‘Caps can clinch playoff berth with win in regular season finale
(ISN) – SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s (11W-8L-14D) playoff destiny is in their own hands going into their regular season finale after playing to a scrappy scoreless draw with San Jose Earthquakes (6W-15L-12D) Saturday night at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Whitecaps FC, who are now undefeated in four matches, put in another strong defensive performance and goalkeeper David Ousted made some key saves en route to Vancouver’s third straight clean sheet. It was also Ousted’s league-leading 12th clean sheet of the season.
The result moves Vancouver back into sole possession of the fifth and final playoff position in the Western Conference, one point up on Portland Timbers.
Both teams have just one match remaining, meaning the ‘Caps would clinch a playoff berth with a win over Colorado Rapids in their regular season finale. Whitecaps FC can also clinch a playoff spot with a Timbers loss at FC Dallas, or a Timbers draw and a ‘Caps draw against Colorado.
Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson made just one change to his starting lineup after last weekend’s Cascadia Cup-clinching win over Seattle, as centre back Johnny Leveron replaced a suspended Kendall Waston (caution accumulation).
The ‘Caps got off to a bright start in what was San Jose’s final match at Buck Shaw Stadium. Striker Erik Hurtado, who played at Buck Shaw Stadium as a member of the Santa Clara University Broncos, was particularly involved early. Less than a minute in, Hurtado saw his 20-yard attempt deflected out for one of Vancouver’s two corners in the first three minutes.
Whitecaps FC earned another corner in the 12th minute after Hurtado and Pedro Morales broke in on the counter before the Chilean’s strike was deflected out of play. Morales nearly swerved in the ensuing corner but Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch made a diving save.
To their credit, San Jose put up a strong fight in the first half despite being out of playoff contention. The Quakes actually had the best chance of the half just before the break, when a low Shea Salinas cross fell to Chris Wondolowski in the area.
The U.S. men’s national team striker hit it first time from close range but Ousted made a brilliant save to keep the score level heading into halftime. Wondolowski had another good opportunity in the 57th minute, but this time he headed a corner over the goal.
With the Quakes coming on strong, Robinson introduced midfielder Gershon Koffie into the match just after the hour mark. Koffie, who replaced Matias Laba, had missed the previous 10 matches with a sprained right foot.
Striker Darren Mattocks also came on just a few minutes later in place of Hurtado, as Robinson looked to push for a winning goal. It nearly had the desired effect, as Mattocks broke into the Quakes box in the 66th minute only to see his left-footed attempt deflected out for a corner.
Mattocks, who looked lively for the Blue and White, was involved again in the 75th minute, when he released Kekuta Manneh into the Quakes box. After outmuscling Pablo Pintos, Manneh got off a shot from in tight but Busch quickly came off his line to make the save.
A goal would simply not be in the cards for either side on this night, as the cagey Western Conference battle ended in a scoreless draw.
Whitecaps FC will look to secure their playoff berth next Saturday in their regular season finale against Colorado. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. PT at BC Place. The match will also be “Fan Appreciation Night” and Jay DeMerit’s retirement ceremony will be held prior to kickoff.
STAT OF THE GAME
Goalkeeper David Ousted, who has posted three straight clean sheets, now has a league-high 12 clean sheets – equalling Vancouver’s single season record in MLS.
Budweiser Man of the Match: Steven Beitashour
Referee: Drew Fischer
Shots: San Jose 13 – Vancouver 10
Shots on Goal: San Jose 3 – Vancouver 1
Saves: San Jose 1 – Vancouver 3
Fouls: San Jose 16 – Vancouver 13
Offsides: San Jose 0 Vancouver 1
Corners: San Jose 4 – Vancouver 6
86′ – VAN – Mauro Rosales
San Jose Earthquakes:
18.Jon Busch; 16.Pablo Pintos (20.Shaun Francis 78′), 5.Victor Bernardez, 21.Jason Hernandez, 3.Jordan Stewart; 4.Sam Cronin; 23.Atiba Harris, 9.Khari Stephenson, 10.Yannick Djalo, 6.Shea Salinas (11.Matias Perez Garcia 71′); 8.Chris Wondolowski
Substitutes not used:
13.Bryan Meredith, 2.Ty Harden, 7.Cordell Cato, 15.J.J. Koval, 22.Tommy Thompson
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.David Ousted; 33.Steven Beitashour, 40.Andy O’Brien, 16.Johnny Leverón, 2.Jordan Harvey; 15.Matías Laba (28.Gershon Koffie 61′), 31.Russell Teibert; 30.Mauro Rosales, 77.Pedro Morales (7.Sebastián Fernández 71′), 23.Kekuta Manneh; 19.Erik Hurtado (11.Darren Mattocks 64′)
Substitutes not used
70.Paolo Tornaghi, 3.Sam Adekugbe, 8.Medhi Ballouchy, 29.Nicolás Mezquida