Six clubs in the Western Conference have at least 32 points, and with plenty of time left in the season, all 10 teams can claim a legitimate shot at reaching the playoffs.
The Vancouver Whitecaps realize they’re in a better position than the San Jose Earthquakes, but they’re certainly not taking that for granted.
Vancouver looks to snap a three-match winless streak and avenge an earlier loss to the visiting Earthquakes on Sunday night.
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The Whitecaps (10-8-3) have their sights set on winning the West despite picking up one of a possible nine points over its last three, earning it when Matias Laba scored in the 58th minute for a 1-all draw with Portland on July 18.
Injuries have played a role in the slump, as Pedro Morales, Pa-Modou Kah and Sam Adekugbe have missed time with various ailments. Kendall Waston also has been gone while competing for the Costa Rican national team.
Vancouver was even more short-handed last week with Jordan Harvey and Cristian Techera serving one-game suspensions for card accumulation. However, Kah is expected to play and Adekugbe could return for this contest despite an ankle injury. Coach Carl Robinson said Morales could play through any lingering pain in his calf.
Those would be welcomed additions for the Whitecaps, who will be playing just their second home game in their last eight MLS matches. Although players have admitted to keeping a close eye on the standings, Robinson is taking a more laid-back approach to the race.
"The Western Conference is stacked with very good teams. We know that," Robinson told the club’s official website. "We’ve just got to concentrate on our own business. If we can pick up the results that we want, then we should be OK."
Vancouver has won five straight home matches against San Jose (7-8-4), which has some work to do to catch up in the West. The Earthquakes, though, beat the Whitecaps 1-0 in the first meeting April 11 on Sana Nyassi’s goal.
San Jose likely is looking forward to playing competition that’s closer to its level after hosting world power Manchester United in a friendly Tuesday. The Earthquakes looked completely outmatched in a 3-1 defeat.
"It was like my little brother was playing against LeBron James," coach Dominic Kinnear said.
San Jose didn’t look much better in its last MLS match, though, falling 5-2 to Los Angeles on July 17. It has lost three straight in MLS play, with two coming on the road.
The biggest positive against the Galaxy was the performance of Quincy Amarikwa, who scored his first two goals since joining the Earthquakes prior to this season.
The road team has never won in 12 meetings since the Whitecaps joined MLS in 2011. San Jose is 0-5-1 in Vancouver.