Vancouver, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps FC was impressive in the opening three months of the season and will return from an international break on Saturday against the Colorado Rapids in a key Western Conference clash.
Vancouver, in its second season in Major League Soccer, totaled just 28 points last season as an expansion team, but has 22 through just 13 matches.
Just seven points off the pace of Real Salt Lake, which leads the West and MLS with 29 points, Whitecaps FC can solidify its spot in the top four in the West against Colorado.
Vancouver (6-3-4) has a three-point lead over fifth-place Colorado (6-6-1) in the table, and will look to use BC Place to its advantage this weekend.
Whitecaps FC is 4-1-2 at home this season and was one of the few teams to have a league match during the two-week international break. Vancouver defeated the Houston Dynamo, 3-1, last weekend behind a brace from Darren Mattocks.
Mattocks, a rookie, helped Vancouver put an end to its two-match losing streak and could play a more integral role for the rest of the season. Mattocks has four goals in seven appearances in all competitions.
"Almost every game (Mattocks) creates chances and if he's consistent with his finishes, he can score a lot of goals," Vancouver manager Martin Rennie said. "Scoring goals helps him get in the lineup and if he scores more, it will build his confidence."
Vancouver lost second-year striker Omar Salgado to a broken foot for two to four months, as the U.S. Under-20 player was injured on national team duty.
Colorado coach Oscar Pareja knows all about injuries this season, his first as boss of the Rapids. Anthony Wallace and Pablo Mastroeni are sidelined, Marvell Wynne is doubtful, and Omar Cummings and Conor Casey are among the probable.
"I was checking my notes and I don't think there's been a team where we've looked around and said, 'This is the full squad,'" Pareja said. "We are always just challenged with injuries, and it may be the case for many other teams.
"We are not complaining about it or making excuses, it's just a fact."
The Rapids won their last game, 3-2, over the Montreal Impact, but that was in late May. Pareja managed to produce a 3-3-1 record in Colorado's last seven despite the injuries, and the break could allow some players to return, but it could have let a little rust set in as well.