MLS Knockout Round: Caps' To Reach Western Semi-Finals?
Vancouver Whitecaps vs San Jose Picks
If you're looking to bet on the crucial knockout round match between Vancouver and the San Jose Earthquakes, look no further. Below are the head to head lines, selected from the best online sportsbooks, followed by our fearless prediction and our match preview - make sure you take a look at this so you can make an informed decision on Wednesday night's game.
This match features two teams with contrasting form and momentum, and in the MLS playoffs it's all about peaking at the right time. The Whitecaps managed to slip to third position in the Western Conference standings despite being just a win away from locking down a semi-final berth, while the Earthquakes stormed home during the regular season and will travel to BC Place full of belief.
Despite the away side carrying all the momentum leading into this one, it's too hard to ignore their horrible away form over the regular season that saw them lose twelve of their seventeen away matches and concede 39 goals. They did manage to secure a draw in Vancouver two weeks ago, although we believe the Whitecaps will do enough to avenge this result and get the W here.
Whitecaps vs Earthquakes Preview
With three games to go in the Western Conference regular season, you would have received extraordinary odds if you had picked that these two teams would go head-to-head in the first round of the playoffs. The chances of the pair appearing in the knockout round were narrow at best, and for totally different reasons.
On one hand you had the Whitecaps, first in the Western Conference and needing just a handful of points to secure their place at the top of the division, let alone secure second place which would also see them head straight to the semi-finals of the playoffs. But two losses and a draw in their final three matches opened the door for both their Cascadia Cup rivals to overtake them.
Their Decision Day loss to the Portland Timbers, who moved into first place at their expense, wouldn't have been fatal to their chances of finishing in the top two if the Seattle Sounders failed to overcome the Colorado Rapids in their final day clash, however the team from just across the border managed to win comfortably, and suddenly the Whitecaps were facing the prospect of the Earthquakes coming to town.
San Jose, on the other hand, were dead and buried with three rounds to go in the regular season. They were still mathematically a chance, but with a goal difference of negative twenty-something and more losses than wins, were they really going to make it to the playoffs? Well here they are, and the way in which they managed it was nothing short of incredible.
The Earthquakes had to win their last match against Minnesota to secure their place in the knockout round, and with just seconds remaining the score was 2-2. As FC Dallas were winning comfortably at the same time, it appeared the Texans would nab the last spot in the playoff race. Then, in the third minute of stoppage time, Marco Ureña scored a goal that would send San Jose into Wednesday night's game at literally the last possible moment of the 34-game season!
So here we are - Vancouver vs San Jose. The unexpected has become reality, and now it's time to pick who goes through from here. The Earthquakes have all the momentum; they are like a tennis player who has saved a match point in the fourth set, won the set in a tiebreaker and is coming home with a wet sail in the decider. Vancouver will feel like the other player - so close to winning through to the next round and coming back to Earth with an unpleasant thud.
Let's take a look at the team stats, followed by an an analysis of their head to head record.
The Whitecaps finished in third position on the Western Conference table with a record of 15 wins, 12 defeats and seven draws. They were the eighth best team in the MLS overall.
Like the majority of teams in the MLS, Vancouver's home record was much better than their away form - at home they managed 9 wins and just 3 losses with a goal difference of +10, while away they managed 6 victories and 9 defeats with a for and against record of -9.
One of the most notable stats for the Whitecaps is the number of players that have been used throughout the season due to injuries to key players. Coach Carl Robinson has used a total of 33 players during the campaign, and not a single player has played in every match. With only Matias Laba out for this Wednesday's match, the Whitecaps will be looking to field an almost full-strength side, which could be the difference.
The number 33 is also appropriate to the team's talisman - leading goal scorer Fredy Montero has managed to play in 33 out of the 34 games in the regular season, chalking up 13 goals in the process. Vancouver have only lost once this season when Montero has found the back of the net, and will need him to do so if they want to progress to the next round and face rivals Seattle.
San Jose Earthquakes
San Jose are not one of the worst teams in terms of points gained to appear in the MLS Playoffs - Philadelphia managed to sneak into the Eastern finals with just 42 points last year - but they do have an incredibly poor goal difference that has got to be right up there with the worst ever amongst playoff teams. It is baffling how you can climb so high with a negative 21 for and against.
Yet San Jose ended the regular season on a high and only need one more win to reach a conference semi-final date with the Portland Timbers, a team who they managed to beat twice already in 2017. Could this be the start of one of the most unlikely runs in playoff history?
First things first - they will have to overcome the Whitecaps, and an away record that features just three wins and a whopping twelve losses. On the road this season the Earthquakes have conceded 39 goals, more than two per game, and as many goals as they have managed to score in their entire season. Sorting out their abysmal defensive record is the only way they are likely to obtain a positive result in Vancouver on Wednesday night.
Head to Head Record
The overall record between the two clubs is reasonably even. Vancouver have the upper hand with six wins compared to the Earthquake's four, while there have been eight drawn matches between the pair. San Jose has only managed to defeat the Whitecaps once in nine attempts at BC Place; Vancouver have won six of these clashes.
The positive sign for the Earthquakes is that they have managed to go undefeated in their two games against the Whitecaps in 2017. They won the first clash of the season between the two sides 3-2 at Avaya Stadium back in March, while their recent 1-1 draw in Vancouver proved to be vital in both securing their playoff position and relegating the Canadian side to third-place in the division. They will need to replicate this performance to have any chance of progressing.
This is going to be one of the most entertaining matches of the knockout round, and you can catch all the action from BC Place at 10:30pm EDT on Wednesday, October 25th. Don't forget to check out our MLS Playoffs page and look at our other match previews for the knockout round.
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