Their next opponent has yet to score a goal this season but the Vancouver Whitecaps aren’t taking the New England Revolution lightly. They know how dangerous a desperate team can be.
The unbeaten Whitecaps head to Boston on Saturday afternoon to face a struggling Revolution squad eager to ignite their offence in their home opener.
“I’m not getting fooled by the results they had in the first two games,” said Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson. “They are a good team and it will be a big test for us.”
New England has been outscored 5-0 in two road games so far, but has won both its previous meetings against Vancouver when playing at Gillette Stadium. New England is also unbeaten in home openers since 2007.
“It’s a dangerous time to play them,” said Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit. “They’ll have a lot of fire in their bellies and we need to make sure we combat that. Our energy needs to be there from the start.”
DeMerit won’t be on hand to deliver that spark, as he said on Twitter that he is being rested this weekend in advance of Vancouver’s upcoming Western Conference matchups.
Vancouver’s energy level was a recurring topic during the team’s training sessions this week on the UBC campus. After dazzling home fans in their season-opening 4-1 win over the New York Red Bulls, the team looked somewhat sluggish in a 1-1 tie against a 10-man Chivas USA side in southern California.
Against Chivas, the Whitecaps fell behind 1-0 before Gambian forward Kekuta Manneh tied it with a spectacular strike in the 81st minute. Although Vancouver pulled out the road point, many on the team felt it was an opportunity missed.
“We were not a 100 per cent in our energy last weekend and that’s something we can improve on,” said Whitecaps goalie David Ousted. “If you’re up a man, you have to work maybe even harder to break them down than if they’re 11.
“They did really well at ruining our play and we had to work hard to get through and I think that’s something we’ll learn from. If it happens again, we will be even more aggressive in going for the goals.”
While fans pine to see Manneh and his scoring touch in the starting lineup on Saturday, Robinson says Manneh’s not there yet. The quick-footed forward missed the pre-season with a lower back issue and right now his fitness level is still a work in progress.
Manneh, who scored six goals and started six games last year, played 30 minutes against Chivas and seven in the opener. He was seen running drills alone during practice.
“He’s a great kid and has got fantastic ability,” said Robinson. “It’s important we do the fitness that the guys did in preseason. He missed that. He got his reward on Sunday, and played very well. He’ll be fine for (Saturday) and I’m sure he play some part in New England.”
Vancouver will need its offence clicking against a Revolution team that, despite its goal-scoring struggles, is known to be stingy at the back thanks in part Jose Goncalves, last year’s MLS defender of the year. The Portuguese centre back helped New England tie for the third-best defensive record in 2013 with 38 goals allowed.
“They play tight and narrow at the back, so if we can spread them out and get some crosses, hopefully (we) get some of these guys on the scoreboard again,” said DeMerit.
“New England is a compact team. They’ve got a couple good forwards up top, guys who are proven scorers in this league. They haven’t scored a lot of goals yet, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of doing so.”
Notes: Whitecaps midfielder Russell Teibert of Niagara Falls, Ont., says he’s feels good and is ready to return after missing Sunday’s match with a hamstring injury. Teibert started the season opener and registered one shot on goal. ... Vancouver defender Johnny Leveron (concussion) is also expected to be available for Saturday’s match. ... Vancouver won the last meeting between the clubs 4-3 at B.C. Place on June 16, 2013.