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Whitecaps look to get back in playoff picture
By Jim Morris, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER - After settling for a string of draws, the Vancouver Whitecaps are looking for a win against FC Dallas to paint themselves back into the Major League Soccer playoff picture.
"We can gain points on them," said left fullback Jordan Harvey. "Any game you play against a Western Conference team, and we're just outside of the playoffs and they are in, we need to win."
The Western Conference standings are as cramped as a subway train at rush hour. Heading into Friday night's games, only two points separated third-place FC Dallas (8-7-5) from the sixth place Whitecaps (6-4-9). A win Sunday afternoon at BC Place Stadium would vault Vancouver into third place.
The top five teams in each conference advance to the playoffs.
"We're in the hunt now," said midfielder Russell Teibert. "I think we're where we want to be.
"Obviously we can improve. We can win games and close out games when we need to, and that's going to separate us from the middle of the pack."
The Whitecaps have lost just twice in their last 13 MLS games, but they also haven't been winning. Vancouver is 1-2-4 in their last seven games, including back-to-back 1-1 draws on the road against Toronto and Real Salt Lake. During that stretch Vancouver has been outscored 10-7 and been blanked twice.
The Whitecaps have nine draws this season, leaving them tied with Portland and New York. Only Chicago has more with 11.
While the point gained from a draw is much better than a loss it's still not as productive as the three points collected in a win.
"We are really aware we need to win more games now," said goalkeeper David Ousted, who has played in all 19 league games for the Caps this season. "That being said, going into Salt Lake, it's a tough place to play and getting a draw there is a good result.
"We are positive about the results we get. We need to win games. We need (the) three points."
Harvey said not all draws are equal. Six of Vancouver's ties have come on the road.
"At home you want to pick up three points all the time," said the 30-year-old from Mission Viejo, Calif. "On the road, depending on where you are playing, sometimes you are just looking to get a result.
"The last couple of road games in Toronto and Salt Lake are tough places to play. Coming away with the draw I thought we were satisfied with that."
Going on the road hasn't always meant happy trails for the Whitecaps. Back in 2011, Vancouver's first MLS season, the team was 0-12-5 away from home.
"In years prior we hadn't come away with the point," said Harvey. "This year we are competing.
"We are competing on the road and we have that mindset we can win on the road."
Closing the gap on FC Dallas won't be easy. Dallas is unbeaten in their last five MLS matches (3-0-2) but has struggled on the road. Since opening the season with a 4-1 win in Houston, Dallas is 0-4-3 in seven road games.
Dallas will be without Fabian Castillo who is tied for the team lead with five goals. He is serving the final game of a four-match suspension for making contact with an official following a June 11 game against the Portland Timbers.
Mauro Diaz, who had three goals and three assists in eight matches before suffering a knee injury in May, has appeared in the last two Dallas games as a substitute.
"They are a really sound team," said Ousted. "They are good on the ball offensively.
"They've got some guys who can really score goals and create problems for the other team."
Earlier in the season the Whitecaps scored a flood of goals but that has been reduced to a trickle.
Jamaican striker Darren Mattocks scored the lone goal in each of Vancouver's last two draws. He now has four goals on the season, one more than he had in 2013.
Coach Carl Robinson said the Whitecaps need to score by committee and not rely on any one player.
"I've said all along that everybody needs to take a little more responsibility," said Robinson.
Harvey believes the goals will come, especially with Vancouver playing at home again.
"We've got attackers that have played well throughout the year," he said. "Guys are hitting their stride.
"On the road we may have been more defensive but you come home and you want to play an entertaining brand of soccer. I am confident in our goal-scoring ability and our creativity. We just need to put it together."
One Whitecap player Dallas will want to keep an eye on is Pedro Morales. The Chilean striker leads Vancouver with six goals, eight assists and 20 shots on goal.
The Whitecaps might also have an emotional lift heading into the game following captain Jay DeMerit's announcement Thursday he is retiring after suffering a second serious ankle injury earlier this year.
"Jay leaves the team in a very good place," said Robinson. "We've lost a true leader but someone else will have to step up."