While the Whitecaps came into the season with several boxes empty on their checklist, they certainly have begun striking them off. Beat the L.A. Galaxy? Check. Top the Seattle Sounders? Finally, mercifully, check. However, despite their four match win streak and inspired play, the Whitecaps are still in a dogfight for the final playoff position in the Western Conference. With the win over the Sounders, the Whitecaps moved just five points clear of their Cascadia Cup rival, giving themselves a bit of breathing room, but not really.
Then, there's the Colorado Rapids, who sit just two points back of our 'Caps in sixth spot, and play on Wednesday. That means, unbelievably, if the Whitecaps lose to the Chicago Fire this weekend they might actually drop to sixth; The Rapids play the New England Revolution, in what should be a competitive, but winnable match.
Not to say that would be the end of the world for the Whitecaps. Hell, despite sitting two points up on the Rapids, they also sit just one point back of the Portland Timbers and L.A. Galaxy and just two points back of Dallas FC. If they do manage to extend their win streak to five, the Whitecaps could leap up as far as second in the Western Conference, something that seemed almost impossible a few months ago.
The thing is, we've seen a familiar pattern from the first two MLS seasons for the Whitecaps; namely, they've had a few lengthy losing streaks. They've already had one this season as well, going 7 matches without an outright win in April and early May. If the Whitecaps fall victim to similar circumstances, they would drop out and be hard pressed to recover, as there are too many competitive teams in the Conference this season. Not to say they have to win every match for the rest of the season, but consistent results will have to occur. It's not going to be an easy feat, especially in the immediate future. A quick look at the sked tells us, after the Chicago Fire match, the 'Caps will have to face off against the L.A. Galaxy, who will no doubt be looking for a measure of revenge after the 'Caps beat them in May. Then, it's a match versus the 4th place Philadelphia Union, before taking on the Portland Timbers to start the month of August. A match against the struggling, but still dangerous San Jose Earthquake follows that, and then it's the Rapids, followed by another match versus the Galaxy.
A pessimist would tell you the Whitecaps are going to struggle to find results for those matches. An optimist would tell you the Whitecaps control their own destiny as they march towards the post-season. Here at 86forever, we are realists, and we've been hurt by this club so many times before. Long story short (too late), the Whitecaps struggled in the latter stages of last season, eventually backing into the playoffs. However, with Brad Knighton playing his brains out, the trio of Russell Teibert (when he's back), Kenny Miller and Camilo scoring goals seemingly at will, the backline continuing to get healthy and even Darren Mattocks finding the back of the net, maybe this truly is a new time for the Whitecaps.
But hey, its not like I haven't said that before.