By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Russell Teibert expects a “battle” and “fight.”
Goalkeeper David Ousted is prepared for a “brawl.”
There are usually fireworks when the Whitecaps meet FC Dallas and Wednesday’s one-game, first-round playoff matchup in Texas should be no different.
“You can see every time we play each other it’s a real battle,” said Teibert. “We know it’s going to be a fight but these are the games you play for. These are the games you really get up for. If you can’t get up for these then you can’t get up for any.”
Vancouver and Dallas split three spirited games during Major League Soccer’s regular season. Each team won at home with the other match ending in a 2-2 draw at B.C. Place Stadium.
The encounters were chock-full of emotion, with plenty of extra-curricular activities, on and off the field.
“Both teams want to win. Both teams are working really hard,” said Ousted. “Last time was a scrappy game and I think it’s going to be a scrappy game again. It’s going to be a little bit of a brawl and it’s just the intensity of wanting to win games.”
Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja and Vancouver assistant Martyn Pert were fined for their involvement in a post-match confrontation in the Whitecaps’ 2-0 home win Oct. 4. The altercation came less than a month after Pert and Dallas assistant Josema Bazan were sent off during a 2-1 Dallas victory Sept. 13 in Frisco, Texas.
“We’re very competitive, no one likes to lose and you can see the rivalry on the field in all three games,” Dallas midfielder Victor Ulloa told the club’s official website. “That’s just the intensity that we bring.”
Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson was asked why the teams don’t get along and provided what he called a “politically correct” answer to reporters.
“We’ve both got a lot of respect for each other and we both want to win the game. Each team will be giving 100 per cent,” said the Welshman. “It’s players wanting to win, managers wanting to win.”
While they remain focused on the No. 4 versus No. 5 game at Toyota Stadium, a win Wednesday would move the Whitecaps into a two-legged Western Conference semifinal against the Seattle Sounders.
“We’ve got a fantastic opportunity to make a little bit of history for this club, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work,” Robinson said. “Getting in the playoffs is good, but we don’t stop there. We go ahead now and if we can get over this hurdle, and it’s a very tough hurdle, what a battle we’ve got â€” a game against our rivals.”
Vancouver pushed hard to make the post-season, going 4-0-1 over its last five games to just get over the line ahead of the Portland Timbers by a point thanks to a dramatic 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday. Dallas, meanwhile, had a chance to avoid the extra playoff game but dropped a 2-0 decision at home to Portland in its finale, something Teibert said could benefit the Whitecaps.
“I think you could call it an edge,” said the Canadian international. “I think they were trying to play their way out of this situation whereas we were trying to play our way into this situation. We’re up for it.”
The Whitecaps have had a successful campaign regardless of Wednesday’s result â€” winning the regional Cascadia Cup tournament and qualifying for the 2015 CONCACAF Championship League â€” but are far from satisfied.
“We have everything to play for,” said Teibert, whose team finished four points behind Dallas. “The possibilities are endless for us this season.
We’ve been underdogs all season long and we’ve been proving people wrong all season long. So why not keep proving people wrong?”
For all the good feeling, Vancouver has had trouble scoring in 2014 â€” going the equivalent of five games without a goal at one point. But Robinson expects his forward-thinking players to get their chances in the winner-take-all matchup.
“We’ll be organized defensively as we have been the last five, six games and we’ll make sure that when we get into attacking areas we can try and exploit their weaknesses,” he said. “They leave holes. If we can get our attacking players in those pockets of space then it will be down to whether we can finish.”
The Whitecaps are the only Canadian team in the MLS playoffs and are making a second post-season appearance in three years. Vancouver lost on the road to the Los Angeles Galaxy at the same stage in 2012, but defender Andy O’Brien said the mood is different this time around.
“I think we’re a lot more confident going into the game,” he said. “With the pressure games that we’ve had, I think that will stand us in good stead. I think our decision making as to when to press as a team and when to sit back is certainly better than it was two years ago.
“I think that’s demonstrated in the fact that we’re a difficult team to play against.”
The Whitecaps have recorded four straight shutouts thanks in large part to the play of O’Brien and fellow centre back Kendall Waston. They’ll have to be especially wary of Dallas striker Blas Perez, who has three goals in three games against Vancouver this season.
“From a defensive perspective we know what to expect. It’s going to be physical,” said O’Brien. “With Perez up front it’s important not to react to some of things that go on.”
Added Waston: “We know how (Perez) works and we know what we’ve got to do to beat that.”
The Whitecaps know that keeping their heads against Dallas will be key but Robinson was a tough customer during his playing days and the rookie coach has no problem with things getting a bit nasty on the pitch.
“I’d prefer to have that than just be matey matey and friends all the time and on the field (when) the players pick each other up when there’s physical contact because the game’s not about that,” he said, before adding with a smile: “I watch hockey. It’s brilliant, so maybe I can turn my team into that a little bit without the fighting.”
Note: Whitecaps defender Steven Beitashour limped off with a hamstring injury against Colorado and will miss out Wednesday. Robinson could go with 19-year-old Sam Adekugbe â€” who was subbed on in the first half against the Rapids â€” or 20-year-old Ethen Sampson to fill the void.
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