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Found 8 results

  1. Casting our eye over all the fixtures remaining for all the teams, we're going with Dallas to win the West on 57 points, with Sporting KC coming second on 55, LA third on 54 and then that's where it gets really interesting. By our reckoning, Vancouver and Seattle will be battling it out for 4th on 53 points and will face each other in the first round of the playoffs. Where that will be played is very well going to come down to goal difference and I think Seattle will shade that. We also think RSL will come good at just the right time and edge out Portland for 6th on goal difference. Accurate or total bollocks? You can let us know below, but we'll soon find out, and part of it will be played out tonight in Dallas. Banged up, beat up, out of form and looking for someone to step up and be the goalscoring hero, it's all about points and positioning now for the Whitecaps, a fact not missing from everyone at the club. "We're in at the moment, and that's the pleasing thing about it," 'Caps coach Carl Robinson told reporters at Vancouver airport on Monday. "With two games to go, we're in. Now we just need to regroup, refocus, get our minds right and see where we go from here. "The focus is to finish as high as we can. That's never changed from the first game of the season. There's different factors that affect that. Us and Dallas are two teams up the top that are competing. They want it as well as we do. They're healthy, we're not healthy. It is what it is. "We'll regroup. We know what we need to do. We'll go there and we'll try and be tough to beat, with the right mentality, because it is playoff mentality now. We've got two league games left but really the playoffs start now." Momentum, being in-form, confidence. Call it what you like, but the 'Caps are desperately needing to find some of it heading in to the playoffs. Last year, Vancouver headed into the postseason on the back of four wins and 13 points from their last five matches. We all know how horribly that ended up once the playoffs began, but it certainly makes for a better mindset than the current form of no wins in their last four and only two points and blown opportunities to show for their efforts. "Having made the playoffs already, our goal now is to get a couple of wins," is left back Jordan Harvey's take. "We don't want to just coast into the playoffs. We want to build some momentum. Going in [to Dallas], without a doubt, we're going for three points. Are we disappointed if we get a draw? Probably not, but the goal is to get three points and build momentum." Ravaged by injuries and players away on international duty, along with no wins in Dallas, or any other part of Texas for that matter, Vancouver coming away with anything tonight would be an amazing achievement. It would also likely secure them a best ever top four finish and the much sought after home playoff game. Not that simply going into Frisco and playing for a point is likely to be the 'Caps gameplan. That's not through Robinson's tactics but the mindset of his players. "I don't think we've got the type of players that can play there and try and get a point," Robinson admitted. "We've got players that will want to try and win games." As much as I'd bite your hand off for a point right now, it is better to go in looking for the win, as that makes it easier to try and fight back if you fall behind. Too often under Martin Rennie's teams did the 'Caps go in defensively, fall behind, then have no clue how to change things around. The other huge obstacle for the 'Caps right now is absences. Not so much the fringe players away internationally, but the series of injuries that has decimated the creativity of the team. Pedro Morales and Nicolas Mezquida haven't made the trip to Texas. Mauro Rosales and Cristian Techera have, but both are still nursing injuries and haven't trained since limping off during last week's 0-0 home draw with Dallas. The Whitecaps now face the dilemma of do you rush these players back to try and secure points and positioning or do you rest them and save them for the playoffs, possibly giving up a home playoff game as a result? "We have a couple of guys banged up and nicked up," rookie Tim Parker told AFTN. "We do want to get as many points as we can. I think we have the depth on the road to get points regardless, but I also think that it's important that we save some of the guys that we so that they don't injure themselves further." But even if things don't play out in Vancouver's favour and they have to start the playoffs away from BC Place, Parker has no fear or concerns. "We've been really good on the road this year," he added. "Of course we want to get a home playoff game for the fans but I don't think we're afraid if we get a road playoff game at all." Neither they should be, but with that last away win coming on August 1st, that previously amazing road form doesn't quite look as formidable as it did a few months ago. Let's just hope it doesn't even come to discussing that.
