With a game in hand and a lead over sixth-place FC Dallas in the Western Conference, the sliding Vancouver Whitecaps still control their playoff fate. That might not be the case much longer if they can’t defeat a Dallas side that’s getting healthy Saturday night.
Vancouver will try to avoid a team-record fifth straight defeat as it visits Dallas, which looks to move within one point of the Whitecaps for the final postseason spot.
After going 6-18-10 in its inaugural MLS season of 2011, the Whitecaps (10-11-7) are in position to make their first playoff appearance. Vancouver, though, has won twice in its last 11 matches and scored once during the four-game skid.
“We’ve got to make sure we build on the things which are positive and fix a few things that obviously have to be better,” coach Martin Rennie said after the team’s last match, a 2-0 loss at Los Angeles on Sept. 1. “We must be creating more chances in the game and maybe need to look at a couple of things with our system, because we’re not creating enough chances.”
The Whitecaps, who have nine shots on goal during their slide, are hoping that Kenny Miller and Darren Mattocks can deliver some scoring punch.
Both are coming off a stint with their national teams. Mattocks, Vancouver’s leader with seven goals, helped Jamaica earn a two-game split with the United States while Miller scored in Scotland’s 1-all draw with Macedonia on Tuesday.
The Whitecaps, who split two home games with Dallas (8-12-9) this season, have lost a franchise-worst six straight on the road. They’ll play four in a row at home following Saturday’s match.
FC Dallas faces three consecutive road games after this contest, including stops at San Jose and Seattle - the first- and second-place teams in the West.
“We know that this game is do or die … we’re all focused on that,” Dallas forward Fabian Castillo told the team’s official website. “We know it’s not going to be an easy game so we’re working 100 percent for the result.”
Castillo, who scored in a 2-0 win over Vancouver on Aug. 15, is expected to play after missing the last match - a 1-all draw versus Seattle on Sept. 2 - with a strained right hamstring.
He’s among several key Dallas players who have been getting past injuries. David Ferreira has been back for 12 matches following an extended injury absence, and striker Blas Perez started Sept. 2 for the first time since May 26 due to a foot injury.
Ricardo Villar might also play Saturday, as the midfielder who has been out since July 14 played in a friendly on Sunday and a reserve league match Tuesday.
In addition, Julian de Guzman, Carlos Rodriguez and Brek Shea should be available after returning from national team duty. All three missed the Aug. 15 match to play in exhibitions.
Shea had a goal and set up another in the Whitecaps’ only visit to Frisco, a 2-0 Dallas victory Oct. 15.