It all comes down to the last Sunday. The MLS wraps up its regular season this weekend and it’s all to play for two Canadian sides. Both CF Montreal and Vancouver Whitecaps are going into game 34 with their playoff hopes in their own hands. Ahead of their game 34 matchups, let’s look at the task at hand for both Canadian teams.
I’m sure not many people would’ve predicted the Whitecaps would be in this position back in August. Going into a week 19 match-up on August 18th, Vancouver had won only 3 of their opening 18 games. Since then they have been in scintillating form losing only twice in 15 games picking up nine wins along the way. Vancouver’s uptake in form coincides with a new man in charge, interim coach Vanni Sartini has been a revelation since taking over from Marc Dos Santos in late August.
Sartini has given the fans a sense of belief and reason for optimism, he’s a coach who wears his heart on his sleeve and can often be seen celebrating with the fans at BC Place after a win. After a relaxation of COVID rules, Vancouver was able to return home to BC Place on August 21st and have wasted no time reacquainting themselves after a season and a half playing in temporary U.S. home bases.
In front of the B.C faithful Vancouver has won seven out of eight games at BC Place and it just so happens their final game is at home, against their American rivals Seattle Sounders. A 1-1 draw against LA FC in their last outing leaves Vancouver in a favourable position, a draw on Saturday will be enough for them to finish at least in seventh place which is good enough for post-season soccer. A win meanwhile could see them finish as high as fifth. Even a defeat might be enough if results go their way, but Vancouver can’t rely on that.
Seattle with a win can guarantee themselves a first place in the Western Conference, they won’t make it easy. In matches between the two this season, Vancouver has yet to win recording a 2-2 draw and a 4-1 defeat. Both games however were in Seattle. Vancouver will be looking to key players such as Brian White, Ryan Gauld and Cristian Dájome to help them get over the line, and secure post-season soccer in Vancouver for the first time since 2017.
The change of name is still taking a while to get used to, but for now, all that matters is making the playoffs in Montreal. While Vancouver has stormed the league in recent months, Montreal meanwhile has shown patchy form since September, winning only four out of 11 matches in that time, but crucially won their penultimate fixture against Houston 2-0 to keep their season alive.
Montreal, just like Vancouver, got a shot in the arm when on July 17th they played at their home venue Saputo Stadium for the first time in a season a half, with their first game back at Montreal being a game of the season contending 5-4 victory of Cincinnati. First season head coach Wilfred Nancy’s side has performed much better in their home venues this season winning eight out of 15, considerably better than their away record that’s seen them pick up just three away wins all season. One of those away wins however came back in September when a one goal and two assists performance from forward Romell Quioto inspired Montreal to a 4-2 away win against Orlando City.
Orlando City is Montreals opposition in Sunday’s do-or-die match-up, their situation is simple, two points behind 6th place Orlando City in the standings, only a win guarantees Montreal playoff soccer.
Wilfred Nancy should be confident in his young side going into this matchup, they’re unbeaten against Orlando this season with both games being in the sunshine state. Now back in Quebec with the home fans behind them, Montreal must put in one more good performance against Orlando to get the job done. If key players like Djordje Mihailovic, Romel Quioto, Rudy Camacho and Victor Wanyama can rise to the occasion, then CF Montreal will surely be confident of securing playoff soccer.