Whitecaps looking to clinch improbable playoff spot this weekend

Oct 8 2022, 1:10 am

The Vancouver Whitecaps are looking to complete their improbable return to the MLS Playoffs on Sunday in Minnesota, in the last game of the regular season.

In other words, win and you’re in.

Their remarkable resurgence has earned the Whitecaps a one-game scenario where a win will lock in back-to-back MLS playoff appearances.

The revenge tour has seen the team earn wins over the LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders FC, and Austin FC at BC Place in the last month.  

All three teams earned lopsided wins at home against Vancouver this season via 5-2, 4-0, and 3-0 scores.

Additionally, Minnesota United FC defeated the Whitecaps 3-1 at BC Place on July 8. 

The Caps have improved to 12-14-7 on the season.

The confidence among the team is sky-high as they head to The Land of 10,000 Lakes looking to serve up a dish that is best served cold. 

“Yeah it’s huge,” Jake Nerwinski told reporters following training earlier this week. “Coming off of three really good wins against teams that have beat us pretty handedly in the past, I like to call it a revenge tour, it’s not really catching on. The last three teams that we beat killed us and Minnesota kind of did the same the last time we played them. We’re taking the revenge tour to Minnesota.”

It was only a few weeks ago that the Whitecaps playoff chances looked to be done and dusted. According to the website FiveThirtyEight.com, Vancouver had a one percent chance of qualifying for the playoffs prior to reeling off three consecutive wins for the first time all season.

The teams playoff chances have slowly climbed up to 4%, 15%, 20% and now as decision day approaches, the Whitecaps playoff dreams currently sit at a 27% chance after last week’s win over Austin. 

Fans and media have been keep tracking, but what about players?

“No, I’m not following that at all.. I am, but I’m not,” Nerwinski quietly whispered to reporters. “I’m not looking at percentages right now.”

Nerwinski has been keeping tabs on those who have poured dirt on Vancouver’s playoff chances. Now that the Whitecaps fortunes have changed, players are feeling loose and confident knowing that the season is in their hands and it comes down to one game. 

“We worked hard to get to this point,” Nerwinski told Daily Hive. “I know a lot of people probably were counting us out. I know the league was. You know how I like to keep receipts, you know that, yep. Hopefully I’ll do that again this year. It’s great, we’ve put ourselves in a great position and now we get to go play free. If we win, we know that we did everything that we could. If we lose, we know that we did everything we could. It’s great to be in this position.” 

The Whitecaps have never won in Minnesota. The Caps have an 0-2-2 record when they visit The Loons. Vancouver is currently riding an MLS form of 0-3-4 on the road.

Vancouver has not recorded an MLS road win since they beat FC Dallas 2-0 on June 18. 

As Vancouver prepares for the biggest game this season, the questions shift to if they can capture what they’ve built at BC Place and take that on the road, where they have a 2-10-3 record this season.

“I think we just try and carry the momentum of three games at home,” Brian White explained following training this week. “Try and bring that on the road with us. Start off strong, get an early goal and not let up throughout the game and just keep pressing and pressing and hopefully we’ll get the three points.”

Coach Vanni Sartini has never wavered in his belief of his team. As acting head coach he helped guide Vancouver to an improbable playoff appearance last season. After sitting in last spot in the Western Conference, earlier this season he’s looking to make history once again.

”You know when you climb the mountain and you see the peak,” Sartini said. “The last part is the hardest one, we have to do the hardest part.”

Minnesota is currently on a 0-4-1 slide, but they will have the home crowd backing them and the knowledge that they only need to secure a draw to clinch a playoff spot.

If the Whitecaps get to the top of the mountain and pull off the feat, they would travel to take on Austin FC in the first round of the MLS playoffs.

Har JohalHar Johal

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