Vancouver Whitecaps FC kicks off a crucial three-game road trip on Saturday at FC Dallas as the two sides continue to jockey for playoff positioning in the Western Conference.
Both sides enter the weekend tied on 37 points in the sixth and final playoff spot in the conference, and Vancouver midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker is well aware of the importance that the next three games hold.
"This is going to be a real test of character," Reo-Coker said when asked about the team's upcoming road trip. "This is going to separate the men from the boys. I think with the team that we have, we have to show that we're men. This is serious business. We've got some real tough games coming up and we need to get results. This is the type of period that shows your true character and shows how far you've really come along as a team and as individuals."
The Whitecaps have earned only one point from their last three matches, so they better step up away from home or they could find themselves in a precarious position when they return to BC Place on Sept. 28 to face Real Salt Lake.
Vancouver needed to rally from two goals down at home in its last match to salvage a 2-2 draw with Chivas USA, so head coach Martin Rennie's team needs to make up for the dropped points somewhere else.
Rennie will be missing both Russell Teibert and Darren Mattocks on Saturday because both players will be away on international duty, but he could get some good news as defender Jay DeMerit is in contention for a place in the team for the first time since he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in Vancouver's regular-season opener on March 2.
Dallas will also be without two key players due to international duty as goalkeeper Raul Fernandez and forward Blas Perez will be unavailable.
But FCD will have the benefit of having last week off, and the club has won all three meetings between the two sides in Frisco.
Dallas claimed a 2-2 draw in its last match, against San Jose, as Perez tallied his 10th goal of the season to level the contest, but his absence will force another player to step up and assume the scoring load.
That man won't be Kenny Cooper as he will miss out on Saturday's match through suspension, leaving head coach Schellas Hyndman to come up with another option.