VANCOUVER, B.C. – There's no underestimating the task facing the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday evening, when they host Mexican powerhouse Tigres UANL in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal (10 pm ET | Facebook.com; TSN1 in Canada; Galavision in the US).
"Mission impossible" was how 'Caps coach Carl Robinson described the challenge ahead this past weekend. But they know the exact task at hand.
"It's a Catch-22 game," Robinson told reporters at Whitecaps training on Tuesday. "We know they've got quality, we know they're a good team, and we know they hold a two-goal advantage. But if we sit back and we concede, we obviously haven't executed our gameplan correctly.
"We know we need to score three goals to try and get through, two to equalize. We know they're a good team, so we've got to keep the back door shut."
With all that in mind, Robinson and his young squad face the dilemma of just what kind of gameplan to pursue.
The Whitecaps could attack from the start, looking to get an early goal that would bring them right back into the tie, but at the risk of leaving themselves exposed at the back. Or they could play the patience game, knowing that they have 90 minutes to score two goals to take the match to extra time – and if they do that, another 30 minutes of extra time to get the job fully done.
Both have the promise of success, but both are also fraught with peril, with the away goal threat from Tigres looming large.
"You're always going to play on the edge [with] that danger," said striker Fredy Montero. "Even if we're winning 2-0, we know that one goal is going to be tough to come back [from]. But this is soccer. That's the beauty of the game. You never know what's going to happen in 90 minutes."
Tigres arrive in Vancouver as heavy favorites. But the Whitecaps are relishing their underdog role, and are looking to use whatever home-field advantages they can to help them in their cause.
"It takes discipline, it takes concentration, but we're at home," said 'Caps goalkeeper David Ousted. "We need to get after them, regardless of how good they are and the guys they have up front. We need to go and press them.
"We need to go and make them feel uncomfortable. They're in cold, cold Canada. The roof is going to be open, so we're going to try and make it uncomfortable for them."
The weather could be an advantage for Vancouver. It will be a chilly night, with rain in the forecast. BC Place’s synthetic pitch is another potential game changer. It’s a surface the Tigres players will be unfamiliar with, especially if it’s wet.
For Whitecaps captain Kendall Waston, it's all about giving themselves any and every kind of advantage they can muster.
"It's going to be very different for them because they're not used to playing on this type of turf," Waston said. "They're not going to love this. We have to take all the advantages to us.
"We have to play with everything. We have to make it the worst turf. Bring more cold down. Rain, everything. To win that game, we have to do it."