VANCOUVER, B.C. – Could Cristian Techera's CONCACAF Champions League form provide the spark Vancouver Whitecaps FC need as they try to climb above the red line in MLS?
Manager Carl Robinson would love to see that from the young Uruguayan, with his side sailing through their CCL group but struggling in league play.
"I hope so, because he's a very talented young player," Robinson told reporters on Tuesday, after Techera's brace fueled a 3-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City that pushes Vancouver to a 2-0 record in 2016/17 CCL play. "We had a young team out there today. It was a game we wanted to win. Hopefully, 'The Bug' can do that on a more regular basis.
"He works hard in training, and I think people forget he's a young player and young players go through confidence spurts."
If there's a player with reason to feel confident right now, it's Techera, who opened the Whitecaps' scoring in the eighth minute and closed it out in the 64th. He has three goals in two CCL matches for Vancouver, who need only to draw their final two Group C outings to book a spot in the knockout round. That's one more goal than he has in 24 matches in MLS play, where the Whitecaps have won just twice in their last 13 matches.
"Unfortunately a number of players were going through that at the same time," Robinson said of his club's league struggles. "We've just got to get back to work and roll our sleeves up and scrap and fight and kick and run. I think we did that today. It was an enjoyable game of football to watch."
Both teams made extensive lineup shuffles from Vancouver's 2-0 away loss to Sporting on Saturday in MLS action, with Robinson starting nine new players and Sporting changing out all but one starter. Despite neither team playing a regular-heavy XI, Robinson acknowledged that fans might be wondering where this Whitecaps team has been all season.
"When the guys don't play well, I think it's fair to give them a little bit of criticism, and myself," Robinson said. "But when you play like that, and I know they can play like that, it's hard for me to sit here sometimes and say we done great.
"We haven't been doing well enough, but I challenged them, especially after Saturday's game – because they're all good players, they're good people –to have a go. We certainly had a go tonight."
With a berth in the CCL quarterfinals all but secured, the question now is whether the Whitecaps -- – who sit ninth in the West with eight matches remaining – can translate that tournament success into a late surge into the playoffs.
"Hopefully, it builds confidence, because they were excellent tonight and they played like it was a final," Robinson said. "We've got to go with that mindset into every game we play. We might not win every game, but if we're not going to win a game of football, we're going to go down like that and have a go. And they did have a go tonight."