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Whitecaps looking for victory over San Jose in 40th anniversary game

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VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Whitecaps will celebrate their 40th anniversary on Saturday and they're hoping the festive atmosphere at BC Place might help them get back on track this season.

Despite staging dramatic comebacks to earn a pair of draws in their past two games, the Whitecaps (2-2-4) head into the match against the San Jose Earthquakes winless in their last four.

"At the end of the day, the table doesn't lie," central defender Andy O'Brien told reporters after practice this week. "We are where we are. We want to improve where we are."

The Whitecaps, who entered Major League Soccer in 2011, played their first-ever game against San Jose in the North American Soccer League on May 5, 1974.

Fans will wear nostalgic clothing on Saturday and Vancouver president Bob Lenarduzzi, a former player and coach who has been with the Whitecaps since their inception, will be inducted into the club's new ring of honour before the game.

"It's a great occasion," said Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit. "It marks a really rich history of this club. Obviously, to be playing the Earthquakes, who were there in 1974 as well, it's a great step, I suppose, in the right direction for North America soccer, and it's great that the Whitecaps are commemorative in that occasion."

The Whitecaps, who switched coaches and revamped their roster in the off-season, enter the weekend in fifth place in the Western Conference. Only the top five teams qualify for the playoffs, which Vancouver missed last season.

"We're a team that's trying to find ourselves still," said O'Brien.

The Earthquakes (1-2-3), also in their 40th season, are off to a slow start as they battle numerous injuries. They have scored just six goals to date, but have posted two straight shutouts.

A number of Vancouver players hope to earn starts after sitting recently.

DeMerit is one of them. He was kept home from a road game for a second time this season as the Whitecaps battled Real Salt Lake to a 2-2 draw with goals in the 86th minute and added time last weekend.

"We knew coming in that this was the case," the 34-year-old DeMerit said of a plan to curb his minutes this season. "I suppose it is a fairly different mindset, but one that I'm more than happy to bring to this organization and to this team. I understand my role, both as a mentor and as a player. The willingness to play both of those roles has to come from me, and that is coming from me. So I understand both sides (of the age spectrum.)

"I understand that there's young guys on this team that deserve shots and deserve experience, and it's my job to mentor that and be on board with that."

Assistant coach Gordon Forrest indicated that DeMerit's absence from the last game was due to the plan to rest him more often, not because of unsatisfactory play.

Right fullback Steven Beitashour is not complaining about playing time, either. Beitashour, a 27-year-old San Jose native who was acquired from the Earthquakes in an off-season trade, has played all but one minute this season in place of retired Korean legend Young-Pyo Lee.

"I think Steven's grown over the last two or three games especially," coach Carl Robinson told reporters. "I think he's gotten better and better with each game."

Beitashour hopes to put on another good show as he plays his former teammates for the first time in Vancouver.

"I don't know the feeling that I'll have yet," Beitashour said. "But I'm sure, five minutes before the game starts, I'll have that feeling. I'm sure the whole (San Jose) team will be doing some chirping, and it'll be fun. We'll definitely be going back and forth, but it's all fun and games."

However, Beitashour hopes the Whitecaps put a more serious effort in at the outset of the game. He believes poor starts in the previous two games hampered otherwise positive showings.

"We showed great character to come back and not quit, but I think this weekend, at home, we need to start off right and get the victory," he said.

Notes: Whitecaps third-string goalkeeper Marco Carducci, a 17-year-old Calgary native, will dress for his first MLS game as he backs up David Ousted. Usual backup 'keeper Paolo Tornaghi was handed a one-game league suspension and fined an undisclosed amount Friday for entering the field of play from the bench against Real Salt Lake. Tornaghi was punished for running on to the pitch and celebrating with his teammates after Sebastian Fernandez scored in the 94th minute. … … Whitecaps depth defenders Sam Adekugbe and Ethen Sampson are sidelined indefinitely after suffering knee injuries while playing for the reserves squad. … Former Whitecaps winger Shea Salinas is having a breakout season offensively, leading the Earthquakes with four assists.

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