VANCOUVER — For a change of pace, Jake Nerwinski wants the Vancouver Whitecaps to land the first blow when they face the Los Angeles Galaxy in a Major League Soccer road game Saturday night.
The Whitecaps have allowed the first goal in five of their last six games, with three of those matches road games. Three of the goals have come with less than seven minutes gone. Vancouver is 1-2-2 in those games.
“Sometimes we wait to be punched in the face,” said the veteran Whitecaps defender. “I think we should do the punching first, personally.
“If we can go up one nil early on, I think that gives us the momentum throughout the game. We haven’t started well . . . so that is something we need to change.”
Heading into the weekend Vancouver (8-9-6), the Galaxy (9-11-3) and Colorado (8-9-6) are all tied with 30 points in the Western Conference. They sit three points behind Portland, which holds down the final playoff spot.
The Whitecaps are also entering a stretch where four of their next six games are on the road. Vancouver has a 2-7-3 away record.
“It’s important to just kind of look at it one game at a time and not look at the stretch of six games,” said Nerwinski. “On the away games, we just need to get points whether it’s a tie or a win.
“At this point in the season we can’t afford that many losses or losses at all. We need to make sure we take care of business at home and try to at least get a point away.”
Five of Vancouver’s 10 remaining games will be played at home, including three in a row before they end the season on the road against Minnesota.
Head coach Vanni Sartini said to make the playoffs, his team needs “at least 12 points” in their final home matches and another “five or six” on the road.
The Galaxy have a 6-5-1 record at home this year but are 3-4-1 in their last eight. Overall, L.A. has lost six of their last eight matches, including six straight against teams from the Western Conference.
Sartini said Vancouver can’t take the Galaxy lightly.
“It’s going to be a hard game,” said Sartini. “They are an unpredictable team.
“When they are on a good day, they can beat every team. But they’re also a team that sometimes, if they concede the first goal, they go a little down and they open up a lot because they are tactical players so you can counterattack them.”
The Galaxy have scoring punch with strikers Javier Hernandez and Dejan Joveljic notching nine goals each. L.A. also has allowed 13 goals in their last seven games.
“They have a strong attack,” said Nerwinski. “They’re very dangerous , they have fast guys on the wings.
“Hopefully we can exploit their backline on a defence that has been kind of hemorrhaging goals of late.”
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (8-9-6) at L.A. GALAXY (9-11-3)
Dignity Health Sports Park, Saturday, 10 p.m. ET
INJURY REPORT: Whitecaps strikers Brian White (ribs) and Lucas Cavallini (yellow card suspension) will both miss the match. The six Whitecaps who tested positive for COVID-19 late last week are all expected to be available.
NEW FACE: Austrian international midfielder Alessandro Schopf, who Vancouver signed last week, has been practising with the team. He’s expected to make the trip to L.A. and could see some limited minutes.
NEVER SAY DIE: The Whitecaps have collected an MLS-high 13 points on goals scored in the 80th minute or later this season, four more than any other team. Nine of the Caps' 27 goals this season have either been equalizing or match-winning goals in the 80th minute or later.
PUIG DEBUT?: The Galaxy signed Spanish midfielder Riqui Puig from FC Barcelona Aug. 4 and he could make his MLS debut against Vancouver.
TURNING THE TIDE: The Galaxy won their first seven home MLS matches against Vancouver (including playoffs) from 2011 to 2014. Since 2015 the Galaxy are 3-4-2 in nine home matches against the Whitecaps and have just one win at home since 2019.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2022.
Jim Morris, The Canadian Press