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Soccer Whitecaps look to recover from LAFC blowout and get back in playoff race

Andy Rose reacts to LAFC's fifth goal during a game at Banc of California Stadium on July 6, 2019 in Los Angeles.

Harry how/Getty Images

After suffering a tough loss in Los Angeles last week, the Vancouver Whitecaps are anxious to get back on the field – and back into the race for a playoff spot.

The ‘Caps (4-8-8) were trounced 6-1 by Major League Soccer leaders Los Angeles FC last Saturday, but it’s not a result the squad is dwelling on, said goalie Maxime Crépeau.

“It happens,” he said after training in Vancouver this week ahead of a match against Sporting Kansas City. “If you’re a journalist, if you’re a bread maker, if you’re whatever, you have a bad day, it happens. So the page is turned.”

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Still, there are lessons to be learned from the blowout loss. Centre back Doneil Henry said the group hasn’t looked that bad defensively all season, adding they need to tighten their lines and look at where they’re losing the ball.

They’ll also need to tune out all of the outside noise as the team prepares for a busy stretch, Henry said. “You don’t let that one performance dictate who you are or what you are as a team or your identity as a player or as a group.

“Within a tight-knit group like we have here, I think it’s important to just get it right out of you, look what needs to be changed and accept it and be better,” he said.

The Whitecaps fared better on Wednesday when they battled Calgary’s Calvary FC of the Canadian Premier League to a scoreless draw in Canadian Championship action. The two sides will go head to head again on July 24, but first the ‘Caps will return to MLS play on Saturday when they play host to Kansas City (5-7-7). Vancouver and Kansas City are separated by just two points at the bottom of the congested Western Conference.

“It’s not a game that doesn’t have any meaning,” Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos said. “It’s a game between two teams that are very close in the standings, two teams that want to win and want to kind of survive in that playoff race.”

The race will be a busy one for the Whitecaps. If the team qualifies for the next round of the Canadian Championships, it will play 15 games over July and August.

Staying focused on one game – and even one half – at a time will be key to tackling the gruelling schedule, Crépeau said.

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“That’s all we can control, the next play, the next move,” he said. “So with the amount of games coming, we need to take it one at a time and not see the bigger picture.”

But posting some wins across the stretch will be key for the Whitecaps playoff aspirations. They sit 11th in the West, seven points out of a postseason berth.

“At the end of the day, out of 24 teams, 10 teams won’t make the playoffs,” Dos Santos said. “So I think everybody’s fighting, everybody has concerns in MLS, everybody’s trying their best. And we’re one of the teams that is in that position.”

With 14 regular-season league games to go, the playoffs are still mathematically possible and a realistic goal, Henry said.

“Anybody who thinks the playoffs are a far target at this point is kind of crazy,” he said. “But we do need to start picking up points. Games that we’re tying we need to win. And we just need to go out there with the mentality that every game is the last game.”

Sporting Kansas City (5-7-7) at Vancouver Whitecaps (4-8-8)

Saturday, B.C. Place

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WINLESS STREAK: The ‘Caps most recent win came on May 25, when they beat FC Dallas 2-1 in Vancouver. The squad has since chalked up three draws and a pair of losses in league play.

LATE RALLIES: Last-minute goals have become a habit for the Whitecaps in recent months. Since May, six of the team’s goals have come in the 80th minute or later.

ROAD WOES: Sporting has captured a single road victory this season, posting a 1-4-4 away record.

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