It all comes down to the last game. As a writer and for neutral fans the stories don't write themselves any better than this. As supporters, would we like to have clinched the berth weeks ago? Sure! But I guess that for excitement value it is better to have it all riding on the last 90 minutes.
Having said that, it may not really come to that because the Whitecaps chances of qualifying to the playoffs depends largely on what their bitter rivals, the Portland Timbers, do in their own match against the Caps' other bitter rivals, FC Dallas. The logic is simple, if Portland wins, Vancouver has to win. If Portland ties, a draw will get it done. If Portland loses, we are in.
Why aren't Portland and Dallas playing at the same time as the Whitecaps? That is a topic for another day but what it boils down is that the Whitecaps will know the result of that game halfway through the first half. It will be interesting to see if this affects the atmosphere at BC Place and how knowing the result, whatever it might be, will impact the performance on the pitch.
If Portland loses and you are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, do you rest some of the key players? Or do you want to keep creating momentum towards that all-important mid-week playoff knockout match? I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to that. We will find out how it shakes down soon enough.
As for the game itself, the Colorado Rapids stroll into BC Place having picked up 2 points of their last 36. Yes, for those of you who are not math wizards, that means that they have only tied twice and lost eleven of their last thirteen matches. Not exactly what you would call an in-form squad. However, the Rapids have earned 25% of their eight wins in 2014 against our very own Whitecaps (yes, that means that the Whitecaps have lost both of the previous matches).
I still get chills when I think about that series of unfortunate events back in April when Matias Laba got himself sent off and a few minutes later Jose Mari shot a couple of beauties past David Ousted to give the Rapids a 1-2 win at BC Place.
With a lackluster performance last week in San Jose, the Whitecaps once again demonstrated their struggles when it comes to playing against lower table teams. While some might argue that this is a reason to be slightly concerned heading into this match, I see this as a perfect opportunity for the boys in Blue and White to break down that paradigm, get a convincing win and increase their confidence for the playoffs.
Once again, the biggest game of the season is upon us, but this one, for real, is the one that will determine the life or death of the Whitecaps' 2014 MLS season. If you want to hear our more in-depth preview for the game, make sure to check out the latest episode of From The Backline.
Are you confident that the Whitecaps will see playoff action?