The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer might be here, but Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson is reminding his players to keep their mind on the job, not the beach.
The temperatures in Vancouver hovered around 30 degrees this week but Robinson doesn’t want to see any cooling for a red-hot Whitecaps team that has won back-to-back games and are unbeaten in six matches.
The Whitecaps will put that streak on the line when they go on the road to play the Philadelphia Union in a Major League Soccer match Saturday.
“When the sun comes out it puts smiles on people’s faces,” Robinson said after a training session. “You want to spend time in the sun, but you can’t. You are paid to play football and you have to conduct yourself as a professional player.
“We will deal with one game at a time. We know it’s a hard schedule coming up, we have a lot of games. Every game is difficult.”
Historically the summer months haven’t been a picnic for the Whitecaps. Vancouver had a respectable record of 5-3-2 between July 1 and Aug. 26 last year. That was a vast improvement from the 1-5-4 mark during the summer of 2016.
The Whitecaps return from their two-week World Cup break feeling good about themselves. The offence is finally meshing after struggling to score goals early in the season.
Teenaged winger Alphonso Davies had a goal and a franchise record three assists in a 5-2 win over Orlando City SC in the final game before the break, earning him MLS player of the week recognition. Striker Kei Kamara scored twice to break out of a scoring drought while Yordy Reyna collected his third goal in five games.
Defender Marcel de Jong said the team is getting some bounces.
“Even before those results we had some good games,” said de Jong, who is expected to return to the lineup after missing two games with a hamstring injury. “We just couldn’t win, couldn’t score as many goals as we did the last couple of games.
“The last couple of games we were just a little bit sharper in the finishing. That’s what has helped us win the game.”
Vancouver’s recent success can be misleading since the two wins have come against struggling teams. Questions also remain about the Whitecaps defensively.
During the six-game streak Vancouver has allowed an average two goals a game, often the result of breakdowns or mental lapses.
“I think it’s mostly concentration,” de Jong said. “We need to keep focused for 95 minutes.”
The Union have lost two straight MLS games and head coach Jim Curtin knows the challenge Vancouver presents.
“They are a team that is in very good form and they are scoring a lot of goals, creating a lot of chances,” Curtin told the Union webpage. “We will have our hands full with their front three.
“They have guys that dangerous on the counter and [they] are organized defensively. We will have to play at our top level.”
Vancouver heads into the weekend sitting fourth in the MLS Western Conference with 23 points. Just four points separate third-place LAFC from eighth-place LA Galaxy in the tight conference.
Of the Whitecaps’ next 10 games, eight are against teams that currently have worse records than Vancouver.
“We know it’s not going to be easy,” said Robinson. “We will continue to focus on what we have been doing well.
“I’ll still put standards on these players. I think they can give me more.”