BURNABY, B.C. – Despite the big bucks splashed on Kenny Miller and Barry Robson, the Vancouver Whitecaps won’t be relying any more on their Designated Players than any other members of the team as they try to break a five-game losing streak.
That was the message from head coach Martin Rennie after a training session at Swangard Stadium this week, when asked if the upcoming four-game homestand provides a chance for the Scottish pair to show their quality.
“I look at it that all the players are the same,” Rennie said. “I don’t look at it like one guy is different because of the tag that he’s been given. I look at it for all of our players – it’s up to them to shine and everyone needs to do well. I think that’s how I see it. They’re big games and everyone has to step up.
“Guys have played in big games before, whether they’re Designated Players or not, and now they need to shine when the big occasion comes along.”
When pressed on whether the slew of midseason changes has contributed to the team’s struggles over the past couple of months – the team has just three wins in its 13 matches since the international transfer window opened – Rennie painted the picture of a team experiencing struggles on the road rather than experiencing chemistry issues.
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“There’s a number of ways you can analyze it,” Rennie said. “One way to analyze it is, we struggled a little bit when we played five in a row on the road and then four in a row on the road. I think there was a spell in the middle there when the players who did come in played very, very well. A number of those games that we played very well were actually at home.
“My expectation is that we’ll see that again. I think it’s a tough league to adjust to for players coming in halfway through the season, so that maybe would have been some impact. But I think certainly at home there’s no excuses for that and I think we’ll see an improved performance.”
It’s difficult to evaluate the theory, given Vancouver has played so few home matches over that spell, but for what it’s worth, the team does have a winning record of 2-1-1 at home during those 13 games.
Away, it’s been ugly, with a record of 1-7-1.
Of the club’s five remaining matches, only the final game, against Real Salt Lake on Oct. 27, is away from BC Place. This four-game homestand to virtually close the season begins on Sunday against the Colorado Rapids (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online), as the team hopes to reverse recent results and solidify a first-ever MLS Cup playoffs berth.
Despite the struggles, and whatever their cause, the club still holds the fifth Western Conference playoff spot, holding a one-point lead and a game in hand over closest pursuers FC Dallas.
“I’m not too concerned about [what happened before],” Rennie said. “It’s all about what we do now. What we did at the start, what we did in the middle, is really of very little consequence because it’s put us in a position where if we do well now, we’re going to be in a good place.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.