VANCOUVER — Head coach Marc Dos Santos wants the Vancouver Whitecaps to show some early aggression when they play their first away match of the season against the LA Galaxy on Saturday.
Dos Santos believes the Whitecaps were too passive in the early stages of a 3-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City in their Major League Soccer season-opening game at BC Place Stadium last week.
"You have to start with fire," said Dos Santos after the Whitecaps practised Friday. "You have to start with a lot of attitude, a lot of mentality to set the tone. If you don't do that, you become the team that backs off and we don't want to do that.
"We have to make sure we try to set the tone regardless if we're on the road."
Raising the level of intensity on the field is something the Whitecaps worked on in training this week, said midfielder Andy Rose.
"That was something we really tried to stress in our pre-season, and it became part of our identity," said Rose. "From the first whistle, we didn't see it enough the other day."
There will be plenty of hype for Saturday's match. A sellout crowd of over 27,000 is expected for the Galaxy's home opener, with the biggest attraction being striker Javier (Chicharito) Hernandez.
The Galaxy paid US$10 million to La Liga side Sevilla FC for the 31-year-old striker, who is Mexico's all-time leading scorer with 200 goals for club and country.
Hernandez was held off the scoresheet in the Galaxy's season-opening 1-1 draw against the Houston Dynamo, but is excited about his first chance to perform before a home crowd.
"I'm very motivated to do my best," he said during an interview on the Galaxy website. "We all have the mindset we want to get the three points and build something special — to try to get to the playoffs and win a championship."
L.A. head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said as good a Hernandez is, the Galaxy must work as a team.
"I'm not worried how many goals he will score this year," he said. "I'm more worried about how the team is going.
"The important thing for us is to work like a team. I don't care who scores. I'm very focused on the team."
At five-foot-nine and 160 pounds, Hernandez isn't a big man, but he's elusive on the field.
"He's made a career of finding pockets," said Whitecaps goalkeeper Cristian Gutierrez. "He's not a big physical presence, but a guy that smells that space and the back post.
"He knows how to attack spaces at the right moment. Obviously, he has good finish."
Dos Santos said the first 15 minutes could decide the match. He expects the Galaxy will feed off the emotion of the crowd and push early.
"I'm expecting pressure in the first 10 to 15 minutes," he said. "It (LA) is not a team in the pre-season or even in Houston that shows a lot of signs of very high pressure.
"We're very aware of that."
Rose said the Whitecaps' forwards want to pressure the Galaxy in their own end.
"We have forwards who have that ability to press and work hard and give defenders a tough time with the ball coming out of the back," he said.
The Whitecaps looked tentative early against Kansas City.
"You give the opponent too much time to breathe and to believe," said Dos Santos. "We have to make sure the way we start the game in an aggressive way.
"We know we can do that and we have to make sure we set the tempo."
A result against the Galaxy is important for the Whitecaps' confidence and in the standings.
"No matter who we play early in the season, it's about finding your form, getting early points on the table," said Rose. "Dropping points at home was tough for us so we have to make them back."
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (0-1-0) AT LA GALAXY (0-0-1)
Saturday, Dignity Health Sports Park
STAR POWER: Proof of Javier Hernandez's star power is the fact the new Galaxy striker player appeared this week on the "Late Late Show with James Corden."
RIGHT FOOT ON THE ROAD: The game will be the Whitecaps' first chance to improve on their 3-9-5 road record from last year. One of those wins was a 4-3 defeat of the Galaxy in the second last game of the season.
NEW FACES: Recently signed midfielder Leonard Owusu and defender Janio Bikel will make the trip for the Whitecaps.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2020.
Jim Morris, The Canadian Press