VANCOUVER, B.C. - Wednesday was a historic night for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Having already secured their first CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final berth, the Whitecaps 4-1 win over Central FC saw them wrap up their group games with a maximum 12 points from four straight wins, guaranteeing Vancouver as one of the top three seeds heading into February's quarterfinals.
That seeding will give them home-field advantage for the second leg of their quarterfinal and set up the likelihood of the Whitecaps avoiding some of the region's top sides until the semifinal stages.
All in all it rounds of an excellent qualification campaign for Vancouver and one that has left head coach Carl Robinson delighted with the performance of his players over all four group games.
"For the club, it's an unbelievable achievement," Robinson told reporters after the match. "We saw Montreal do it. We liked watching them, a lot of positive stuff, but it's the first time we've managed to do it in our history, so we're delighted. We'll be very, very well prepared for whoever we face in the next round."
Vancouver could still secure top seeding depending on how the rest of the group games play out, and their performances have certainly belied their form in MLS this year.
Robinson was disappointed with how his side started this season's league campaign, feeling they were a little flat and left unprepared by their preseason games in Arizona and Portland.
With a tough Champions League quarterfinal tie coming up at the end of February, that's something that the Whitecaps can't afford to be the case next year, and Robinson aims to remedy that by taking his squad over to the United Kingdom for a couple of weeks of preseason training and to play some matches.
"Part of me reviewing the season was analyzing what was good at the start of the year and what wasn’t," revealed Robinson. "There are a few areas that I’ve identified that need to be a lot better. We got off to a slow start. Players weren’t up to speed. I’ll take responsibility for that even though they will have to as well. But next year that will not happen.
"Obviously we’ll play in the Champions League quarterfinals earlier, so we’ll have to be on top form earlier, up to speed earlier, and that means guys fitness levels earlier. That means we, as staff, need to be more organized and we will be. Preseason will change a little bit but it was going to change anyway based upon the start we got off to this season."