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Vancouver Whitecaps' Tim Parker celebrates after scoring the team's second goal against Toronto FC during second half Canadian Championship final soccer action in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday June 29, 2016.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

A few punches were thrown after a Vancouver Whitecaps practice this week.

The fracas wasn't a sign of any simmering tensions on the team. It was a little fun before the Whitecaps travelled to Houston to face the Dynamo in a Major League Soccer match Saturday.

After the Whitecaps' practice they were joined on the field by UFC fighters Carlos Condit, the No. 5-ranked welterweight, and Paige VanZant. The pair, who will participate in a UFC card in Vancouver on Aug. 27, demonstrated some punches and kicks.

Whitecaps defender Tim Parker was a happy participant and gathered some thoughts on how to handle Houston forward Will Bruin, who has scored four goals and assisted on two others this season.

"This was a cool experience," said Parker. "Some little punches and kicks, some grapple moves.

"Maybe it will show me how to grab onto Will Bruin a little bit tighter."

While soccer and UFC are two very different sports, Parker said there is some comparison in the skills involved.

"One of the things that fighters have is the footwork," he said. "It puts them in good position to either strike or defend themselves.

"In soccer, defenders constantly work on our footwork. It's one of the things you can learn, maybe not from their technique, but maybe doing some similar drills to what their footwork is."

The UFC training may come in handy as Vancouver expects a battle in the Lone Star State. In 10 previous MLS games in Texas, against the Dynamo and FC Dallas, the Whitecaps have failed to gain a point.

Vancouver heads to Houston with a 2-1-2 record in their last five games and sits fifth in the Western Conference with an 8-8-5 record.

Centre back Kendall Waston, who has been selected to the MLS all-star game roster, said it's the time of season where Vancouver needs to climb up the table.

"We don't want to win one game and then lose the other one," he said. "We want to be regular. We want to go back to having clean sheets, not conceding so many goals."

The struggling Dynamo are last in the West with a 4-9-6 record and are 2-4-4 in their last 10 games. During that stretch Houston has scored one or fewer goals nine times.

On paper it should be a game Vancouver wins, but Waston said the Whitecaps can't be overly confident.

"Sometimes the numbers doesn't say the reality of the game," he said. "I think they have a great team. They have played very well but this season they haven't won a lot of games."

The Dynamo are 0-8-3 on the road this year but have four wins at home. Adding to the challenge facing the Whitecaps is sweltering Texas heat. The forecast for Saturday calls for a low of around 27C.

Coach Carl Robinson knows his team can't afford an off night against the Dynamo.

"Any game in this league is very difficult," he said. "We know that. On any day, anyone can beat anyone as has been proven numerous times.

"We know it's a difficult game. It's a difficult place to go and play, but we'll be ready."

In two previous meetings this year, both at BC Place Stadium, the Whitecaps beat Houston 1-0 on March 26 then settled for a 1-1 tie on May 28.

Over the last five MLS matches, Vancouver has scored nine goals but allowed eight.

"We've given up too many goals," said goalkeeper David Ousted. "We have the quality to score goals, even away, but going into Houston and Dallas, two very hot games, we need to manage the game correctly and keep the ball. I think we have the personnel to do that."

The match against the Dynamo kicks off a four-game road stretch for the Whitecaps.

After playing in Houston they have MLS games July 31 in Dallas and Aug. 6 in Colorado. Sandwiched between those is a Aug. 2 CONCACAF Champions League match against Central FC at Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago.

"This is going to be an important start to our road stretch here," Parker said. "Getting off on the right foot is very important."