The Vancouver Whitecaps are in position for one of the Western Conference’s final playoff berths but may need some better results on the road to maintain that spot.
As they head away from home again this week, the Whitecaps will try to avoid a season-high third consecutive loss overall Saturday night against the struggling Portland Timbers.
Vancouver (10-9-7) has a five-point lead over FC Dallas for the final playoff spot in the West but is coming off a pair of 2-0 defeats. After falling to Dallas on Aug. 15, the Whitecaps gave up two second-half goals in Seattle last Saturday during their first of four consecutive road games.
The loss was the young franchise’s record fourth in a row away from home, dropping it to 3-7-3 on the road in MLS play this year. Vancouver has failed to score in back-to-back league contests for only the third time over its two seasons.
“We’re in a good spot. We just need to get ourselves going again and get over the disappointments of the last couple of games,” coach Martin Rennie said. “I’m sure we will.”
The Whitecaps, though, have earned only three wins in 30 all-time MLS road games and none in their two trips to Portland. They played to a 1-all draw at Jeld-Wen Field on May 26 - with Vancouver’s Darren Mattocks scoring the tying goal in the 84th minute - after losing 2-1 in their inaugural visit Aug. 20, 2011.
They’ve still never beaten the Cascadia Cup rival Timbers (5-13-6) in the league, falling 1-0 during the only matchup in Vancouver on Oct. 2.
The Whitecaps may get captain Jay DeMerit back for this game after he suffered a concussion Aug. 11 during a win over Real Salt Lake. Designated player Barry Robson and defender Martin Bonjour should return from one-game suspensions, but midfielder Gershon Koffie will have to sit out after making a flying tackle then an improper gesture during last week’s loss.
Vancouver will try to overcome that absence while extending Portland’s franchise-worst MLS winless streak to nine games. The Timbers, 0-6-2 in their last eight, scored twice for the second straight game Sunday, but blew an early two-goal lead in a 3-2 loss at New York.
The production is at least somewhat encouraging after Portland was blanked four times in the first five games of its winless drought, all losses.
“I think the guys are frustrated. I think they’re ready to win,” interim coach Gavin Wilkinson said. “We need to start to win and for that to become a habit.”
Wilkinson, the Timbers’ coach for all but the first game of the winless stretch, could get midfielder Kalif Alhassan back from left knee tendinitis for this game. Defender Kosuke Kimura is also expected to be available - with a mask - despite suffering a broken nose and a concussion Sunday.
Portland midfielder and designated player Diego Chara is suspended for this game after drawing his eighth yellow card of the season last week.
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