VANCOUVER, B.C. -- The Vancouver Whitecaps had two targets in mind as they took to the pitch to take on Central FC in CONCACAF Champions League action on Wednesday night.
The first target was points, with a quarterfinal spot already assured, as Vancouver looked to wrap up a top three seeding by making it four wins out of four in their Group C matches.
The second priority was to increase their goal differential, with a view to getting as high a seeding as possible and increasing the likelihood of avoiding some of the top sides remaining in the competition.
Both were achieved in a 4-1 victory, with 'Caps coach Carl Robinson sending his team out with the message to attack and play freely. It proved to be successful and Vancouver now await their fate when the group games wrap up next month.
"It's very important we've got one of the top three seeds," Robinson told reporters after the match. "You could tell that by the lineup I put out there. I wanted to give some young players some minutes and I did towards the end of the game, when I thought that the game was maybe a little bit beyond them to get back in to it.
"Even the system I played today was a little bit more attacking than I usually do, based upon trying to get some goals. Credit to the players. They deserve a lot of credit for the four games that they've played. They've managed to get through a tricky group for us."
Blas Perez and Cristian Techera had the 'Caps two up and coasting 22 minutes into the match. Although they dominated play and peppered the Central goal with shots, they couldn't add to their tally and ended up heading in at the break just a goal up after Sean De Silva's free kick beat Paolo Tornaghi.
Vancouver came out with a fresh urgency in the second half where goals from Masato Kudo, and another from Techera, wrapped up the comfortable win and allowed the 'Caps to finish with a goal differential of +8.
There were a few stretches of switching off but Vancouver dominated the match from start to finish, leaving Robinson delighted.
"We played very, very well today," Robinson added. "Probably slightly disappointed we only scored four goals because we missed a number of chances. They scored on one of their rare chances. A lot of good stuff. A lot of stuff we obviously need to still work on, but it was enjoyable to watch."
With the MLS playoffs looking out of reach, and having lost out on the 2016 Amway Canadian Championship, Robinson was keen to finish the year on a high with Champions League knockout stage qualification.
Vancouver put out some strong teams in all four of their matches, but were also afforded the opportunity to give some of their fringe and USL players some valuable minutes with an eye already on next season.
It was a blueprint that Robinson felt worked extremely well.
"We managed to balance it out today," said Robinson. "The first team guys that got minutes, three of them popped up with four goals. That's great, but we also managed to tie it in with Marco Bustos, Ben McKendry, who's picked up a slight knee injury, and Kyle Greig and Brett Levis.
"It's important for them. They're fighting to get MLS contracts for next year and it's a big part of our club -- development from Whitecaps 2 up to the first team."