VANCOUVER, B.C. – If there’s one match this season that can act as a measuring stick for Vancouver Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson, Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at the LA Galaxy would likely do it.
The Galaxy loss was only the Whitecaps’ fifth defeat of the season, but there was a gulf in quality between the teams, giving Robinson some idea as to the work he still needs to do to turn his young team from promising challengers into one of the consistently best in the West.
"[The LA game] shows us where we are realistically and honestly," Robinson said at training on Tuesday. "We're just not quite there yet. If you compete with the LA Galaxy then you know that you're going to compete in the top three places.
"I think if you're comparing us to LA, we're not there yet. Over the last three, four years LA, Salt Lake and Seattle have been in the top four positions of the Western Conference. And with two of them, LA have won it twice and Real Salt Lake have won it and lost on penalties last year. We're not dealing with top teams just in the conference, we're dealing with top teams in the league."
Robinson has been consistent in saying that this season is a work in progress for Vancouver, with an eye to the future and setting a strong base and core for the club. The Whitecaps are still very much in the playoff mix in the West, with a crucial matchup looming Saturday against Cascadia rival Portland Timbers at BC Place (10:30 pm ET; MLS Live, TSN2 in Canada), but that mindset hasn’t changed.
"We're young. We're growing. We want to get there," Robinson said. "I keep saying you've got to be patient with them, but patience could last for two years. That's the reality of it. I'm not saying that these boys will take two years. It might take two weeks, it might take two months, but you can't expect them to go and do what Robbie Keane does overnight. And if you do, then you probably don't understand the game."
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Like all teams, the Whitecaps want to be regularly battling it out for both the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup and not just the lower playoff places. Getting to that point may take some growing pains, and Robinson is aware that it may not be a smooth path to travel at times with high expectations in the city. But that’s a situation he’s happy to have.
"I want to win every game, but the reality of this sport is you don't win every game," Robinson said. "We're working as hard as I can with the group that we've got. I do want to try and add and change things up a little bit, but it might take time to do that.
"I know there's an expectancy to win. I'm able to handle that because I'd prefer to handle an expectancy of 20,000 rather than one of 3,000, and that's the reality of being at a big club and a big organization that wants wins. And I've got to deal with it."