Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Whitecaps Host Earthquakes in Knockout Round Looking for First Playoff Win

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Whitecaps Host Earthquakes in Knockout Round Looking for First Playoff Win

Article excerpt

Whitecaps host Earthquakes in playoff tilt

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VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Whitecaps like to talk about making history. They have a chance to finally do it on the big stage Wednesday night.

Yet to win a playoff game since joining Major League Soccer in 2011, the Whitecaps will get another crack at post-season glory when they host the San Jose Earthquakes in the single-elimination knockout round.

Vancouver has three losses and a draw in four all-time playoff matches, including two as the visiting team at this stage of the competition.

"The last little bit is always the hardest -- the playoff success," said head coach Carl Robinson. "We've got to aim for it, we've got to focus on it.

"It's something you've got to enjoy. You can't be afraid of it. You've got embrace it."

The Whitecaps failed to embrace consecutive opportunities over the final two weekends of the regular season to clinch top spot in the Western Conference for the first time following a 1-1 home draw against San Jose on Oct. 15 and Sunday's 2-1 road defeat to the Portland Timbers.

Vancouver was instead bumped all the way down to third -- missing out on a first-round bye -- and faces a San Jose squad that will be buzzing after securing the sixth and final seed thanks to a dramatic 3-2 extra-time victory over Minnesota United.

The Whitecaps are 1-3-1 over their last five, with the only victory coming in a 1-0 win at Sporting Kansas City where they had just 26.5 per cent possession.

It's a rough patch at the wrong time on the heels of an impressive 5-0-2 run.

"We've just got to get back to doing what we've been doing, how we've been successful," said Vancouver right back Jake Nerwinski. "We play 34 games all season to get to this point. Now it's knockout football. It's the fun part.

"It's a chance to make a run and really make this season worthwhile."

In that draw with San Jose at B.C. Place Stadium, where a win would have clinched first, the Whitecaps missed a number of golden opportunities to stretch a 1-0 lead.

Those wasted chances allowed the Earthquakes to hang around before Valeri Qazaishvili jumped on a defensive miscue for the equalizer in the 77th minute.

"The difference now is we're going to put one in -- I can tell you this," said Vancouver striker Fredy Montero, whose team also only needed a point in Portland to secure first. …

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