'This city wants a winner': Strong season has Vancouver Whitecaps playoff hopes high
When the Vancouver Whitecaps step on to the field in Portland Sunday afternoon, they'll know the playoffs are in their future.
The team goes into Sunday's game atop the Major League Soccer's Western Conference standings.
And players also know that a win, or even a draw, would be enough to get the club not only its first conference title, but also a bye in the first round of the MLS playoffs.
It's been a strong year for the Caps — the team has been among the conference leaders most of the season, while also ranking in the top third of the league in average attendance.
And, with the city's other major sports teams struggling, the Whitecaps have a chance to add more fans.
Team president Bob Lenarduzzi cites consistency as the key to the team's season even though the 'Caps started in the year in the hole with consecutive loses.
"After that, we never lost two in a row, and in fact, when we did lose badly we bounced back with a significant win."
A loss on Sunday would see Portland leapfrog the Whitecaps into first place, and force Vancouver to host a first round game next Wednesday or Thursday.
The Caps have lost to the Timbers twice already this season, and were eliminated from the playoffs by the Portland side two seasons ago.
Yordy and Freddy
But Lenarduzzi says this year will be different, citing the team's two star forwards.
"Yordy Reyna, Freddy Montero were brought into be difference makers and they've been just that."
For home games, the Whitecaps typically close off the upper bowl at BC Place, but Lenadruzzi says the team is considering additional seating, and will evaluate demand ahead of its home playoff date.
"Our objective is to fill all of the lower bowl and if that happens ... you never know maybe some of the upper bowl as well."
'This city wants a winner'
Ticket brokers are expecting high demand for Whitecaps playoff dates, particularly with the B.C. Lions already eliminated from the CFL playoffs and a young Vancouver Canucks team expected to struggle through a rebuilding phase.
"This is the opportunity for them to take over the city," said ticket broker Kingsley Bailey of the Whitecaps. "This city wants a winner and they are winning."
He says demand for MLS playoff seats is easily outstripping that of two years ago, and expects that demand will keep going up once the Cap's post-season schedule is set.
"The team is playing phenomenal. The fans are going to come out in droves for the playoffs."
Lenarduzzi says the team expects strong support, and hopes to give those fans some wins to cheer about.
"Our job is to worry about what goes on on the pitch and hopefully the people will follow."