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Whitecaps take over fifth in the west with 0-0 draw against Earthquakes

10/19/2014 01:13 EDT | Updated 12/18/2014 05:59 EST
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Level on points and with a game in hand on the Portland Timbers in the chase for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the Vancouver Whitecaps earned a valuable point in a scoreless draw against the San Jose Earthquakes in front of a sellout crowd at Buck Shaw Stadium.

Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson was pleased with the point earned against the conference cellar dwellers, a result that stretches the team’s unbeaten streak to four games, especially as it puts his team one point ahead of the Timbers with one week remaining in the season.

“We are going into the last game knowing a result will get us where we want to get to, so I’m pleased,” said Robinson. “This was a trap game for us. They had nothing to lose and we had everything to lose. It’s never easy to play at San Jose.”

Both teams struggled to create opportunities on offence in a game that lacked much creativity, and Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted earned his 12th clean sheet of the season, a career-high for an MLS season, with a solid performance.

“It wasn’t pretty, but you don’t need to play pretty sometimes to get the point,” said Ousted. “We can now go home in control of our own destiny.”

The result against San Jose, coupled with Toronto FCs 1-1 draw with the Montreal Impact earlier in the day, qualified Vancouver for the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League by virtue of finishing the MLS season with the best record of the three Canadian teams. It will only be a consolation prize for the Whitecaps, however, if they fail to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs.

“It’s very important for the club to be in the Champions League,” said Robinson. “We have never done it, so it was important to do that.”

“It is awesome,” added forward Erik Hurtado. “It is a great opportunity, and when the time comes, we can talk about it. Right now we have to focus on our game next week.”

With a victory in their last remaining match of the season, at home against the Colorado Rapids on October 25, the Whitecaps will be assured a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs. Even a draw or loss could be enough, but that would require the Timbers to also drop points in their season finale at FC Dallas.

“I’ve said all along that if we control our own destiny going into our last game, I will be happy, and now we do,” said Robson. “This is a massive week for the football club.”

“Win it and we’re in it, it’s as simple as that,” added Ousted. “We are looking forward to that game.”

Scoring chances were at a premium for both sides in the opening half. The Whitecaps twice had free kick attempts at the top of the penalty area, the first by Pedro Morales in the 33rd minute and the second four minutes later, but neither troubled Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch.

The best opportunity for the home side came in the 44th minute, as a deflected cross from former Whitecaps midfielder Shea Salinas landed at the feet of Chris Wondolowski. San Jose’s leading scorer on the season with 14 goals rifled a shot through a phalanx of defenders, but Ousted made a kick save to keep the Earthquakes off the scoreboard.

The Whitecaps made a trio of substitutions midway through the second half in an effort to spark the offence, including Gerson Koffie for Matias Laba, Darren Mattocks for Hurtado, and Sebastian Fernandez for Morales. It was influential midfielder Koffie’s first appearance for Vancouver after missing 10 games due to an ankle injury.

Mattocks broke through the defence in the 75th minute and had a clear path on goal, but Busch closed the angle and made a big save on the Jamaican forward.

Ousted kept the game scoreless in the 81st minute as he punched clear a free kick by Earthquakes designated player Matias Perez Garcia. The second-year MLS goalkeeper went on to earn the shutout as neither team could break the deadlock.

The Whitecaps return home to BC Place to finish the regular season with a chance to qualify for the playoffs for only the second time as an MLS club.

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