It has been a complicated week for the Vancouver Whitecaps. A 6-1 thrashing by league leaders Los Angeles FC last Saturday was followed by a disappointing 0-0 draw against Canadian Premier League side Cavalry FC in Calgary on Wednesday.
Without a win in seven games, and after playing four games in a row on the road, the Whitecaps want to improve their record when they are back home at BC Place where they host Sporting Kansas City Saturday 7 p.m. “It is always good to be back home, to sleep at home and recover at home,” Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos said on Thursday.
“It has been a long time since playing in front of our own fans,” defender Doneil Henry said. The Canadian national team player was on duty with Canada at the Gold Cup and then rejoined the Whitecaps on the long stretch on the road.
“We come home and have to take care of business,” Henry added.
“Looking at the standings, it is a big game for both us but also Sporting Kansas City,” Dos Santos said. The Whitecaps are second from bottom in the Western Conference and seven points behind the seventh-place Houston Dynamo, who hold the final playoff spot and also have two games in hand.
Sporting Kansas City, in the meantime, is two points ahead of the Whitecaps in the standings. With a win at home, the Caps could leapfrog Sporting in the standings. “Winning on the road is very important, and we know that it is important to win at home,” Dos Santos said.
For Dos Santos, it has been all about small margins this season. The Whitecaps have drawn eight times this season, the most in the Western Conference and tied for most in MLS with New York City FC. Those draws hurt the Whitecaps the most at the moment, and Dos Santos was quick to point out small mistakes throughout the season that have turned three points into just one and, as a result, have diminished Vancouver’s playoff hopes.
“It is going to take something complete for us, defensively and offensively, like performances we had against LAFC and Portland at home,” Dos Santos said. “Sporting is a team that when you look at the standings, it tells you one thing but the reality is that it is a team with a lot of experience.”
“We should not talk about the standings,” Henry said. “KC are not in the standings where they should be; they have too much quality and a coach with a vision. They are a top-two team, a team that can play with style,” Henry added.
For Sporting Kansas City, it has been a season of ups and downs. Similar to Vancouver, Sporting received a thrashing by LAFC, losing that game 5-1 when they visited the club two weeks ago. Unlike Vancouver, however, Sporting have managed to pick up some results in recent weeks, including a 1-0 victory against Bastian Schweinsteiger’s Chicago Fire.
Furthermore, Sporting enjoys playing against Canadian sides. The club owns a 3-2-2 record at Vancouver and an 8-3-4 mark in the all-time regular season series. Sporting’s 29 regular-season wins versus Canadian opposition is the most among American MLS teams.
Hence, as the Whitecaps return to BC Place, they are aware that they will face a difficult challenge in Sporting. It is a challenge that needs to result in three points if the Caps want to keep their playoff hopes alive.