Goal feast turns to famine for Erik Hurtado as Vancouver Whitecaps go "back to the drawing board"
VANCOUVER, B.C. – You can't accuse Vancouver Whitecaps striker Erik Hurtado of being short on confidence.
The 23-year-old carries himself with swagger, a trait that helped him go on a fine goalscoring run in May and June, grabbing five goals in five games.
That self-belief hasn’t been knocked by two rough performances since the Whitecaps came back from their World Cup break, where Hurtado's goalscoring run ended with the forward failing to register even a single shot in games against Montreal and Colorado.
"As a striker you should be able to have a bunch of chances. A few at that," Hurtado told MLSsoccer.com. "It's a little frustrating but it's a team game, so if I'm not getting chances and other people on the team are getting chances, then we just need to come together and put those in the back of the net."
The problem for the Whitecaps in their last two games, however, has been that others haven’t stepped up – and so a bit more pressure falls on the shoulders of the team’s main striker.
When a player goes on a hot streak like Hurtado, the opposition takes notice and gives him a lot more attention, but that's a situation the striker relishes.
"I ain't getting bumped off the ball," Hurtado stated defiantly. "That happens in the game. It's a physical game but I like that kind of play. If they give me more attention, that's awesome, because that takes attention off other players on the team and leaves people on the team with more space to go."
Hurtado's lack of goalmouth action in their recent games has come in part from a lack of creativity in the midfield. But Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson was quick to dismiss any talk of Hurtado's bubble bursting or him being a different player after the recent World Cup break.
"I see the same player as what I saw five games ago," Robinson told reporters at training. "No different to when he hadn't scored the five goals in the five games. Obviously five goals in five games and suddenly everyone says he's a different player. Now he hasn't scored in the last two games and he hasn't really had a decent chance. He's exactly the same player."
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Vancouver's focus going into the World Cup break was tightening up a defense that had conceded eight goals in three games. On the flip side, the Whitecaps had scored nine in those matches and their attacking output hadn't seemed like a concern.
With an impotent attack in their last two matches, that focus has now moved to the front line. Robinson is working hard with his side at training this week to ensure there are more opportunities for Hurtado, and all of his attackers, in Saturday's big Cascadia Cup derby against Seattle.
"Our job is to help him, as well as him to help himself," Robinson said. "He's put in extra work. We'll get back to the drawing board on that. Not just Erik, but overall as a team we need to be a little bit better in certain areas, attacking third as well as tighten up defensively."
"We're going through this period where he hasn't had a shot on goal, and that's not like our center forwards, because we've been creating chances."