BURNABY, B.C. – It’s time for a cultural revolution.
When it seemed the Vancouver Whitecaps had no choice but to rise to the occasion of a playoff-clinching home game, they fell flat with a 1-0 loss Sunday to the Portland Timbers – but it wasn’t the first time such a letdown has occurred with this group of players.
Head coach Martin Rennie drew attention for the need of a culture change following that match, highlighting the similarities between that stumble and the team’s underwhelming performance in the second leg of the Canadian Championship finals in a 1-0 loss to Toronto FC back in May.
“I would never accuse any of our players of not caring or not fighting or what have you,” midfielder John Thorrington said after a training session at Burnaby Lake field. “For whatever reason, it just didn’t come together for us on the day. Which sometimes happens – unfortunately it’s happened a few too many times this season.”
WATCH: Rennie's Oct. 25 media scrum
For one reason or another, it seems that getting up for the big games is an issue with this Whitecaps squad. But rather than lament the way things have gone, Thorrington is hoping the team can channel the pain and disappointment of those results to create a bit of motivational fuel.
“You have to learn from mistakes and then just look forward,” he said. “The bitterness of those two performances [vs. Portland and vs. Toronto in May] and those two defeats should hopefully motivate us to go in and play well and be counted in LA.
“The bitterness of those defeats certainly sticks with you for a long time and a playoff run would go so some way to rectifying that.”
The club has one final tune-up against Real Salt Lake on Saturday night (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online), and the Vancouver's captain is hoping the team can find that fire again on the road and bounce back quickly from last weekend’s deflating performance.
“Guys have to look within themselves and find out how much they want these types of things,” defender Jay DeMerit said. “You can always ask of people -- you can ‘hoo rah’ in the dressing room, but when it comes down to it, it’s about guys taking responsibility for their jobs and making sure they do them.
“I’m excited to see how we respond.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.