This isn’t how the Vancouver Whitecaps wanted to enter their final homestand of the season.
With just four games left on the schedule, the ‘Caps (9-14-7) are on a three-game losing skid and their playoff hopes have all but evaporated.
“Our backs are against the wall, and we’re trying to put good performances together,” defender Tristan Blackmon said Tuesday. “It’s been a battle for sure.”
The club isn’t about to give up, however. The ‘Caps will continue to push as they kick off a three-game homestand Wednesday against the L.A. Galaxy (11-11-7).
“(Making the playoffs) is going to be tough. We’re going to need to, obviously, win our four games, hope that other results go our way,” said attacking midfielder Ryan Gauld.
“But I would say the main thing for us is look to improve upon what we’ve liked in the last few months which is intensity, a bit more grit. All we can do now is take each game as it comes and look for positive results.”
Gauld is set to return to Vancouver’s lineup after missing Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids due to a suspension brought on by yellow card accumulation.
With the Scottish star on the sidelines, the ‘Caps struggled to generate chances.
Creating more offence through the final games of the regular season will require the team to be more aggressive, said Gauld, who has six goals and seven assists in 24 Major League Soccer appearances this year.
“You’ve seen in some second halves lately, we’ve been keeping the ball more than in their half,” he said. “And that’s something that we need to do more of from the start of the game instead of just always looking to play the long ball and getting behind them.
“We need to hold on to the ball more, I think, try and tire teams out and hopefully create openings.”
Controlling the play against L.A. won’t be easy. After struggling at times this season, the Galaxy head to Vancouver on a six-game unbeaten streak (2-0-4) that began with a 5-2 victory over the ‘Caps back on Aug. 13.
“They have great players, even though they’ve gone through a stretch where they’ve struggled as well,” said Blackmon, who got to know the Galaxy well during his time with Los Angeles FC. “You see the talent that they put on the field each time they play, and they have new acquisitions as well. So it’s going to be a good matchup.”
Vancouver will need to limit its defensive mistakes on Wednesday, said Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini.
“They are a team that they create a lot, but also they concede a lot,” he said. “So if you are very solid defensively, we can win the game. If not, we won’t. (Offensively), I think we’ll have chances.”
Despite their recent run, L.A. still sits three points below the Western Conference playoff bar.
The Whitecaps aren’t thinking about ruining the Galaxy’s post-season dreams, though, Sartini said.
“It’s not that we have any, any feuds or any revenge with anyone. We have to be concentrated on ourselves,” he said. “The maximum points that we can achieve is 46 at the moment, so the objective is to make 46 points.
“The only thing that matters are the Whitecaps.”
L.A. GALAXY (11-11-7) AT VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (9-14-7)
Wednesday, B.C. Place
INS AND OUTS: The Whitecaps will once again be without their leading scorer, Lucas Cavallini as he serves the third game of a four-game suspension. Vancouver midfielder Sebastian Berhalter is questionable due to a knee injury and winger Deiber Caicedo has undergone season-ending surgery on his right knee. L.A. defender Sega Coulibaly and Raheem Edwards are both sidelined with suspensions for yellow card accumulation.
HISTORY BOOKS: The Galaxy hold a 15-9-6 all-time record over the ‘Caps, but haven’t won two matches against Vancouver in a single season since 2014.
THE NUMBERS: Vancouver has a -21 goal differential through 34 games this season, the worst of any team in the Western Conference. They’re also the least accurate shooting team in MLS this season, hitting the target with 29.5 per cent of their shots.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 13, 2022.
—Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press