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Vancouver Whitecaps look for progression on difficult road trip to Houston

Mar 9, 2019; Sandy, UT, USA; Vancouver Whitecaps defender Erik Godoy (22) plays against the Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Whitecaps road trip continues after a 1-0 loss that included a controversial penalty call at Real Salt Lake City. Up next is Texas, where the Caps face the Houston Dynamo at 12 p.m. PT Saturday. The Dynamo have overcome their own disappointment after being eliminated from the Concacaf Champions League on Tuesday. 

For many of the players, this will be their first long road trip in Major League Soccer. 

“Real Salt Lake, it is just two hours and one flight. Nobody felt any pain from that there, we didn’t lose in Salt Lake because of a trip,” Dos Santos pointed out this week. “The trip down to Texas, however, will be an entirely different matter. This one is the biggest test because this one is the first real, longer trip, and layover, and two flights. So, this one’s going to be more interesting for the new guys, but I know that they’ve adapted very well since the beginning.”

Among Vancouver’s new signings unfamiliar with the long trips involved in MLS are Hwang In-Beom, Jasser Khmiri, Jon Erice, Lucas Venuto, Lass Bangoura, Érik Godoy, Joaquín Ardaiz and Ali Adnan. You could add Derek Cornelius to the mix, who is Canadian but has no experience of playing in MLS. That is nine players who have to get used to both the travel and big climate differences. 

From cold Sandy, Utah, which measured around 40 degrees and snow, the Whitecaps head Houston’s 60 degrees. 

On the pitch, the Whitecaps were much improved against Real Salt Lake last weekend. But chemistry remains an issue.

“You know, players are still getting familiar with each other. But the more you train, the more familiar you become with the faces and everything that’s going on. You got to understand we have 15 new players in the team, and it’s going to take time,” defender Doneil Henry said. 

In Houston, the Whitecaps will face a side that has been together in its core for a few years. Although Houston missed the MLS Cup playoffs, the team coached by Wílmer Cabrera celebrated some domestic success when they lifted the U.S. Open Cup in September, beating the Philadelphia Union in the final 3-0. 

As a result, the Dynamo made just a few key changes, bringing in Matías Vera (San Lorenzo) and Aljaz Struna (US Palermo) from abroad, and MLS veterans Maynor Figueroa (Dallas) and Tommy McNamara (NYCFC).

“We’re very aware of that, but we know that if we stick to our game plan stick to our principles, play together as, as a team, stay very well organized during any minutes,” Dos Santos said when asked about the difficulties of playing an experienced Houston side.  “We’re always going to have a chance to win the game, and that’s what we want to do over there.” 

One question that will come into play is whether Cabrera will rotate his side. Unlike Vancouver, who only had to worry about the two previous MLS fixtures against Minnesota and Salt Lake, Houston had two difficult away trips in the Concacaf Champions League against Deportivo Guastatoya in Guatemala and Tigres UANL across the border in Monterrey, Mexico. 

The Dynamo also drew Real Salt Lake 1-1 on Matchday 1 of the MLS season and defeated Montreal Impact 2-1 on Matchday 2.

Even with the midweek away trip, the Houston Dynamo should be ready to face this newly-formed Whitecaps side. 

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