The Vancouver Whitecaps and visiting Minnesota United FC could both take a giant step toward reaching the playoffs with a victory in their meeting on Wednesday night.
Both teams are coming off ties over the weekend and are in excellent recent form during a busy close to the season that makes playing stylish soccer secondary to simply grinding out results.
Minnesota United (12-10-9, 45 points) are in sixth place in the Western Conference and hit the road Wednesday to face the Whitecaps (11-9-11, 44 points), who are right behind them in seventh. The top seven teams in each conference advance to the playoffs.
Vancouver's 1-1 tie at San Jose on Saturday night was an example of productive practicality. Although the Whitecaps improved to 6-3-2 under interim manager Vanni Sartini with the result, they spent large stretches defending against the Earthquakes, who probably needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Sartini's team struggled to cope with the Earthquakes' quickness of play, particularly before halftime. A defensive adjustment -- and the first goal of Bruno Gaspar's MLS career -- allowed the Whitecaps to hold on for a point despite a 60th-minute equalizer from Benji Kikanovic.
"Normally when we see this, we just ask our players to be more aggressive and stay high," Sartini said. "But I felt that the team was very tired, so I asked them to do the opposite, and to press a little less. And to be more compact, closer to our goal and let them play in front of us. ... And I think we defended much better in the second half."
Minnesota is 4-2-2 in its last eight and had to overcome its own adversity in a 1-1 tie at home against LAFC on Saturday.
The Loons were the more aggressive and dangerous team but fell behind after a first-half goal from Cristian Arango, arguably the league's hottest player.
It took Osvaldo Alonso's opportunistic equalizer following a rebound of Emanuel Reynoso's free kick to give the home side a point and keep LAFC beneath them in the standings.
"This point is good because playing one-zero down, we get up and show a lot of character to try to tie the game," Alonso said. "I was impressed with the team."
--Field Level Media