedro Morales, who scored twice last weekend and has 10 goals on the year. The instrumental Chilean joined the Whitecaps from Spanish club Malaga at the start of the MLS campaign, but he insists his energy levels are good despite a sluggish first half against Real Salt Lake in which he missed a penalty.

"I know I've had a long season but I feel good. My legs are good," said Morales. "The team doctors have conversations every week for my situation but every game is different.

"It's a massive game for us against Dallas."

Morales's teammates know that as he goes, more often than not, so go the Whitecaps.

"He's very important for us. He's a very clever player," said fellow midfielder Mauro Rosales. "We need him to be focused. We know it's been a long year for everybody. Now we have an opportunity to be successful.

"We know what he can give to us and he showed last game how important he is."

Vancouver is 0-1-1 against Dallas this season, including a 2-2 tie at home on July 27 and a 2-1 loss in Texas last month.

"We had a tough go in Dallas," said Teibert, a native of Niagara Falls, Ont. "I thought we played extremely well and we had a couple unfortunate bounces. We're a team with a lot of confidence and a lot of belief right now that we can go out and win games, and we're going to show that this weekend."

For that to happen, the Whitecaps will have to contain Dallas strikers Blaz Perez, who has three goals against Vancouver this season, including both in his team's victory on Sept. 13.

"He's a terrific player. He caused problems for us in the two games we've played," said Robinson. "He won them the game a few weeks ago. We've got to make sure he doesn't win the game this week."

Dallas is 4-3-0 over its last seven and sits fourth in the West, eight points up on Vancouver, while the Whitecaps enter Saturday 2-2-1 over their last five.

"They are playing very well. They've taken down many good teams in the league," said Rosales. "We have to come out with the same mentality that we did against Salt Lake.

"We are a team. If we want to be successful everybody has to ready to step up."

Vancouver has been vulnerable to set pieces all season — Real Salt Lake scored on a corner kick last weekend — and will have to be vigilant against a Dallas side that can be lethal from dead-ball situations.

But that's not the Whitecaps' only concern.

"They've got some attacking flair and they counter very quickly so we're going to have to be careful with that," said Robinson. "When we played them here we ended up with a tie. We did everything but win the game so we've got to make sure we continue with the same mentality."

Having been a part of a roller-coaster season that saw Vancouver start strong before sagging in mid-season, Teibert said he's confident the Whitecaps still have plenty more to give.

"This team is going to work its hardest," he said. "Everybody on this team is going to put everything they have into it. That's the message we've been sending all week long."

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