It's been a difficult season for the Vancouver Whitecaps so far, but if you were to give them the benefit of the doubt, we really have yet to see what they can do at full strength.
After going to the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando without the services of five first-team regulars, including big-money forward Lucas Cavallini, the Whitecaps have continued to operate shorthanded for much of the time following the league's restart in home markets. Slowly but surely, Vancouver are getting to full strength and head coach Marc Dos Santos told reporters on a weekly call that he's eager to see what his team can do.
"We have to create a transfer window inside our club," Dos Santos said. "And the transfer window inside our club is seeing a guy like [Cristian Gutierrez] show up in the last game and seeing a guy like Fredy [Montero] show up in the last game and knowing that Cava returns in the next game and [Janio] Bikel returns and [Erik] Godoy soon is going to return to his best. So that's our transfer window, that's what we have to be excited about. And now we have to show, what can we look like, even though we're always on the road, with everybody available."
With Cavallini set to return to action after missing Vancouver's last match for a red-card suspension, one such wrinkle could be pairing the Canadian international with Montero — Vancouver's wily veteran who has largely acted as a supersub, but made a notable cameo in the starting XI in Vancouver's 3-1 win over Montreal on Wednesday, breaking out with a pair of goals.
Asked about the possibility that Montero and Cavallini could play together in some sort of two-forward set-up, Dos Santos said he's not opposed to the idea, pointing out that they worked together in preseason before both didn't make the trip to Orlando for the tournament.
"Of course, 100 percent," Dos Santos said. "They did it in preseason. Could Cava play with Fredy when we were in Orlando? No, so that's my point, we had to go through a process again and unfortunately after that process guys are all getting to the fitness levels that allow them to be at their best. So, definitely Cava can play with Fredy. We have options up front that are many.
"We have a lot of options and we just have to make sure that we choose the right way and we have the right guys for the right games."
For however erratic their 2020 season has been to this point, the Whitecaps are still just three points shy of the playoff line in the Western Conference and will look to capitalize on the recent positive vibes they accrued during their recent three-game homestand that saw them take a pair of victories.
The club is now about to embark on a challenging stretch in which they'll play three straight matches away from home, although their match against Portland at Providence Park on Sept. 27 will technically be considered a home game. Dos Santos said he and his players are plenty aware that points are at a premium, but also that a hot run of form will put them right in the mix.
It starts on Saturday at Real Salt Lake (9:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; TSN in Canada).
"It was crucial to get wins in our three home games," Dos Santos said. "We're still disappointed we didn't get three out of the three because we felt we didn't deal, in the second game against Montreal, in the right way. There were a lot of mistakes that we were able to fix from the second game. So we're disappointed we're not going into this road trip with nine points out of nine, but we got six out of nine and we're in a position to go there where we're fighting very closely with a lot of teams for a playoff spot.
"And we want to continue fighting and not use the excuse of always being on the road. We think we have a chance here and we just want to focus on what we have to do on the road. We have to be very crisp and very close to each other, work with each other. But it was certainly important to get six out of the nine points at home."