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Match Preview: 'Caps and Quakes

The Vancouver Whitecaps will try to further cement their dreams of a post-season spot when they tangle with San Jose Earthquake this weekend.

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Whitecaps are flying high, and there's optimism abound; when is the last time you could say that? Three straight wins, and all of the sudden the Whitecaps look downright competent! While there are still several holes to fill in, the Whitecaps have shifted the conversation from yet another late season spiral, to Hey, these guys are pretty good.

Now, to keep that sentiment alive, the Whitecaps will need a strong showing against the San Jose Earthquake, a team in the basement of the Western Conference. With Portland just one point behind, a 'Caps loss would be a monumental disappointment.

Help is on the way

The Whitecaps should have Darren Mattocks back in the lineup as he returns from international duty, as does Carlyle Mitchell. Sebastian Fernandez is back after his one match ban, and Gershon Koffie is rumored to be available as well.

The addition of Koffie would certainly create a nice problem for Carl Robinson to have; Russell Teibert has been very good with Matias Laba in the defensive midfield, but Koffie was arguably even better when he had control of the position before his injury. Laba obviously won't be bumped out of the starting 11, so there will no doubt be some healthy competition between the Canadian and the Ghanaian when Koffie is 100%. In any case, the Whitecaps will have far more options on the bench this week.

But not all the help

One key area where the Whitecaps will need to adjust is at the center back position. Kendall Waston, who has been an absolute revelation for the 'Caps, will miss the match due to suspension. His absence is a hit for the Whitecaps, as more than any other player on the club, Waston brings an edge and a swagger that the Whitecaps could really use heading in to such a gigantic match.

In any case, the Whitecaps have a few capable bodies they can throw onto the pitch in his place. My vote is for Johnny Leveron, however Carlyle Mitchell and Christian Dean are both options. Leveron was such a bright spot last season, it's definitely fair to say his follow-up year has been disappointing thus far, but he's still a very good option coming off the bench. It's not like Leveron has played horribly, he just hasn't played much.

The Whitecaps must take advantage

Since the swoon a few weeks ago, the Whitecaps have dug deep and fought hard to get where they are today; in control of their own destiny. Now the hard part comes, as they actually have to deliver. On paper they should, as the 'Quakes are having a god awful season. They're ninth in the Western Conference, having won just six games all season long. While the Whitecaps have struggled offensively, the 'Quakes have been even worse, scoring just 35 times compared to the Whitecaps at 41. In short, if they don't win, they're going to have a lot of explaining to do.

With all that being said, the Whitecaps will need to be careful, as it's not like the 'Quakes don't have some bite. They've scored the majority of their goals, 21, at home, and you have to know that Buck Shaw Stadium will be absolutely jumping being that this is the final match that will be played in the building. In addition, the Earthquakes are playing for a new(ish) Head Coach in Dominic Kinnear, who took over from the recently fired Mark Watson. That's a new fire lit under the 'Quakes collective buttocks, and you can be sure the players want to give their new bench boss, as well as their supporters, a great final match at The Buck.

Prediction: I still believe. 2-0 Whitecaps

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