VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps have been here before, watching their playoff dreams dim as the regular season fades.
With five games left on the schedule, the club sits eight points out of a post-season berth and climbing back into the playoff picture will be a tough task.
“We still have that little bit of hope," said striker Brian White. "It's still possible, but we know we need to get results and we need to do it now. So it's up to us.”
The 'Caps (9-13-7) have accomplished this feat before.
Vancouver went 7-2-5 to finish the 2021 campaign and earn a playoff spot for the first time in four years.
“We know nothing's over," goalkeeper Thomas Hasal said Thursday. "We know, of course, like last year that anything could happen.
"We’ve just got to focus on what's in our control. We’ve got to focus on winning the games, we’ve got to focus on more than winning the games, we’ve got to focus on our own performance. … We’ve got to take it one at a time and just continue to fight, fight, fight, fight until the end.”
Vancouver will get a chance to claw its way up the standings on Saturday when it takes on the Rapids (8-12-9) in Colorado.
The two sides have already met once this season with the 'Caps taking a 2-1 decision in front of their home fans at B.C. Place on Aug. 17. The Whitecaps haven't recorded a win since, going 0-2-1 in their last three outings.
White watched the Rapids game from the stands. Colorado is a team that is dynamic going forward and features some good players, he said.
" (Saturday) will be a tough test, especially away with the altitude," White said. "So we've got to execute the game plan that we've come up with and do everything we can to come up with three points."
In order to claim victory, the Whitecaps will need to find a way to score.
The club has been blanked in its last two games, dropping a 3-0 decision to Nashville SC on Aug. 27 and falling 2-0 to the San Jose Earthquakes last week. The 'Caps haven't gone three straight matches without a goal since August 2020.
“I think we just need to click. I think also luck owes us something," said head coach Vanni Sartini, adding that of the two losses, only Nashville was a bad game.
“So I hope things are going to change as soon as possible. But in order to get luck you need to conquer luck.”
The Whitecaps will be missing their two leading scorers in Colorado.
Striker Lucas Cavallini will serve the second game of a four-game suspension for stepping on an opponent's head in Vancouver's loss to Nashville and attacking midfielder Ryan Gauld will be out due to yellow card accumulation.
Winger Deiber Caicedo is also done for the season after undergoing surgery for a right-knee injury.
"So three pieces that have played a big role in our 34 points in terms of offensive role, then they're not there," Sartini said. "But we still have Brian (White) and Pedro (Vite) up top. So we're happy. We're happy with that."
No matter who's in the lineup Saturday, the group will be eager to atone for their last two performances, Hasal said.
“The last two results have been disappointing as a team and individually and I think all of us, we want to make it right," the 'keeper said.
"We want to work hard. We want to show what we can do this weekend because I feel like we haven't shown it the last two weeks. So we're just trying to work as hard as we can and to perform the way we know we can.”
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (9-13-7) AT COLORADO RAPIDS (8-12-9)
Saturday, Dick's Sporting Goods Park
INS AND OUTS: The Whitecaps will be without midfielders Sebastian Berhalter (right knee) and Ryan Gauld (suspension), winger Deiber Caicedo (right knee) and striker Lucas Cavallini (suspension).
MIX AND MATCH: Head coach Vanni Sartini is known for rotating the talent available to him. This season, 25 players currently on the first team roster have made an appearance for the Whitecaps, with 17 making 10 or more starts.
ROUGH RAPIDS: Colorado is winless in six games (0-3-3) and haven't scored more than one goal in a match across the stretch.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2022.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press