Commerce City, CO – The Western Conference playoff picture is tighter than its been all year, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC's trip to Dick's Sporting Goods Park for a meeting with the Colorado Rapids on Saturday could have a major impact in the outlook for the remainder of the season.
The two sides enter the weekend tied for second place in the West on 36 points apiece, but they both remain just two points clear of the playoff line.
A loss for either side could drop them all the way down to sixth place, provided that the Portland Timbers, Los Angeles Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC all receive wins at the weekend.
It's tough to bet against Colorado's form at the moment. The Rapids are one of the league's hottest teams as they bring an eight-game unbeaten run into Saturday's clash, but they were left to a rue a missed opportunity to move closer to the top of the Western Conference after they dropped two points in a 1-1 draw with struggling Chivas USA last time out.
"The boys are not happy with a point anymore, which is good," Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja said. "I thought we came back from a game that was weird. With what happened in the game, (and) I've been in those games before, you don't have answers. But I thought the players had answers in the second half especially, and I'm very proud of them."
Colorado and Chivas both had a man sent off around halftime, but the Rapids held a one-man advantage for the final 27 minutes and only managed to get an equalizer 10 minutes from time.
"It was one of those games," Pareja said. "Sometimes the game is tough when you play with one man up, and the other team is just sitting and waiting. It's not easy, but what we can say is Chivas didn't have any options when they were one man down and we controlled them all the time."
Vancouver, meanwhile, snapped a three-game winless run last weekend by claiming a 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.
Nigel Reo-Coker played a starring role in the victory, assisting on both Whitecaps goals for his first multi-assist match since making the move to MLS.
"I think he has an impact on the game offensively, but he doesn't necessarily always get the assist or a goal. But I think he does have an impact. He drives us forward and I thought he did that really well again," Rennie said of Reo- Coker. "I thought in the second half in particular, that was a major factor in the game, as well as Kenny (Miller) being up higher, closer to the goal, caused more problems in behind. And as a result of that, I think we were much more dangerous."