Manuel Veth –
Very few MLS analysists expected the Vancouver Whitecaps to be challenging at the summit of the Western Conference this season but Carl Robinson’s side deserve their place at the top of the standings, and the Canadian outfit are eyeing up a first-ever MLS Cup success this year.
— Rituro (@ThatRituroGuy) September 24, 2017
On September 30, the Whitecaps officially clinched their place in the end of season play-offs thanks to an unexpected 1-0 victory on the road. The Caps squeezed past Sporting Kansas City to guarantee themselves a position in the post-season knock-out event. The victory opened up a four-point gap between themselves and Peter Vermes’ men and ended their opponents 24 match unbeaten sequence at home. The clubs president Bob Lenarduzzi said, “We’re excited to take Vancouver into the playoffs, but we know that there is still plenty of work to be done”.
Their campaign got off to a slow start with the Whitecaps losing three of their opening five matches including a disappointing 2-0 defeat at BC Place to fellow Canadians Toronto FC. Robinson’s men slowly found their feet however with a 4-2 hammering of LA Galaxy before picking up their first road victory of the season at Stade Saputo, beating Montreal Impact 2-1.
Whitecaps – It has Been a Team Effort
They have won six of their last nine games in the MLS including a 2-1 victory at Orlando and a convincing 3-0 success at home to Minnesota United. They were heavily beaten by Western Conference rivals and near-neighbours Seattle Sounders on September 28, but they put that loss behind them just two days later in the aforementioned Sporting KC success.
A number of players have impressed this season although coach Carl Robinson has stressed their success is down to the team-effort as opposed to individual brilliance. The Caps have not been afraid to attack sides in the league this season and it’s paid dividends with forward Erik Hurtado praising his sides offensive-minded approach in a recent interview.
— Har Journalist (@HarJournalist) September 29, 2017
Fellow striker Fredy Montero also praised his sides work-ethic and suggested “There is a great group here” adding that he enjoys training and working alongside his team-mates. The Colombian has netted 13 times this campaign and claimed six assists and is likely to be a potent weapon in the end of season play-offs.
Other stand-out players this season include Tim Parker, Brek Shea, Nicolas Mezquida and Yordy Reina. The latter has been rewarded for his eye-catching displays with an international call-up. Peru face a crucial World Cup Qualifying contests with both Colombia and Argentina as they bid to book their place at Russia 2018 and Reina is a late addition to the squad. Robinson admitted he is delighted for the 24-year-old although he will be hoping his talisman can return from his trip injury-free. Reina has made 16 starts this season and scored five times with many of those strikes clinching crucial contests for the Whitecaps and he will now get the chance to make his first International appearance since November 2015.
The Job is not Done for the Whitecaps
Robinson’s side cannot afford to relax during their final few fixtures which include a trip to Portland Timbers and a home tie against San Jose Earthquakes as they look to cement their place at the top of the Western Conference. If the Whitecaps maintain their current form and finish in the top two positions, they will receive a bye, which instantly catapults them through the two-legged semi-finals. If they can finish above the remainder of the division, they will play the second leg at BC Place at the beginning of November.
The Caps rarely make the end of season play-offs and have never participated in the MLS Cup. This year’s staging will be held on December 9th and the Canadian outfit will be hoping to make history this season. The holders Seattle Sounders beat Toronto FC on penalties last year with the match finishing 0-0 after 90 minutes.
If Robinson’s men can go all the way, they would become the first Canadian side to clinch the MLS Cup. 2016 was the first time that a side from Canada has ever reached the end of season showdown but Toronto FC were unable to collect the silverware on that occasion. LA Galaxy remain the most successful team chalking up five successes and are closely followed by DC United who can boast four MLS Cups. Neither of these two sides can make the playoffs this time around following hugely underwhelming campaigns.
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) August 13, 2017
Once the regular season is completed in mid-October, the odds for MLS Cup success will be released. Toronto FC are likely to start as favorites after a blistering campaign has seen them dominate the Eastern Conference but Vancouver Whitecaps are dark horses for success and will be desperate to get one over on their fellow Canadians. The Caps are likely to be a big price to clinch the MLS Cup this campaign but many savvy bettors will be backing Robinson’s men, who have the habit of grinding out results, and Whitecaps backers can use the £50 free bet available via Oddschecker to get behind the Western Conference pacesetters.
There is still plenty of work to be done and Carl Robinson must ensure his side can keep their momentum going all the way through until December. Vancouver Whitecaps are hoping to be the first Canadian team to clinch the MLS Cup this season but there are still plenty more twists and turns to come in this captivating MLS season.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.