Making the playoffs was the easy part, now the Whitecaps have to fight their way to a rare win against Sporting KC in Kansas City.

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For months, the Vancouver Whitecaps stood at the foot of a mountain, looking up. They walked, game by game, up the steep incline from the bottom to reach their goal: the playoffs.

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It was a Herculean effort, one that saw them post the West’s best record in the past 15 games, only to reach the postseason.

The past two weeks, since their tie that secured the spot against the Seattle Sounders, they have been allowed to take a breather and prepare for the next part of their promotion. But is there anything left in your tank?

“No,” said head coach Vanni Sartini. “For 10 games in a row, we had our backs against the wall and we had to (win) every time. So this time maybe we have an awareness that, ‘Okay, we can do it,’ but we still know that across the league we are considered the losers. So it is more or less the same way as before.

“The fact that the guys are so convinced, and so excited and excited that we can do something special, I don’t think there is a risk that the intensity will go down.”

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The Whitecaps flew to Kansas City on Thursday before Saturday’s first-round game with Sporting KC, preparing for a stadium competition they won in just one in eight attempts.

NEXT GAME

Saturday

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Sporting KC

2 pm, Children’s Mercy Park. TV: TSN. Radio: AM730

But there is no shortage of trust in the group. This week’s practice was her usual state of mind; intense training and joyful moments.

A 2-1 win over SKC last month at BC Place Stadium only increased their sense of belonging.

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“We are capable of scoring against every team in the league and it showed,” said midfielder Ryan Gauld. “No matter who we face, we know that even if we have a goal against, although I hope we don’t, but even if it is going to be a goal against, we are capable of scoring two.

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“We have the right to have confidence after the streak of games that we have had. Confidence is certainly not an issue in that locker room. “

If there has been a weakness with Vancouver this season, there have been slow starts that have cost them. In a 4-1 loss to Seattle in October, they lost 2-0 in 15 minutes. In July, Damir Kreilach scored in the first minute in the RSL’s 4-0 win.

But the Caps have shown they can bounce back by allowing the first goal or two. After the Portland Timbers jumped to a 2-0 first-half lead against them last month, Vancouver scored three in a row to come back from victory. They also came back to tie Seattle in their regular season finale, after Fredy Montero put the visitors ahead in the eighth minute.

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Caps center back Florian Jungwirth was with San Jose last season when the Earthquakes traveled to Children’s Mercy Park for a first-round date with Sporting. The hosts went up 1-0 in four minutes, but San José came back with two goals in a row. With the score tied at 2-2 in injury time, Sporting’s Gianluca Busio put the home side ahead again, but the Quakes were back again, with the timeless Chris Wondolowski scoring in the 97th minute.

Sporting only advanced on penalties. (Side note: the last time Vancouver kicked was at the MLS is Back tournament in Orlando, Florida, against… Sporting KC. They took the time to practice their PK this week).

“In the regular season there is always tomorrow. Now there is no tomorrow. So either we move on or we fly to Hawaii, ”Jungwirth said. “But I think we are mentally strong enough to beat them, to beat them. They have more to lose than we do. I think if we feel good for the first 15 or 20 minutes, they might have a hard time.

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“Last year with San José we played there, they were a big favorite … If we can turn it into a similar game, but with better defensive work, I’m sure we will win.”

He dismissed KC’s three-game losing streak to end the regular season as not affecting playoff play.

“It doesn’t matter,” Jungwirth said. “This is only for those who love it the most and it has to be us. If they run hot, they have shown that they are one of the best teams (in the league), but if they don’t, we were going to eat them.

“There is no reason (for us) not to be confident. Of course it’s a game, anything can happen, but we don’t have to start the game with pants full of shit, you know? “

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