The Vancouver Whitecaps will host Calgary-based Cavalry FC for the second leg of the Canadian Championship third round at 10:30 p.m. ET Wednesday at BC Place.
Cavalry was the underdog heading into this tie, but the Canadian Premier League spring champions managed to hold the Whitecaps to a 0-0 draw at Spruce Meadows two weeks ago. With the away goal rule in place, the Whitecaps will now have to win their home match to advance to the semifinals of the competition.
The Whitecaps are in a slump without a win in nine matches across all competitions. In Major League Soccer, Saturday’s defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes put the Whitecaps 10 points behind Real Salt Lake, who hold the final playoff position in the Western Conference and have two games in hand. That means making the playoffs is next to impossible for the Caps. Five Thirty Eight has Vancouver’s chances of making the postseason at less than 1 percent.
“It’s almost like a nightmare that’s never-ending,” Doneil Henry said Monday after practice. “We gotta win. If I could give anything for a win right now, I’d do it.”
Fans need a win as well. There was a sense of unrest among the supporters after Saturday’s loss.
This season, the Whitecaps have averaged an announced attendance of 19,980 fans, the lowest since 2012 (19,475) and the only other season they were under 20,000. Saturday’s crowd of 17,558 was the third-lowest this season.
An article recently published in the Province said many fans are contemplating not renewing their season tickets for next year.
Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos was seen speaking with fans after the game Saturday.
“I just want to give something back to them, and I feel for them right now,” Dos Santos said.
Having something to cheer about until the end of the season — even if it is just a deep run in the Canadian Championship — could help.
“Trust me, we don’t need to be reminded of how important this game is,” Dos Santos said. “But at the same time, we hope that there are more important games to come this season.”
Calgary will provide a difficult challenge. The CPL champ started the fall season with three wins, and their style of play caused some significant problems for the Whitecaps in the first leg.
“I learned about their fighting spirit and their commitment,” Dos Santos said of Cavalry. “They are going to come out excited. They are going to be intense. They are dangerous on set plays and their direct play.
“We have to play with pride and reach our objective to be in the semifinal.”