Vancouver Whitecaps focus on Amway Canadian Championship in face of must-win game

Things haven’t gone entirely according to plan for the Vancouver Whitecaps in this year’s Amway Canadian Championship.

After a snowstorm in Edmonton forced them to lose their return leg home advantage for the tie, the Whitecaps needed a late goal from Gershon Koffie to salvage a 1-1 draw after the NASL side scored just four minutes into the rescheduled first leg at BC Place last Wednesday.

Heading in to Wednesday’s second leg in Edmonton (10 pm ET; MLS LIVE in US, Sportsnet 360 in Canada), ‘Caps coach Carl Robinson knows his side has their backs against the wall and is fully aware that his team can’t afford the same kind of mistakes and slow start they had last week.

“It’s an important game for us,” Robinson told media at training on Tuesday. “Make no bones about it, it’s a game we need to win. Last week in BC Place, Edmonton come in, they were very stout and they probably deserved their draw on the day. We can’t let that happen again, we’ve got to go and try and beat them but we know it’s going to be difficult.

“We need to score. They’ve come and scored after three minutes. I think we gave that one to them. They didn’t have to work very hard for it. We have to score there, so we’ll go there with that mentality. Whether you score in the first minute or the 90th minute, you’re still scoring. We’ve got to keep the back door shut, which we didn’t do on Saturday [against Seattle] as well.”

With a place in August’s final against the Montreal Impact awaiting the winner, Robinson is being forced to juggle a busy MLS schedule with trying to advance in the competition that affords Canada its sole spot in the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League.

FC Edmonton rested a number of key players for their 3-2 league loss to San Antonio Scorpions on Sunday and Robinson expects them to be at full strength for the game. Vancouver fielded a reserve team in the first leg but with the task that is in front of them, coupled with some injury concerns, a number of first-team players are expected to suit up for the return leg despite a league match looming Saturday against the Colorado Rapids (9 pm ET; TSN2/MLS LIVE).

“There will be changes,” Robinson said. “If you look at who’s available and who’s not, we’ve got a couple of players banged up, so they’re unable to go. A few more happened yesterday, so we’re taking near enough everyone that we can.

“[Give me] a crystal ball in four days and I’ll tell you if I was right or not. We’re going to have to make decisions based upon what we think will win the game tomorrow and then focus on Saturday. At the moment Saturday is secondary to me.”

With the away-goal rule in effect for the tie, Edmonton head into the second leg in the knowledge that Vancouver have to score at least one to advance but two or more goals for the Whitecaps will completely change the dynamic of the match.

“We need to score, simple,” Robinson said. “If we don’t score then we’re out. We’ll make sure that we try and score the first goal. It might be nice to score two goals, but we haven’t done that too many times this year. We’ll focus on trying to get the first goal and if we get the first one then we’ll try and get the second one.”