VANCOUVER — Time is running out for the Vancouver Whitecaps to clinch a post-season berth, but the team's goalkeeper remains optimistic.
After all, the 'Caps (9-9-7) have taken home eight points from their last four league matches, Stefan Marinovic points out.
"We have now nine games and everything to play for," he said after training this week. "We have a good schedule coming up, a decent schedule where we can get the wins we need. So overall, I think we're pretty positive."
Sitting in eighth place in the MLS Western Conference, Vancouver is three points back of the final playoff spot as they head to San Jose, Calif., to take on the Earthquakes (3-13-8) on Saturday.
The Whitecaps are riding a four-game unbeaten streak in league play, but have been plagued by continued errors. Last weekend, they settled for a 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls after conceding a goal in the 90th minute.
Head coach Carl Robinson said after the game that his team was "awful" and "looked lethargic" in the first half.
"We have to be at our levels. If we're not … it's going to be very difficult to win games in the league," he said after training this week.
The 'Caps have also struggled with keeping the ball out of the net, allowing 49 goals this season, the second-most in the Western Conference. The last time Vancouver had a clean sheet in league play was a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake on April 27.
Marinovic said some of the goals have been "unfortunate" and that he has played to the best of his abilities.
Shutting out San Jose would be a boost to the team, but the keeper said it wouldn't impact his confidence.
"If we get (a clean sheet), that would be fantastic, but I'd rather concede five goals and score six in one game than play a 0-0, because that means three points," he said.
Vancouver left back Marcel de Jong said the club will need to be strong on both sides of the ball to defeat the Quakes.
"It goes both ways. We've got to be sharp all over the pitch," he said. "It's the final stretch of the season and it's all or nothing."
San Jose sits at the bottom of the league's table with just three wins this season, but de Jong said his team isn't underestimating any of their opponents as they push toward the post-season.
"We have to beat them because we want to make the playoffs. That's basically it," he said.
"I don't think there's much wiggle room left. Nine games and it's all or nothing."
Robinson said his team can't take anything for granted heading into San Jose. The two teams battled to a 2-2 draw when they last met in Vancouver on May 16.
"We've got to go there full of confidence," he said. "We know they've got good players. We know that they probably had a difficult year up and down, things haven't gone their way. But it'll be a difficult game for us. We're under no illusions, but it's a game that we firmly believe we can go and win."
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (9-9-7) AT SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (3-13-8)
Saturday, Avaya Stadium
ROAD FOES: The Whitecaps are looking for their first-ever win at Avaya Stadium. They've played on the Quakes' home turf nine times, losing three of the matches and posting six ties.
RECORD SEEKER: Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski tallied his 141 league goal last weekend when San Jose reached a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC. The 35-year-old is now just four goals away from tying former LA Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan for the all-time MLS record.
NO DOMINGUEZ: Vancouver fans hoping to see the 'Caps newest centre back will have to wait. Roberto Dominguez signed a contract with the club earlier this month and was at training this week. But Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson said the 21-year-old Salvadoran international needs "a week or two" to get up to speed before he gets in a game.
SCORING STREAK: The 'Caps are on a bit of a offensive tear, posting 16 goals in their last seven games, including the Canadian Championships. Captain Kendall Waston netted both of Vancouver's points last weekend, marking his first two-goal game in MLS play.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press