  2. The Whitecaps know they can't keep relying on others. With three defeats in their last four MLS matches, they know they need to start getting the job done themselves and pronto, but defender Jordan Harvey is confident the 'Caps will soon get the wheels back on the wagon and get back to much needed winning ways. "Every time we've gone through a loss or some sort of bad spell, we've come back on track," Harvey told reporters. "That's a credit to the consistency and not changing anything because that's what's really helped us throughout this year." The bounce back was meant to come last week at home to New York City. We all know how that ended. The less said about that now, the better. The new place for the fighting finish to begin comes tonight in San Jose. And that in itself is not going to be easy. Never mind the fact that the Whitecaps haven't won at the Quakes in their previous six attempts, San Jose are fighting for their playoff survival. A 'Caps win clinches them a playoff place, while a Quakes win moves them to within two points of Vancouver. It couldn't be tighter and the Whitecaps know they're going to be in for one hell of a battle. "It's down to the wire," admitted Harvey. "Guys are fighting for their jobs if they're out of the playoff race. If they're in it they're fighting for the playoffs. Or, like us, we're fighting for a top two spot and potentially the Supporters' Shield. "Everybody's fighting for something, everybody's got something to lose, so we're going to go in like we have in road games and really be determined and organized and see what we come away with." It would take quite the sequence of results in this last month of the season for Vancouver to not make the playoffs now, in both their own games and others, but it remains a possibility. A possibility they can kill off by the end of Saturday night. If that isn't enough to give the squad the kick up the ass they need, then I don't know what will. In reality, they don't need that kick. Everyone at the Whitecaps is painfully aware of how important the next four games are for their season. "We just need to get back on form," Harvey added. "I'm really looking forward to this weekend because everyone was hungry this week, the training was sharp and going in to San Jose we have a good opportunity." Vancouver and San Jose have served up some battles on the pitch in recent seasons with less to play for, although a lot of the key instigators in those games have moved on. They've also served up some shocking games down in California, a couple of which I've had the misfortune to be at. You have to feel it's the former that we'll see tonight and that's exactly what goalkeeper David Ousted is expecting. "They're scrappy," Ousted said of the Quakes. "They're pushing for their push into the playoffs and it's going to be a tough game. We know we have the quality to go and get a win. We just need to find that energy, to find that intensity and to match their scrappiness." Vancouver certainly need to be up for the scrap not only in this game but their remaining four matches this season. But Ousted also cautioned that it needs to be controlled if they're to come away with the wins they need. "Urgency is important at this part of the season," Ousted added. "Every team we're meeting is chasing the playoffs, is pushing and is going to have that urgency, so we definitely need to have it as well. "It doesn't have to be a panic or something that's counter effective but knowing that going into these games we need to be on top of our game." The 'Caps remaining league matches are evenly split. Two at home and two away. Those road games both come at places that Vancouver have yet failed to record a victory, San Jose and Dallas, but that doesn't faze Ousted in the slightest. "We've showed this year that we're really good on the road," Ousted said. "We've showed that we have the mentality that we can win anywhere we go, so I'm not that worried going in to away games. It's some tough places we play but I've got confidence in that we can get away with three points." It's a view shared by winger Kekuta Manneh, who feels that no matter where the Whitecaps are playing this month, they have to stick to their gameplan and use their attacking strengths to get the wins they're looking for. "For us, we're going to try and approach every game the same, whether we're home or away," Manneh stated. "We need to win the [san Jose] game if we want stay in the title hunt. We're going to out, attacking minded." But as we've seen in recent games, playing in that manner may generate chances galore for the Whitecaps but it doesn't guarantee that any of them are going to be put into the back of the net. And while the goals haven't been coming at one end of the pitch, they have been at the other with two goals given up to both Houston and New York in the recent losses and three goals conceded twice to Seattle in two matches. Both are aspects of the Whitecaps game we weren't seeing even just a few weeks ago. "It goes both ways," Harvey admitted. "We've given up goals that at the beginning or the middle of the season we haven't given up. We need to address everything and really get back to the basics and what we do well, which is being organized, hard to break down and we get chances. That's the most important thing." The lack of goals for Vancouver may put additional pressure on the Whitecaps defence, but with 11 clean sheets already recorded this season, Ousted feels he's capable of holding up his end of the bargain to reduce what's needed at the other end of the park. But he's confident a change to the 'Caps fortunes is about to play out. "Obviously you need to keep more clean sheets to get points," Ousted said. "But we've got confidence in the goalscoring ability in this team. We're creating chances and I feel like the goals are coming, but we need to tighten up as a backline as well. Not let in too many goals and if it's a one-nil win, it's one-nil win. That's going to be ok by me."
