Vancouver, BC – The playoff race in the Western Conference promises to go down to the final few weeks of the season. And Saturday's game between the San Jose Earthquakes and Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place is the kind of match that will have a big impact on the final results.
The top eight teams in the West are separated by just eight points, with Vancouver currently occupying the final playoff spot, but sitting only three points ahead of the eighth-place Earthquakes, who find themselves in a good run of form at the moment.
Vancouver's 1-1 draw at Portland last weekend was the club's first point in three games, and it also started a stretch of four straight matches against fellow Western Conference playoff contenders.
Now would be a good time for head coach Martin Rennie's team to turn around its short slump, because a few more bad results in the coming weeks could leave Vancouver on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.
Rennie could get some help this weekend with the return of midfielders Jun Marques Davidson and Gershon Koffie, who are both back after serving one-match suspensions, while forward Kenny Miller returned to training this week and may be available as well.
Miller has scored six goals in 13 games for the Whitecaps this season, and his return after missing last weekend's match against Portland would help the Vancouver attack, especially with fellow forward Darren Mattocks out.
The Scotland international sustained a right adductor strain in the 1-0 defeat against Philadelphia on July 27, but he is optimistic about his return on Saturday.
"There was no point in risking missing three or four weeks rather than just missing the game [against Portland]," Miller told reporters after training this week. "As much as I was disappointed, it was the sensible thing to do. And as I say, I'm very optimistic I'll be fit for Saturday."
San Jose will be optimistic as well ahead of the game with the Earthquakes riding a season-high three-game winning streak in league play.
Despite a 1-0 defeat against the Montreal Impact in its CONCACAF Champions League opener on Wednesday, Mark Watson's team has put itself in the playoff mix in the Western Conference with its recent revival.
Chris Wondolowski returned from international duty to score both goals in a 2-0 win over Chivas USA last weekend, while the club also saw the debut of United States defender Clarence Goodson, who is expect to sure up a defense that has yielded only one goal in its last three league contests.