VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps want to stop the bleeding before they hit the road.
The Major League Soccer club heads into Saturday’s home game against Real Salt Lake with just two victories over its last eight following a blistering 4-1-0 start to the season. It wants to leave B.C. Place Stadium on a winning note before the FIFA Women’s World Cup takes over the venue for the next six weeks.
“It’s down to mentality,” said Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted, whose team has lost two straight for the first time in 2015. “It is a long season and there will be ups and downs, but we need to nip it in the bud.”
Despite the recent downturn, Vancouver (6-5-2) remains entrenched in the top half of the ultra-tight Western Conference. The Whitecaps have picked up just four points since beating Salt Lake (4-4-5) in Utah on April 18, but enter the weekend still in a relatively good position because no other team has been able to pull away.
“I try to focus on what we need to do … and not look at the standings,” said Ousted. “I don’t see any teams that will not challenge for a playoff spot. It’s going to be a grind.”
Winning at home is vitally important in MLS because of what can be at times be a gruelling travel schedule, however the Whitecaps actually have a slightly better road record this season (3-2-1) compared to their mark at B.C. Place (3-3-1).
Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson wants to play an attractive brand of soccer, especially at home, but his players have been caught out of position at times, with a recent 2-0 defeat to the Seattle Sounders a prime example.
“Our mindset at home is we want to play well, we want to get off on the front foot and we want to be proactive,” said Robinson. “Sometimes it can be our downfall and it was in the last (home) game, but we’ve just got to make sure our tactics are right. If we sit back for 85 minutes at home and win 1-0 then I’m sure people will say you need attack more. We’re just trying to find that balance at the moment.”
The Whitecaps have scored only 14 goals in 13 games this season, but Real has had even more difficulty finding the net with only 12 goals over the same stretch, including a 1-0 road loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday.
Saturday’s match in Vancouver will be the first game on the newly installed turf at B.C. Place ahead of the Women’s World Cup, and while the Whitecaps always boasted that the old surface played to their advantage it’s clear the players are eager to get out on the new pitch.
“It was difficult. I think you saw whenever a team came in they were slipping and sliding,” said Ousted. “It was slippery, (but) you deal with it.”
The Whitecaps won’t be back playing at home until July 12 — a stretch of five games plus a bye week — and defender Steven Beitashour said staying the course is the best way for Vancouver to get out of its recent dry run.
“I don’t think the results reflect how we’ve been playing, but that’s just the game of soccer,” he said. “Sometimes you play poorly and you win, sometimes you play really well and you don’t win.
“You want to end those losing streaks as quick as possible. Two is too much.”
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press