VANCOUVER — Despite a losing skid and an offensive dry spell, coach Marc Dos Santos says his Vancouver Whitecaps remain resilient heading into another tough test against a Canadian rival.
"The mood is not a mood of giving up," Dos Santos told reporters Thursday. "It's a mood of 'We want to win, we want to do well.'"
The 'Caps (2-6-0) haven't taken a point — or scored a goal — from their last three games. Vancouver will have a chance to snap the streak on Saturday when the club hosts Toronto FC (5-1-3) to open a three-game homestand.
The match counts in the MLS standings and also continues the round-robin portion of this year's Canadian Championship, in which the Whitecaps have yet to earn a result.
Toronto dominated a pair of meetings against the 'Caps last month, posting a 3-0 win on Aug. 18 and a 1-0 victory on Aug. 21.
"We got kind of a beating in those two games, I would say. We weren't prepared to play two games like that," Dos Santos said.
Heading into Toronto, the group had faced a number of recent challenges, including a difficult trip to the MLS is Back tournament in Orlando where they were without several key players and lost starting goalkeeper Maxime Creapeau to a fractured thumb.
Toronto FC, meanwhile, was on an 18-game unbeaten streak in Major League Soccer regular-season play until Tuesday, when the club dropped a 1-0 decision to the Montreal Impact.
Captain Michael Bradley suffered a knee sprain in the loss and is expected to be out for several weeks.
His absence won't change the Whitecaps' game plan, Dos Santos said, because they know Toronto FC has other players who are ready and able to takeover for the 33-year-old midfielder.
Instead, the 'Caps have been focusing on their offensive framework, looking at how they can get more bodies to the net and create more scoring opportunities, said midfielder Russell Teibert. Vancouver has just 19 shots on goal this season, the fewest of any MLS team.
"We know we need to be better and we will be better," Teibert said.
Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney knows the Whitecaps will be looking to reset their season with Saturday's game, but doubts it will dramatically alter how the club plays.
"I think (Dos Santos) is trying to build something longer term and understands that the vision of what they're trying to do is probably bigger and more important than just one game or the Canadian Championship," he said.
Dos Santos said he's talked to his group about where they stand in the tournament and told them they can still earn nine points.
Doing so would be very hard, he said, but not impossible.
"Right now, we're still there," he said. "And (as long as) you're still surviving for that Canadian (Championship) you have to keep believing."
The winner of the round-robin portion will face the winner of the Canadian Premier League's Island Games in the Canadian Championship final.
The Whitecaps also need to be concerned about where they sit in the MLS standings. With just six points, the squad is at the bottom of the Western Conference and are second-last in the league.
"In the MLS standings, we need points," Dos Santos said. "And we can't get anxious about 'Oh, we need six points, nine points.' No. We need one point at a time right now, especially after coming off three games without points."
TORONTO FC (5-1-3) AT VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (2-6-0)
Saturday, BC Place
READY FREDY: Dos Santos said Fredy Montero is an option for the Whitecaps this weekend. The Colombian forward hasn't been in the lineup since Vancouver's 1-0 victory over the L.A. Galaxy back on March 7. Montero opted out of the MLS is Back tournament in Orlando and Dos Santos said he wasn't in game shape when the team travelled to Toronto and Montreal last month.
HELPING OUT: Toronto FC's Alejandro Pozuelo drew criticism for a questionable penalty kick against Montreal this week, but the Spanish midfielder continues to be a difference maker with a league-leading seven assists this season.
WELCOME HOME: Vancouver has gone 189 days between home matches, marking the longest stretch a MLS team has ever had without playing on their own field.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 4, 2020.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An incorrect date for Toronto FC's last game was used in a previous version.