VANCOUVER, B.C. – Consistency is the name of the game for Vancouver Whitecaps FC right now, and it's no coincidence that it’s reaping results.
Carl Robinson fielded an unchanged starting lineup for the fifth straight match in Saturday's 2-0 win over Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City at BC Place. Vancouver's new-look 4-1-4-1 lineup had brought the 'Caps some success on the road in a tough four-game road stretch. They came back with six points – and could have had more, given their four fine performances.
Robinson admitted he toyed with the idea of mixing things up, but went with an ‘if it ain't broke, don't fix it’ approach, and it paid off.
"I gave it lots of thought," Robinson said. "Sometimes you get it right when you win, or get a result or a performance, and sometimes you don’t. So lots of thought has gone into it. I just felt it was right."
The Whitecaps’ recent chemistry has been noticeable, especially on the defensive side, with two clean sheets in their last three matches. Elsewhere on the pitch, link-up play is improving every game as players’ understanding grows. With three wins in their last four games, the results speak for themselves.
Defender Sheanon Williams says he’s excited by what may lie in store for this group.
"As the weeks go on I have started to feel more comfortable with the players that I’m playing with on my side," said the MLS veteran. "This team is a team that day in, day out, comes to work. Even the substitutes that come on, you can see the work that everybody does for each other – it’s something that I haven’t seen. It’s a credit to the team and the guys we have in that locker room.
"I have been in the league eight years and this is definitely the most excited that I have been to be on a team. I think that this team has everything to make a deep run and to be successful in this league. I’m excited and I hope everyone else is."
Center back Tim Parker agrees.
"In the backline it's great, we're grooving pretty well now," he said. "We're not giving up many chances. In front of us, it's good. We all understand the kind of team we want to be and the kind of players we want and how we want to play the game."
But Robinson doesn't want his team to feel too settled. Injuries and a lack of available bodies are factors in the Whitecaps' lineup stability, and as much as he likes the consistency and chemistry, the coach also wants competition for places.
"I just said to them, when players become healthy, competition will rise," Robinson said. "Challenges for your starting spot will rise. The strong will come out and the weak will have to get their head down and fight again. And that’s what pleases me the most. You know, we’ve been consistent, we’ve performed, we’ve got some really good results."
Starting this week, Robinson will have to balance rotation, competition and continuity. The games now come thick and fast for Vancouver, starting with a two-legged Canadian Championship semifinal against the Montreal Impact that opens at BC Place on Tuesday night (10 pm ET | TSN1 in Canada).