Vancouver is embroiled in regional battle

[MLS: Playoff Push] The Vancouver Whitecaps' slow start had some demanding a coaching change, but then Brazilian Camilo got hot. He's just one reason, however, why the 'Caps find themselves in the Western Conference's top five with 11 games to play.

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS:
Record: 10-7-6
First 10: 3-4-3
Last 10: 6-2-2

THE STORY SO FAR. After a seven-game winless run in early spring that whipped up plenty of angst amongst fans and media, the Whitecaps have won eight of 14 to climb into the playoff sector. They are embroiled in a regional playoff battle from which all three, or perhaps only one, of the Northwest triad might emerge.

RECENT MOVES. DP forward Kenny Miller signed a six-month extension last month, and defender Andy O’Brien agreed to a one-year contract extension last week. Danish keeper David Ousted, who joined the team in late June, made his home debut last week in a 2-0 victory over San Jose.

STYLE POINTS. Camilo’s class has been apparent since he first set foot in MLS, but he’s grown into a goalscorer this season: tied for first on the leaderboard with 14 goals. Miller has quieted his critics – and they’ve been many and loud for much of his MLS stint – by scoring seven goals. Nigel Reo-Coker has brought ample doses of brawn and speed to the midfield, and Russell Teibert, who had zero assists in his first 15 MLS games the past two seasons, leads the team with eight assists in the same amount of matches this year.

NEEDS WORK. Head coach Martin Rennie must solidify his defense to keep Vancouver on a playoff course. Goalkeeping by committee -- Ousted, Brad Knighton and Joe Cannon -- has produced only four shutouts, and none of the centerbacks has played more than 17 games. Injured captain Jay DeMerit is training intensely and should be ready by the end of the month.

FINAL ANSWER. Tied for second place with Colorado, the Caps are only two points ahead of sixth-place Seattle. Vancouver plays three of its last 10 games against the Rapids, starting with a Saturday game on the road, where it is 2-6-3 this season.

REMAINING SCHEDULE:
August 17: @Colorado
August 24: LA Galaxy
September 1: Chivas USA
September 7: @FC Dallas
September 14: @San Jose
September 21: @Montreal
September 28: Real Salt Lake
October 6: Portland
October 9: @Seattle
October 19 @Colorado
October 27: Vancouver
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