Vancouver Whitecaps share confidence in tactics despite goals proving hard to come by

·4 min read

VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps are presenting a united front.

Despite going unbeaten in league play throughout April, the Whitecaps last won back on April 8 — with a 1-0 victory over Cascadian rivals the Portland Timbers.

Goals have been hard to come, with Vancouver scoring more than one goal in just a single Major League Soccer regular-season match this season.

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"You just got to find a way to put it past the 'keeper and in the back of the net. I think it's a little ruthlessness, a little bit of quality, a little bit of maybe at times taking a little breath — like half a second pause before — to really focus on the strike," said midfielder Julian Gressel. "Things like that (are) where we can be better, where I feel like sometimes we're rushing it."

Head coach Vanni Sartini and sporting director Axel Schuster repeatedly spoke at a press availability of maintaining the team's playing style and identity, with a belief that wins will come.

Vancouver has worked to develop a high-intensity, quick passing style, but it hasn't been translated in to sustained success with a 2-2-5 record.

"We're a team that plays very well and that creates many chances. Unfortunately, so far, we haven't capitalized on the chances we've had," said Sartini. "We need to be confident and trust the process."

He acknowledged the need for the team to work on its finishing but said he's confident that Vancouver will finish the season in a playoff position.

Schuster, who also serves as the club's chief executive, said the Whitecaps are the fourth-best team in the past seven games and has seen praise for the style they look to play.

"We want to be a team that nobody likes to play," he said. "Success is more likely to come if we continue to play the way we play."

Vancouver's players remain committed to the team's playing style and tactical decisions, Gressel added.

"I think there's no real signs against it," he said. "I think we can be a team that lives in both worlds of having that attacking output, creating chances and scoring goals while at the same time being very, very solid defensively. The belief in the locker room is certainly there to continue playing the way we are."

The Whitecaps head in to Saturday's matchup against Minnesota United FC having not conceded in 355 minutes at BC Place.

It came down to the wire last time out against the Colorado Rapids, with goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka saving a 78th minute penalty.

But the scoring woes that have plagued the Canadian side were on display, with 21 shots failing to find the back of the net.

The Loons are one point ahead of Vancouver in the Western Conference standings and come in to the match after a 0-0 stalemate against FC Dallas.

The last time the Whitecaps and Minnesota faced off was in a 1-1 draw on March 25, when Vancouver striker Simon Becher grabbed an equalizer in the dying moments of the match.

After Saturday's match, the Whitecaps will play five games in two weeks with three of those on the road.

CLEAN STREAK: The Whitecaps have kept four consecutive clean sheets and have not allowed a goal in the last 410 minutes of MLS play, making it the longest shutout streak in the league so far this season. In fact, the streak started against Minnesota at Allianz Field on March 25. The overall club record shutout streak in MLS is 433 minutes set across the 2011 and 2012 seasons, while the club record single-season shutout streak is 427 minutes set at the beginning of the 2012 season.

ON THE ROAD: Vancouver has at least seven matches to play in a span of 26 days. Next up after Saturday's match, the 'Caps head to Ontario to face York United FC in the quarterfinals of the Canadian Championship on May 10, followed by a trip down to Oregon for our second meeting of the season against Cascadia rivals Portland Timbers on May 13.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 5, 2023.

Nick Wells, The Canadian Press