Vancouver Whitecaps can beat MLS' elite – but why do they struggle against teams below red line?
VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps saw off Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City with considerable ease at BC Place on Sunday evening, and it was the latest example of the Canadian club bringing out its best against MLS' premier opponents.
The 2-0 victory gave the 'Caps another positive result against top opposition. Vancouver have now beaten Seattle, drawn with the LA Galaxy at BC Place and also taking road points in Salt Lake, Toronto and Portland, which are always tough places to play. But they have not enjoyed the same type of results against lesser foes, which begs the question as to why.
"I think we're up for it," Vancouver's goalscorer Darren Mattocks explained to reporters as to why this has been the case. "It shouldn't be that way. I think we should be up for every single game. In this league, you can win or lose on any given day, so I think we've got to give our best effort every single day."
And that has been the Whitecaps downfall this season. For every good performance against the teams at the top of the standings, they have let themselves down against the teams struggling at the other end of the table.
The 'Caps are now unbeaten in five matches but since their return to action after the World Cup break, Vancouver have dropped five points in frustrating home games against Montreal and Chivas USA, both of whom are propping up their respective conferences. Countering that are home wins, and clean sheets, against both current Conference leaders, Seattle and Kansas City.
"It says a lot about this team and the quality that's in it, but it also says we need to mature a little bit getting into those tough games – Chivas, Chicago away – where people are expecting wins." Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted told reporters after the game around why the disparency. "Those are not easy games and we need to realize that and work harder in those games to get wins out of it."
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A road game against Chivas USA is next up on Saturday and, after getting back into a playoff position, the Whitecaps can't afford to follow this past weekend's win with with another struggle against lowly opposition.
For coach Carl Robinson, the good performances against the top teams is more telling for where he wants his team to be. The unexpected lapses? Well, they are just part and parcel of what he anticipates from a young squad that is still learning so much about the game.
"We can compete. Can we compete on a consistent basis? That's the question with all young players," said Robinson. "You get ups and downs with the young group and we're finding that. We're not losing too many games, which is great, but we're probably not winning enough games which isn't good.
"That's something I need to work on with the group of players. But the potential's there. It really is."