The Vancouver Whitecaps will need to tighten up their defence – but only a little – in order to snap out of their two-game losing skid.
After starting the year a Major League Soccer-record four games without allowing a goal they’ve allowed six in two games, but the team isn’t panicking or making rash decisions.
“In those last couple games we’ve been a little bit unfortunate,” said head coach Martin Rennie after practice Friday. “Any little mistake we have made has been punished. Almost anything the opposition has touched has gone in. That doesn’t happen all the time. I think we have been defending well all season but we need to prove that again.”
Vancouver is coming off consecutive 3-1 losses, including Wednesday at home versus unbeaten Sporting Kansas City, heading into Saturday’s game at B.C. Place against FC Dallas.
To do that, defender Jay DeMerit said the Whitecaps just need to clean up a few problem areas but not making any major adjustments.
“It’s just cleaning up the sloppy areas we’ve had the last couple games,” DeMerit said. “We’ve given up too many goals. It hasn’t been big issues. It’s just small errors that are leading to big goals for them. You look at the amount of chances that Kansas City had and there wasn’t more than the goals that they scored. It’s about managing to stay consistent over the 90 minutes and cleaning up the tiny errors.”
Vancouver has just five goals for this season, second fewest in the Western Conference. Though Rennie was happy with the offence against Kansas City, the goals will need to come eventually.
“In the last couple games we’ve created quite a few chances,” Rennie said. “Obviously you don’t want to be doing it when you’re chasing the game. You want to do it from a position of strength.”
Partly to blame for the offence’s poor showing is forward Eric Hassli, who hasn’t scored this season, though his coach was quick to defend the French striker.
“There’s been a little more made of that than probably is fair,” Rennie said. “He’s only five games into the season because he missed a game, four of the goals we’ve scored this season he’s directly assisted on or been a key part in setting up. People go, ‘Oh, it was Aug. 7 when he last scored a goal’ but he didn’t play in the last five or six games of the season as a starter and then there’s three months off, so there’s not a lot he can do in those times.
“I’m sure Eric will come good for us. He’s proven he can score. All strikers have spells like this.”
However, the Whitecaps held a closed practice Friday and while they would not comment on any lineup changes, though there is reason to suspect that Hassli may take a seat in favour of Omar Salgado.
Salgado subbed into the game Wednesday and contributed to the lone Vancouver goal with a cross to Camilo. After the game Rennie suggested that his time to shine is near.
“He’s been doing well for almost a month now,” said Rennie of Salgado. “He’s taken on board everything that we’ve asked him to do. We’re pleased with how he’s progressed. You remember he’s only 18 years old but he’s an 18-year-old with a lot of potential. He’s a lot fitter and stronger and his attitude’s excellent.”
Salgado, who is likely to shift to the left side that he’s been learning, said he’s looking forward to the opportunity and hopes to get more minutes as the season progresses.
“I think I can make a difference there like in the reserve games and Wednesday,” Salgado said. “I’m just trying to get more comfortable.”
Dallas is coming off back-to-back dramatic wins at home and is now tied for third in the West.
“They’re a good passing team and create a lot of chances,” Rennie said. “You have to press them hard otherwise they’ll open you up. They’ve been a good team for a few years.”
Dallas is 0-2 on the road his season and Vancouver is 1-1-1 at home.
“We created more chances against Kansas City than any other team has on them,” DeMerit said. “Those just need to now get in the back of the net. For us that’s going to be the main thing.”