  3. The 'Caps led the Western Conference in draws last season with 14. Still not the highest in MLS, that fell to Chicago Fire with a staggering 18 of them. Both teams certainly provided punters with a go to bet on their fixed odds coupons. Vancouver's draw total was three more than any other side that made the playoffs, and despite the 28 points lost in those drawn games, the Whitecaps still made the postseason and recorded their highest ever MLS points total in the process with 50 points. But you couldn't help but fall into that traditional pastime of football fans and wonder "what if". What would their positioning, points total and playoff experience have been like if they had only managed to turn some of those draws into wins? It would have certainly made the end of the season and that final win against Colorado Rapids a lot less stressful and maybe we wouldn't have been Geigered in Dallas. For the Whitecaps to build upon last season's performance and do even better this year, those draws had to go. They have and making that happen was a key focus from Carl Robinson and his coaching team during the offseason. "It was, without a doubt," Robinson admitted to AFTN. "People can say you're unbeaten, and three draws is three points, or you can go win one, lose one and have an extra game as a bonus game. "We drew a number of games in the first year I was here. I tired to say if we can win half of them games, then we'll obviously be in a better position, and that's what we've done. We've lost a number of games this year, we know that, and we've won a number of games, so the low draws doesn't really bother me." The Whitecaps have turned things around dramatically, going from the highest draw total in the Western Conference last year to the lowest number of draws in all of Major League Soccer this season, tied with Seattle. That number is three, and with five games remaining, if things stay that way, that would be the lowest ever number of draws in a season since Vancouver came to MLS in 2011. Seattle and New England had four in 2014, matching Colorado's total in 2012. The 'Caps had been steady in their numbers during their MLS era up until last season. From ten in their first two years to nine in 2013. Defender Jordan Harvey has been here mostly through it all and for him, this year's dramatic shift comes down to one thing, the winning mentality that abounds at the club right now. "For me, it's that desire to win and not settle for a draw," Harvey told us. "On the road, you've seen some really disciplined performances and those have led to wins this year. But at home especially, we're going for wins every time, because draws in this league don't bump you up. It's the wins that do. Even on the road we've pushed it. We just haven't been complacent." Those road wins have certainly helped. Vancouver have seemingly found the winning formula for how to execute successful tactics away from home. They've ground out results and found ways to turn what would have been draws last season into three points. Just cast your mind back to the start of the season and those huge 1-0 road victories at Chicago and Orlando. Those wins kickstarted the 'Caps season and they haven't looked back since. The 'Caps have already set a club MLS record with seven away victories this season and there's still two games to go. A win against New York City at BC Place on Saturday would set a club points record in the MLS era, with four games to go. The losses may have increased slightly, up three on last year but still their second best number to date, and Vancouver have also already recorded their most ever wins in a season, currently standing at 15. Finding a way to turn those draws into wins has been behind a lot of that. The clean sheets help too. David Ousted has 11 on the year, coming on the back of a league leading 13 last season, and he echoes Harvey's thoughts as to what's been behind the 'Caps turnaround. "I put it down to mentality," the great Dane told us. "I put it down to not coming in for a draw anywhere. If we're away, if we're at home. Obviously some of the losses we'd have liked to have drawn those instead. But it's down to mentality going in to games thinking we can win it and we still believe that these last five games, so hopefully the mentality doesn't change." So mentality, a desire to get the win no matter where they're playing and the belief they can do that all play a part but another key element behind the reduction in draws, and the clean sheets, has been the defensive play coming from the whole team. Midfielders and strikers have taken on their defensive responsibilities better than we've seen in recent years. Tracking back to mark runners, winning tackles, hitting on the counter. The effort from the whole team has been massive and several players have really improved that aspect of their game, with Darren Mattocks and Kekuta Manneh near the top of that list. Both still have work to do in that regard, but Manneh acknowledges it's an important aspect of his game and vital to the success of the side. "It's the teamwork," Manneh told AFTN. "We're doing it as a team now, attacking as a team and defending as a team. We've had a lot of clean sheets. It's not just the defenders that are defending but the whole team's come together. "It's amazing this year. Everything's just clicking for us. We're playing as a team and everything's just working for us right now." It certainly is. And long may it continue.
