Slumping Vancouver Whitecaps look to improve defence in bid to turn season around

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An extended winless streak is not how Brian White wanted to kick off his time with the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The New York Red Bulls dealt the 25-year-old striker to the 'Caps on June 2, but he has yet to experience a victory with his new squad.

Weathering the club's eight-game winless drought has been tough, but White said the pressure's also fuelling him as the club looks to turn its season around.

"You feel it a little bit but it’s more of a burning fire inside of you, to break this spell, to start winning games and get the ball rolling so we can progress up the table and earn more points," he said.

Vancouver's next chance to get back in the win column comes Saturday when the 'Caps (2-7-3) host the L.A. Galaxy (8-4-0) at their temporary home in Sandy, Utah. The 'Caps have not played in Vancouver since September due to pandemic-related border closures.

The Whitecaps suffered an ugly 4-0 loss to Real Salt Lake in their last outing on July 7 and are entrenched at the bottom of the Western Conference. The Galaxy are coming off a 3-1 win over FC Dallas the same night.

Vancouver and L.A. previously met on June 23, with the Galaxy taking a 2-1 win thanks to a stoppage-time goal from Efrain Alvarez.

In order to get a different result this time out, the Whitecaps have to help out their goalkeeper, said head coach Marc Dos Santos.

“We have to do a better job collectively defensively because we shouldn’t need three goals or four goals to win games or get results," he said.

Vancouver is tied with San Jose for the most goals conceded (22) in the West so far this season. The 'Caps have also scored the second fewest goals in the West (12 in 12 games) and have the worst goal differential (-10) in the conference.

There are "little moments" in games where the group's defence has slipped and goals have been conceded, Dos Santos added, noting that the team needs to be better when it comes to denying crosses in the final third and keeping its concentration and focus in injury time.

"We just have to find a way as a team," the coach said.

After taking a couple of days off to rest and reset during the 10-day break in MLS play, the group returned to training ready to eliminate mistakes that have been creeping into the game.

"It’s been a lot of attention to detail and just sharpening up the little things," White said. "When you don’t concede goals, you can’t lose games."

Defending against L.A. will be a tough task, however. The Galaxy sit third in the West, tied with Seattle and Kansas City, the conference's top two teams, with eight wins on the season. Twelve games into the season, the Galaxy have more points (24) than they collected all of last year (22 points in 22 games).

L.A.'s biggest offensive threat, Javier (Chicarito) Hernandez has 10 goals on the season, tied with Seattle's Raul Ruidiaz to lead the MLS in scoring.

“I think (Saturday is) going to be a difficult game. We know Galaxy are a good team with some really good players, especially in their attacking front," White said. "So we just have to be prepared for that and find our moments to be dangerous ourselves in the attacking third and score goals."


L.A. GALAXY (8-4-0) at VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (2-7-3)

Saturday, Rio Tinto Stadium

STAYING PUT: While Toronto FC and CF Montreal will both play in Canada this weekend, the Whitecaps are opting to remain south of the border a while longer, playing Saturday's game and a match against Houston on July 20 in Utah. MLS said in a statement Wednesday that conversations continue with the federal government about all three teams hosting future home games in Canada.

ON DUTY: The Whitecaps will be without striker Lucas Cavallini and goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, who are both playing in the Gold Cup with the Canadian national team. The Galaxy have five players away at the tournament, including Sebastian Lletget (U.S.), Jonathan dos Santos and Efrain Alvarez (Mexico), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Costa Rica) and Oniel Fisher (Jamaica).

EVEN OUTINGS: L.A. and Vancouver have played 13 times since the start of the 2016 season and each side boasts five wins across the stretch. The other three games resulted in draws. Scoring has been remarkably even over the contests, with the Galaxy leading the 'Caps 15-14.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 16, 2021.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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