Vancouver, New York ready for key matchup
The Vancouver Whitecaps hope they can become the next Canadian team to make history with help from the New York Red Bulls.
The Whitecaps (15-10-6) aim to clinch the top spot in Major League Soccer's Western Conference for the first time on Saturday as they visit the Red Bulls (12-12-7), who are fighting for a playoff berth.
Last weekend, the Red Bulls lost to Toronto as that squad won the Supporters' Shield for placing first overall in the regular season.
"Now it's the fun part," said Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson in Vancouver before the team headed east. "We've got one foot in the door.
"We want to finish as high as we can with as many points as we can."
By placing first in the West, the Whitecaps can secure a first-round bye in the first round of the playoffs. The Whitecaps, who have three games left in the regular season, need only a draw to achieve their goal.
Holding the third-best road record in MLS (6-7-2), Robinson's crew is looking to build on past success at Red Bull Arena. The Whitecaps are 2-0-1 all-time in MLS play on the Red Bulls' pitch and 3-1-3 in league play overall against New York. The Whitecaps also earned a draw at Red Bull Arena in CONCACAF quarterfinal play in February.
"This team has confidence," said Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted. "We've played a lot of good away games and believe we can get three points there."
Ousted is due to return to action after being rested in a 1-0 road victory over Kansas City last weekend. But the Whitecaps will be missing several key players due to international duty.
Midfielder Yordy Reyna (Peru), central defender Kendall Waston (Costa Rica), midfielder Christian Bolanos (Costa Rica) and No. 2 goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic (New Zealand), who made seven saves last week against K.C., will be keeping tabs on the contest from afar.
Meanwhile, the Red Bulls, who sit sixth in the Eastern Conference, can secure a playoff berth with a win Saturday.
"We know when they're at home they're very aggressive," said Ousted. "We'll try to weather the storm at certain times, and also hit them on the counter."
With the weather changing in the New York area as summer turns to fall, the Red Bulls are trying to get their season back on track. Although a playoff spot looms, they are winless in eight games.
"At least we get to say bye to September. It's October now -- it's a new New York Red Bulls," said striker Bradley Wright-Phillips.
With three games remaining in the regular campaign, the Red Bulls are not in a win-or-else situation. But they are still daring to dream of improving their playoff position.
"It's not a must-win in terms of we have one win out of three," coach Jesse Marsch told reporters. "If we can get a win here then we can start to think about 'Maybe we can inch our way up the placing a little bit.' But, it's a mentality move for our group."
The Red Bulls will have to improve their collective mentality without starting defenders Fidel Escobar and Michael Murillo, who are away with Panama's national team.
"There's no looking back right now," said Marsch. "There's only looking forward."
With a win, Marsch's Red Bulls can eliminate his former Montreal Impact squad. But Marsch is also leery of a negative result to another Canadian club one week after the Red Bulls overcame a 2-0 and forged a 2-2 tie only to lose in Toronto.
"In some ways I can talk about the fact that we played really well in Toronto and that we were in many ways the better team," said Marsch. "In other ways, it's another game that we gave away and that's as much who we are as the good play we've had.
"We have to come up with solutions."
Updated October 6, 2017