The Vancouver Whitecaps are in the Endgame now.
Three games remain and they are important because of playoff implications. The Western Conference is tight but you probably already know that. Hold onto your butts.
After two losses and two draws, the Whitecaps will look to steer their ship out of shark infested waters and towards playoff island. But it won’t be easy. Up next is St. Louis SC.
St. Louis SC: The best MLS expansion side ever
Expansion sides usually start slow. Well, usually.
St Louis SC has shocked MLS by clinching first place in the Western Conference. No one expected them to be 17-5-10 with 56 points at this stage of the season.
Former Whitecap and current St.Louis SC Tim Parker poked fun at MLS writers for their early season predictions.
St. Louis City SC is lead by their captain and former Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Bürki. According to FotMob,he is fifth in MLS in save percentage, (75%) third in saves per 90 (3.8)and first in goals prevented. (11)
The Whitecaps have to be aware of strier João Klauss (who was St. Louis’ first ever Designated Player) and midfielder Eduard Löwen. Klauss has been a deadly finisher for St. Louis and he has 10 goals this season and he is tied with striker Nicholas Gioacchini for the team lead.
Löwen is a creator. He leads all St. Louis City SC players in assists with nine. He is tied for fourth in the league with Houston Dynamo’s Hector Herrera and Atlanta United’s Brooks Lennon.
St. Louis is unbeaten in their last five and are tied with the Columbus Crew for the highest scoring team in the league with 62.
The Whitecaps lost to St. Louis SC on May 27 3-1 at CityPark. After that game, Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini did not hold back on his thoughts on the officiating.
The Whitecaps are still dealing with the fatigue of playing many games but Sartini says it is not an issue.
“It’s MLS, sometimes we have this stretch,” he said after training on Tuesday at BC Place. “I think we are back on the ‘rising’ again. We did quite well against DC (United) and now we need a top performace. I think tomorrow is the most important of the three games we have. (remaining) I think a win tomorrow will put us in the position to make us think ‘ok, we are a playoff team, we could do it.”
Sartini talked about how surprising St. Louis has been in their first year.
“I am happy they did well,” when asked about them winning the Western Conference. “They are the example of being clear with their project, being clear with what they want to do, building a culture first and going on the field. It’s more important than bringing stairs. They have a clear identity on the pitch, they rely on their coach, they scouted players for that style of play…they had a fantastic season…If you do things the right way, there is a chance for everyone and that is the beauty of this league.”
“I say that to not only congratulate St. Louis, I say that because if we do well in the last three games, we are in the title contention too.”
Parker will be back at BC Place and it is also the return of Jake Nerwinski. The American defender had his option declined last fall after six seasons with the Whitecaps.
“I think it’s going to be a special moment for me,” said Nerwinski earlier this week per Har Johal of Canadian Soccer Daily. “I spent six seasons there, it was my first professional club. I’d been given a lot of opportunities there to play out my dream and start my career there. I owe that club a lot and I’m happy to come back.”
Nerwinksi was asked about his former teammates Brian White and Ryan Gauld who have been a deadly duo. Former Whitecaps striker and their current liaison, club and player engagement Tosaint Ricketts has dubbed them as Batman and Robin on his Twitter account.
Nerwinski wants to be the Joker or Two Face or Mr. Freeze (or any other Batman or superhero villian) on Wednesday.
“It’s always great to see familiar faces like Jake here” said Sartini. “I worked with Jake for four years. I know him very well and I’m very happy he found a good dimension…I am also extra happy because Jake won the Western Conference because he’s a friend. I was really happy that the fans gave a nice welcome to Cristian (Dájome) last week and I know they will do the same with Jake.”
Whitecaps playoff implications
The Whitecaps can clinch a playoff spot if they beat St.Louis on Wednesday. But slow down there buckaroo, it’s not that simple.
They also need one of two things to happen. FC Dallas needs to lose or draw against the Colorado Rapids and Minnesota United needs to lose or draw LAFC.
St. Louis may play with a rotated squad since they already won the Western Conference. However the Whitecaps need to get the job done regardless because battle for the playoffs is getting very intense.