VANCOUVER, B.C. – Vancouver Whitecaps Designated Player Pedro Morales has shown his best this season at home, and now he's looking to take that show on the road.
Since then, his home form has comprised a man-of-the-match performance in a 2-1 win March 29 over the Houston Dynamo and a more ordinary showing in Vancouver's 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids last weekend.
But when it comes to the road, Morales has been fairly ineffective in his two outings to date. Normally incisive, the Chilean looked toothless against 10-man Chivas USA in a 1-1 draw March 16, a showing that saw him left on the bench for the first half of the following road game against New England, a scoreless draw.
When he came on in that game, he did seem to improve the team's ability to get on the ball, but he still didn't look the player that has at times wowed the home faithful at BC Place.
“I think it's making him feel more comfortable, a part of the team,” Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson told reporters this week following a training session at the University of British Columbia when asked about getting the best out of Morales on the road. “He joined us prior to the first game of the season. He hasn't played that much with us. We've played five games and he has been electric at home, he really has. It's important that he tries to carry that form on the road.”
Morales will get that chance Saturday when Vancouver plays at the LA Galaxy and the expansive StubHub Center (10:30 pm ET; TSN in Canada, MLS Live in US).
“We need to help him with that, with the guys around him as well,” Robinson said. “Because there are games he's probably going to win for us, but he can't win every game for us ... as he's settling in, you'll see more and more from Pedro. I've got no doubt about it. And as the players get used to him, they'll get better as well, playing with him.”
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As for Morales himself, he didn't participate in training on Thursday. The playmaking midfielder has an ongoing back issue, which he said is exacerbated by switching between playing on turf and grass but feels it is manageable.
Robinson expects his key creator will be fit for the weekend, and said the player's absence was related to a slight injury unrelated to his back issue.
“He's a little bit tight in a certain area, I don't think it's his back,” Robinson said Thursday. “It was just a precautionary thing with Pedro.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.