Vancouver and the Reds have rather different ambitions for 2012 but the week ahead could be crucial for both in achieving their goals for the season. Al Dannity says the next six days could shape the year for both Canadian clubs in Major League Soccer (MLS).
Caps Have Eyes on Third
Vancouver looks certain to be playing playoff Soccer in just the club’s second season in MLS. That’s a remarkable achievement for Martin Rennie and his staff. Building from a simple platform on organised defensive play mixed with speed and graft in attack, the Caps sit fourth in the Western Conference. With the top five making the post-season, Vancouver should be able to withstand any challenge from sixth place Dallas as the Caps currently enjoy an 11 point cushion. Fourth however is a tricky spot in the playoff standings. The LA Galaxy, reigning MLS Cup champions, are just a point behind. As it stands the Caps would host the Galaxy in a one-off playoff game come the end of the season. The real goal is third, where a home-and-home series is guaranteed against the winner of the fourth vs. fifth game.
Vancouver’s two games this week could go a long way towards determining their final ranking. On Wednesday they host Dallas, a team unquestionably desperate for points in the push for the post-season. That clash in B.C. Place is followed by an even bigger game on Saturday. The Caps will travel to one of the most hostile environments in MLS to take on the third place Seattle Sounders. At present the Sounders are level with the Caps on 37 points but they have played a game less and hold a far superior goal difference. Winning in Seattle would give Vancouver the edge in the race to the finish line but the real aim is to avoid defeat. If the Caps can come out of this week with four points from six, it will be a job well done and the pressure will be on the Sounders.
Toronto FC’s fleeting playoff dreams have ended and now they face a grim reality. Stuck at the bottom of the Eastern Conference on 19 points, the Reds are in the driver’s seat to finish dead last in MLS. Considering the improvements shown since Paul Mariner took over, infusing the grit and guile Rennie has promoted in Vancouver, a last place finish would be deflating.
A home win on Wednesday over Portland would move Toronto above the Timbers in the overall standings. If they succeed there, the Reds can focus on their primary aim of moving off the bottom of the East. On Saturday Sporting KC, who currently lead the Eastern Conference, visit BMO Field. A win is unlikely but once again avoiding defeat may be enough to give Toronto momentum. Two good results this week would allow the Reds to pile the pressure on the Philadelphia Union.
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