Now that Vancouver Whitecaps FC has their first clean sheet (and first point) secured in 2019, the club will look to build off that foundation.
That structure should be tested heavily when Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy head to BC Place for MLS Friday Night on TSN (10 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US, TSN1 in Canada). The star striker confirmed he's available for selection, but the 'Caps won't deviate much from their game plan.
"Of course he's good, of course we know he has quality," goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau said after training on Tuesday. "But we have to prepare like when we played against the Galaxy in the preseason. It's not a different team just because there's one guy on the field. Yes, we have to respect him, but not fear him at all."
Center back Doneil Henry expressed a similar sentiment.
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"We know what he brings to the table, he's a quality player," Henry said. "He can hurt you in the blink of an eye. We respect what he brings to the game, but we're still focused on ourselves."
Henry was integral to the team's 0-0 draw last weekend against the Seattle Sounders, recording three blocks and seven clearances. That showing earned him a spot on the MLS Team of the Week presented by Audi.
"Once (Henry) judged where the ball was going, he attacked them and there was no way someone was getting there before him," Crepeau said. "That was his mentality, the greatness of his mindset from the game."
It was one of Henry's best performances in a Whitecaps jersey since joining the club last season. The fact that it has coincided with a consistent run of play with both club and the Canadian national team is no coincidence.
"The more games, more confidence and more fit, the more I can deal with players at a high level," Henry said. "I'm always thinking, always aware. All these things come with more games that I play, the more consistent the team is, the easier it becomes."
Henry is likely to clash with Ibrahimovic most often on Friday, though he doesn't see it as a 1-on-1 battle. In fact, he reiterated that Vancouver won't create a special game plan for the Swedish forward.
"Collectively as a team, it's not on one person, it's within a structure," Henry said when asked how to defend Ibrahimovic. "We don't think about him alone. They have other players that are dangerous, but if we focus on our shape and how we defend as a group, we won't be penetrated."
Crepeau isn't paying special attention to it either. He plans to treat a shot from Ibrahimovic with the same ferocity as any other striker.
"You don't think about it too much," Crepeau said. "You prepare your week as usual. But when you see him in front it's about a pride battle as well."