The Vancouver Whitecaps are making a long-awaited return home - one they desperately need as they try to end a losing streak that has put their playoff hopes in jeopardy.
Losers of five in a row, the Whitecaps play their first home game in more than five weeks as they seek a three-game season sweep of the Colorado Rapids on Sunday night.
Vancouver (10-12-7) has been shut out in four of its five consecutive defeats, with the last four games coming on the road. The slide has left the Whitecaps clinging to the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, one point ahead of FC Dallas - which defeated Vancouver 1-0 last Saturday.
The costly loss came in demoralizing fashion, as Julian De Guzman scored in stoppage time. The Whitecaps withstood heavy pressure from Dallas throughout the game and were in position to win despite getting their only shot on goal in the 84th minute.
“It is disappointing to come out of it on the wrong end of the result, but I am very proud of my players. It gives me a lot of confidence going into the final stretch of the season,” coach Martin Rennie, whose team has a game in hand on Dallas, told the team’s official website.
“We have our destiny in our own hands in terms of getting ourselves into the playoffs, which is what our main goal is. … We feel good about where we are, although we’re disappointed with the result tonight.”
Getting back home could help Rennie’s team get back on track. Vancouver is 7-2-4 there this season, though it suffered a 2-0 loss to Dallas in its last home game Aug. 15 - which started its current losing streak.
The Whitecaps play their next four games in Vancouver before closing the regular season at Real Salt Lake on Oct. 27.
Facing Colorado might also be just what the Whitecaps need. They’ve won both matchups this season by 1-0 scores, the most recent coming on the road July 4. Joe Cannon made six saves after recording five in the previous shutout of the Rapids on June 16.
Plus, Colorado (9-18-2) has struggled badly in the second half of the season. The Rapids have lost 12 of 16 overall and nine in a row on the road, getting shut out five times in that span.
They were blanked for the second time in three matches last Saturday, 2-0 at Los Angeles.
Striker Conor Casey could give Colorado a boost offensively if he can return after missing the last two games due to injury, though he’s managed only two goals in 16 games this season.
“Definitely the most frustrating (year of my career), yeah,” Casey told the league’s website. “It’s a lot of different things, but (injuries are) the main one, for sure.”
Despite their poor play, the Rapids still have playoff hopes, trailing the Whitecaps by eight points. Three of Colorado’s final five matches are at home, where it’s gone 2-0-1 in its last three.