  4. Have a listen! You can listen to this, and all previous, episodes of the podcast on iTunes HERE. Or download it for your later listening delight HERE. We also have an iPhone app, so you can now add our podcast to your phone as an app. Visit the podcast's mobile site HERE and then at the bottom of the screen just click the "Quick Launch" icon and the podcast will be added to your home screen and appear as an app. And if that's not enough, we're on Stitcher Radio Network. Download the app and listen to the AFTN podcast on your device, along with over 20,000 other shows HERE. Or after all that, you could just listen on the player below!
  5. Have a listen! And apologies for the slight echo feel to most of it when we had to change mics a little bit in! You can listen to this, and all previous, episodes of the podcast on iTunes HERE. Or download it for your later listening delight HERE. We also have an iPhone app, so you can now add our podcast to your phone as an app. Visit the podcast's mobile site HERE and then at the bottom of the screen just click the "Quick Launch" icon and the podcast will be added to your home screen and appear as an app. And if that's not enough, we're on Stitcher Radio Network. Download the app and listen to the AFTN podcast on your device, along with over 20,000 other shows HERE. Or after all that, you could just listen on the player below!
  6. You can listen to this, and all previous, episodes of the podcast on iTunes HERE. Or download it for your later listening delight HERE. We also have an iPhone app, so you can now add our podcast to your phone as an app. Visit the podcast's mobile site HERE and then at the bottom of the screen just click the "Quick Launch" icon and the podcast will be added to your home screen and appear as an app. And if that's not enough, we're on Stitcher Radio Network. Download the app and listen to the AFTN podcast on your device, along with over 20,000 other shows HERE. Or after all that, you could just listen on the player below!
  7. You can listen to this, and all previous, episodes of the podcast on iTunes HERE. Or download it for your later listening delight HERE. We also have an iPhone app, so you can now add our podcast to your phone as an app. Visit the podcast's mobile site HERE and then at the bottom of the screen just click the "Quick Launch" icon and the podcast will be added to your home screen and appear as an app. And if that's not enough, we're on Stitcher Radio Network. Download the app and listen to the AFTN podcast on your device, along with over 20,000 other shows HERE. Or after all that, you could just listen on the player below!
  8. "It's vitally important," coach Carl Robinson told reporters on Thursday. "Getting into the playoffs is the first goal that we set and if you manage to get in then it's being in form when you're hitting the playoffs. You see, year in, year out, a number of teams that get into the playoffs, sneak into the playoffs, when they're not playing very well end up going out. "It's important that focus is maintained. It's important that you do get a bit of momentum going into the playoffs because it is a lottery when you get there. It's just a one off game or a two-legged game if you get past that first stage and anything can happen. It's still a long way off, and it's a hard trek to get there, but we're willing to meet the challenge head on." The playoff race in the West looks like it may go right down to the wire and Vancouver know that if they are to make it to the postseason they will have to do it by producing some of their best form in the remaining matches. It's a factor which left back Jordan Harvey feels that can only serve them well. "That is an advantage," Harvey admitted to AFTN. "If you do get on form these last four games leading into the playoffs, that's huge. That's what most teams are successful with. We have to get in form, we have to get some more points and that will allow us to carry that [form] in." If Vancouver can clinch fifth spot in the Western Conference, they will likely face a first round playoff match away to FC Dallas or Real Salt Lake. Last Saturday's defeat of RSL gave the Whitecaps a slight mental edge over one of their prospective postseason opponents and they are unbeaten against Real Salt Lake all season, including two hard-fought draws down in Utah. The 'Caps are hoping for more of the same mental boost when Dallas head to BC Place this weekend. For veteran defender Andy O'Brien that psychological side of the game is one of the important keys for the Whitecaps down the stretch and beyond. "I think you need to be composed, especially from a mental point of view because there's so much emphasis in getting into the playoffs," O'Brien said. "There's a lot of pressure to get in there and then once you're in there, you've got a job to do and it's not as if you down tools when you meet one objective. "It's got to be a progression thing. We want to go, if possible, into the playoffs with four good results now and take that on to whoever we may play should we get there. It's important that we keep ourselves mentally prepared and physically prepared for it."
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