Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie has ruled out making big changes to reinvigorate a team that lost its past two matches, claiming his side is on the right path to improvement.
The Whitecaps (2-2-0) started the season with two straight wins at BC Place but their road woes — which date back to the middle of last season — have come back to haunt them. Vancouver dropped its next two games at Houston and Chivas USA.
Despite the successive losses, Rennie was confident the team would return to winning ways if it made some basic adjustments at both ends of the pitch.
“I feel that we’re close to clicking now and obviously to do that we need to defend a little better and we need to take our chances,” he said after training on Thursday.
“At the same time we have to keep doing the things that we’ve been doing, which is fairly consistently passing the ball well, but we must take those chances when they come along and our defending can improve and if we can get those things right we’re in with a great chance.”
The Whitecaps are on the road for the third straight week when they take on San Jose Earthquakes (2-2-1) at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday night, and there is a chance they could be without Scottish striker and leading goalscorer Kenny Miller.
Miller — who has scored two goals and has been one of the team’s more consistent players — did not train on Thursday as he received treatment for a hamstring problem.
“His hamstring is a little bit tight so we’re just not taking any risks with it,” Rennie said. “But it’s nothing too major I don’t think.”
Believing his team was on the cusp of playing to its potential, Rennie said there was no need to swing the axe or alter the game plan.
“(I won’t make) drastic changes because we’re playing well,” he said. “If we weren’t playing well then obviously we’d maybe look at that.
“There are guys who are doing very well in reserve games and in training so there’s definitely players in contention for a starting spot on Saturday, but at the same time we’re trying to perfect the way we play, not change it dramatically.
“We’re just trying to get better at playing the way that we want to play and that takes a little bit of time too.”
The Whitecaps manager said early season scheduling quirks and the absence of some key players had prevented his team from getting into a rhythm.
“I think the start of the season has been a little bit stop-start on a couple of things,” he said. “One would be just not consistently having games, secondly, not being at BC Place for five weeks and thirdly, would be just a couple of players like Kenny who are playing well and had international games and things like that.
“But you’re going to get spells like that in a season and it’s not a bad thing to have early on and I think we’re managing our way through it pretty well.”
But it’s difficult to ignore the team’s issues when playing outside British Columbia.
Vancouver’s last win on the road occurred on July 4 last year against Colorado Rapids, though goalkeeper Joe Cannon said that wasn’t weighing too heavily on the players’ shoulders.
“I think it’s early (in the season), nobody cares about July 4,” he said. “I think nobody talks about any of that stuff because sports are all about the moment, every day is a new day.
“I think the frustration on the part of the guys is we know we’re a really good team and when things aren’t clicking like we know they can, and whenever there is a gap between the reality of the situation and the potential, there’s always going to be some frustration.”
Breaking through on the road this weekend will be tough, considering the Earthquakes boast last season’s Golden Boot winner in Chris Wondolowski.
He is bound to cause his ex-teammate Cannon some grief, but the goalie has figured out a way to contain the star striker.
“I think we all probably got to go over to his house at night and turn off the heater, Saran Wrap the garage so he can’t get out,” he joked. “We’ve got some other plans to do to kind of keep him off track.”