The Vancouver Whitecaps say they belong in the Major League Soccer Cup playoffs. They say they can compete with the best the league has to offer.
But they’ve also not been shy about revealing their status as underdogs in a single-game elimination opening-round playoff match against the Los Angeles Galaxy set to take place Thursday at the Home Depot Center.
On paper, it’s no contest.
The Whitecaps are a second-year MLS franchise that finished last in the Western Conference a year ago. They have also won just once in their last 10 games and needed help from the Seattle Sounders FC simply to squeak into the fifth and final playoff spot.
They’ve lost all three matches in L.A. since joining MLS, and have been outscored 8-0 in that span.
The Galaxy are the defending MLS Cup champs, winners of six of their last 10 matches, with points in nine of those games, and possess high-priced soccer superstars like David Beckham, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan.
“I think going into a game like that, being the underdog, means you’re going to have a little bit less pressure, which I think we all enjoy,” said Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit after Monday’s training session in Burnaby.
“Now it’s just a matter of channeling that the right way.”
The Whitecaps have lately reverted back to the staunch defensive style that made them so successful at the beginning of the season, recording three clean sheets in their last four games.
And diverting away from that tactic isn’t likely to happen.
“As long as we’re sound defensively and we limit their opportunities, I think we’re going to have chances at our end,” said Brad Knighton, who is likely to be the Whitecaps starting goalkeeper against the Galaxy.
“We just need to finish our half chances, our full chances that we get and hopefully lock down a win. It’s a one-off game, so whatever it takes to go in and score a goal … it really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to the prettiest game.”