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Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos works the sidelines during a game against the Seattle Sounders.Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

The Vancouver Whitecaps may be facing the bottom team in the Major League Soccer standings this weekend, but they’re not taking anything for granted.

Vancouver (1-5-3) hasn’t had a strong start to its campaign, but things have been even worse for the Colorado Rapids (0-7-2), who are still searching for their first win.

The Rapids will be particularly hungry going into Friday’s matchup, Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos said.

“They have everything to play for,” he said after training this week. “We respect them a lot. We don’t look at standings. We focus on what we have to do to win the game there.”

Any MLS team can win on a given night, especially if the visitors go in with the “wrong mentality,” Vancouver centreback Doneil Henry said.

“Anybody can win any game in this league, with travel, with flights, with altitude, whatever the circumstances. The league is special because all of that,” he said. “So no, we don’t take anything for granted. [Colorado’s] a good team, they’ve got good players and we want to make sure we go in there prepared for what they bring.”

Some of the Rapids’ top talent will be familiar to Whitecaps fans. Kei Kamara leads the team with five goals while Nicolas Mezquida has a goal and an assist.

Both forwards played in Vancouver last season.

The Whitcaps traded Mezquida to the Rapids for goalkeeper Zac MacMath in the off-season, and the club opted not to re-sign Kamara, who was a free agent, despite the fact that he led the team in points last year with 14 goals and six assists.

Letting go of a top striker wasn’t an easy decision, Dos Santos said.

“[Kamara] will score everywhere he’s going to go,” the coach said. “But we felt that for the Whitecaps at that moment, and where we want to be in the medium- and longer-term, that we had to move on.”

Midfielder Felipe Martins said he’s looking forward to battling his former teammates.

“I think when you’re a competitive guy, you like competitive guys,” he said.

But the Whitecaps are thinking more about their own game than how to stop Kamara and Mezquida. When the team plays to its identity and does what the coaching staff want, they’re dangerous, Martins said.

“I think we’ve got to focus on ourselves. We’ve got to focus on the way we’re playing, the way we’re building our club,” he said.

So far, the team’s identity this year has been focused on a strong defence. Henry has been key to the effort, combining with fellow centreback Erik Godoy for 99 clearances across nine games.

Henry’s also added a pair of goals, and last week earned MLS team of the week honours for the second time this season.

“It feels great, but I just want to win at this point,” the 26-year-old Canadian international said.

“Nothing’s individually done in this team. I think we get the job done as a collective unit. I think we defend really well. I think if we can do it for 90 minutes, take our chances when we get them, I’m sure we can get three points [in Colorado.]”

To get the win, the Whitecaps will have to find some offence, which has been a struggle this year. Vancouver had just seven goals in its first nine games, and Henry is the only player to notch multiple goals.

The team simply needs to be better in the final third of the field, Dos Santos said.

While coaching staff and management are actively looking for solutions beyond the current roster, the coach is still hopeful that someone already in the club can step up and take the lead.

“What is for sure a guarantee is that everybody’s getting a chance to prove that they can be that player. Everybody’s getting that chance,” Dos Santos said. “So there’s a moment that you’re patient and there’s a moment where you say, ‘Come on, we have to move.’ ”

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