After losing knockout round road matches twice in the previous three seasons, the Vancouver Whitecaps placed an emphasis on earning a home playoff game this year.
They would attain that goal with a victory in the season finale.
With a postseason berth already in hand, Vancouver can finish as high as second in the Western Conference on Sunday night when it takes on the visiting Houston Dynamo on Decision Day.
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The Whitecaps clinched their third trip to the playoffs in five MLS seasons, playing FC Dallas to a scoreless home draw Oct. 7, but they still have much at stake Sunday.
After losing at Los Angeles in 2012 and at Dallas last season, they can lock up the first postseason home game in franchise history by snapping a five-game winless streak (0-3-2). They can avoid the knockout round completely with a win and a Los Angeles loss or draw at Kansas City.
Vancouver, however, could finish as low as sixth if the results don’t fall its way.
"We’re eying that second spot and (will) try to do our part, get a win and see where we end up," goalkeeper David Ousted said. "Obviously, you want to end up as high as possible."
Getting a bye to the conference semifinals definitely has appeal to the banged-up Whitecaps.
Caleb Clarke (hamstring), Ben McKendry (knee) and Pa-Modou Kah (suspension) have already been ruled out versus Houston, while captain Pedro Morales (hamstring), Mauro Rosales (adductor) Cristian Techera (hamstring) and Nicolas Mezquida (hamstring) hope to play.
Vancouver (15-13-5) has totaled just four goals while Mezquida played only once in the past seven matches. The team is 8-2-2 with the attacking midfielder in the starting lineup.
"I think everybody is coming back to health. We’ll see Sunday who’s available," Ousted said. "We need people who are going to be 100 percent because it’s going to be tough."
Ousted will try to help the Whitecaps set a single-season franchise record for points while matching his own club record with his 13th shutout. He had three saves in a 2-1 win in the most recent home meeting with Houston on March 29, 2014 and four in a 2-0 road loss Aug. 29.
The Dynamo (11-13-9) are missing out on the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time after they were eliminated in a 1-all draw with Seattle last Sunday. They’ve been outscored 15-5 during an 0-5-2 road stretch and have only two goals in dropping all three trips to Vancouver.
"There is no doubt it was a season of transition," coach Owen Coyle told the team’s official website. "It was about everything we’re trying to implement in terms of infrastructure. We’re not just trying to build a team. We’re trying to build a club."
After finishing with 15 goals for Chivas USA in 2014, Erick Torres has yet to score in his 10 games with the Dynamo this season. He’s played well at BC Place with three goals in two career games.
Ricardo Clark scored in the first meeting and he’s seeking his third goal in as many games overall.
Nathan Sturgis (hip) and Jermaine Taylor (quad) are questionable for the Dynamo.