Vancouver is looking to rise above the playoff line by securing a result in Saturday’s game against the conference leader Seattle Sounders.

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There are seven games left in the regular season for the Vancouver Whitecaps, including three against the top two teams in the Western Conference, and a gruesome home stretch that includes six of them in a span of 21 days.

“It’s like the amazing race. Or maybe the cartoon we saw when we were kids, with Dick Dastardly and Muttley, “said interim head coach Van Sartini, revealing his age by referencing ancient history animation in crazy races, which originally ran in the late 1960s but again in syndication between 1976 and 1982.

“Hopefully the Sounders are Dick Dastardly, because he always lost,” he added with a smile.

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The race begins in earnest Saturday night when the Whitecaps head to Seattle to face the Sounders at Lumen Field. The Sounders may not have a sniggering slob like their teammate, but they do have a smug Fredy Montero, who managed to ruffle some feathers north of the border on Friday when he said his former team was “playing like they had nothing to lose. “

The Caps, in fact, have everything to lose. Missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season would be a low point for the franchise, especially after firing its head coach with a third of the season left to play.


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Saturday

Vancouver Whitecaps vs Seattle Sounders

6 pm, Light field. TV: TSN. Radio: AM730


The Whitecaps (9-8-10) are just below the playoff line in eighth place in the West, one point behind Minnesota (19-9-8) and two behind the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake, both in 11-11-6.

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But it has been a Herculean effort to get the team so high on the ladder. In the past 15 games, only the runaway leaders of the Supporters’ Shield in New England have a better record than Vancouver.

Montero’s confidence is not out of place. The conference-leading Sounders (16-5-6) can extend their MLS playoff-record streak to 13 consecutive seasons by securing a point or more in the game with Vancouver. It’s an enviable achievement, Sartini said.

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“We can say without question that for the past 10 years, the Sounders have been the best club in MLS, pure and simple,” he said after training on Friday. “They won the Cup a couple of times, they went to the final, they always go to the playoffs, the atmosphere in the stadium is very good, they have a lot of fans, they attracted very good international players… so we know the sirens are superior.

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“I think tomorrow is a very big yardstick for us, also because they lack a lot of players, but even if they lack players, they are still a good team.

“If we can be a game for them tomorrow … it means that not only is it a good thing for us because of our playoff hopes, but it also shows that we are on our way to being a more mature and stronger organization.”

Montero’s sound bite will not be needed as bulletin board material for the Whitecaps. They all know what is at stake and the opportunity they have in front of them.

“We don’t have to charge (recharge) the players, or pressure the players for the game, because the players know how important it is,” Sartini said. “And we don’t have to be hypocrites as well. It’s a good opportunity, because playing against Seattle, without its best players, is an opportunity for us to seize it. They are still a very good team even without those players, but it would be hypocritical to say: ‘No, I want Ruidiaz to be there, I want Roldan to be there’ … We also have to understand that it is a great opportunity for us to make a result against a very good team ”.

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The Sounders are slim in the style of Richard Simmons with Raúl Ruidíaz (Peru); Cristian Roldan (United States); Alex Roldan (El Salvador); Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador); and Nouhou (Cameroon), all in international service. Jordan Morris, Jordy Delem, and Nico Lodeiro are working to come back from long-term injuries, while Brad Smith tested positive for COVID-19 and is out as well.

“I think it’s amazing with how many games we have left,” Sounders midfielder Kelyn Rowe told the media this week. “I think it speaks volumes about the team we have this year and the depth we have. The fact that we can do it without five, six guys, and not just five, six guys (but) five, six starters, I think it’s amazing that everyone sees it. “

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The Whitecaps have their own depth issues. Javain Brown (Jamaica) and Max Crepeau (Canada) are out with their national teams, while Lucas Cavallini, Ranko Veselinovic, Erik Godoy and Andy Rose are injured. Fullback Cristian Gutierrez is available from the bench, but how Sartini will fill his bottom line remains a closely guarded secret.

Sartini admitted that he was going to have to allow the team to rotate down the stretch, and having those players healthy for the next several weeks was paramount. The players will change, but the system will not, part of their philosophy of having only 100% fit players on the field.

The final stretch begins Saturday in Seattle, where they secured a 2-2 draw on their last visit. That result came while he was in the throes of an eight-game winless streak; few can deny that the Caps have changed things since then.

“There is a lot of respect for the team, but there is no fear. We are going to try to win the game, ”Sartini said. “We have to be 100% focused… on from minute one to minute 97. If we lose this on the task, it will be difficult. But if we keep doing what we are supposed to do, not thinking about the prize at the end (the playoffs), but just thinking about what we are supposed to do, I think we have a chance to win. “

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