VANCOUVER, B.C. – Heading into August, the Vancouver Whitecaps knew it was going to be a decisive spell in their season with eight matches across three competitions.
And while they haven’t been able to create separation atop the Western Conference table, they’ve come out of it in good shape, with nine points claimed in MLS action and their first ever Canadian Championship victory. But after a couple of disappointing losses during the month, ‘Caps coach Carl Robinson also feels there’s still a lot for his squad to work on.
"We've done OK in the month," Robinson said. "It's only as daunting as you make it, based on results. We've tried to take it one game at a time, and we certainly done that. There's been good things, there's been things that we need to improve on and work on, and there's been things that we need to get a lot better at.
"Each individual game we've analyzed and we've tried to make us better from that game moving forward, and I think we've done that."
There may have been a couple of blips along the way, most noticeably in giving up three second-half goals in a 4-3 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Aug. 13, but in general, the Whitecaps defense has once again proved to be strong, with goalkeeper David Ousted keeping four clean sheets during August.
"This has been a really good month for us,” Ousted said. "It was a tough one we knew going in to it. Definitely disappointed with what happened in [the losses] but we've got out on top. We've got the Voyageurs Cup now, and we're in a position where we can push on into September and hopefully keep on top of the standings."
A 2-0 loss to the Dynamo on Saturday prevented Vancouver from reclaiming first place in the race to the Supporters’ Shield, leaving them a point behind the LA Galaxy, and re-energized Houston’s playoff hopes.
With nearly every team in the Western Conference currently eyeing up a postseason berth, Robinson is delighted to be sitting at the top of the table, with the points already in the bag, rather than trying to earn them now in the chasing pack.
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"It's very important," Robinson said. "Games in hand are always good, but only if you win them games. Each season there tends to be one or two teams in the East and the West that always have a couple of games in hand. So it quickly changes. The parity in this league is unbelievable, and it quickly changes based upon one or two of the weekend's results. Points on the board are the most important at the moment."
Vancouver aren’t taking anything for granted just yet, but with five of their remaining seven MLS matches at home, there’s a confident feeling among the group, with the heat now being turned up on those teams around them.
"Yeah, you can say the pressure's on them," Ousted added. "I'm trying to focus on what we need to do, and we still need to get points. We still need to keep ourselves up there. So they can do all the chasing, but it will hopefully be in vain. We need to finish what we started here now."