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Whitecaps show they are listening to message being preached by new coach

Ball possession. Better organization. Improved defence.

This is what coach Tom Soehn has been preaching to the Vancouver Whitecaps with a missionary's zeal since replacing the fired Teitur Thordarson.

Like any sermon, you are never sure how much of the message is getting through.

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By managing their second win of the Major League Soccer season, and the first in the four games since Soehn took over the helm, the expansion Whitecaps showed they are listening to what the new coach has to say.

"We still have a lot of work to do," Soehn said Wednesday prior to the Whitecaps leaving on a three-game road trip.

"While everyone is on a real high, you have to manage those highs. It's just one (win). We have to turn one into two and three."

The Whitecaps beat the Philadelphia Union 1-0 last weekend for their first victory since opening day in March. Vancouver's record is now 2-6-8 for 14 points, under the system where a win is worth three points and a tie one.

The Whitecaps are last in the MLS's Western Conference, but remain in the hunt for a playoff spot. Soehn admits it's a process that can't be rushed.

"Slowly but surely," he said. "You always want things quicker, sooner than later.

"I think it's headed in the right direction. I feel like we still have some work to do."

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Soehn has reshaped the Whitecaps lineup and style of play since taking over May 30.

He's shifted slick passing Davide Chiumiento from wing to forward. Brazilian Camilo Sanvezzo has moved to wing from forward and veteran Joe Cannon has taken over the starting goalkeeper duties from Jay Nolly.

Soehn wants the Whitecaps to concentrate on ball control and defence.

"When I looked at our stats, we gave up more shots than anybody," said Soehn, 45, the former D.C. United coach who started the season as Vancouver's director of soccer operations.

"If you look at the last game we barely gave them anything. Being compact and organized is something we are improving on. Possession is such a big thing. That has been inching forward."

The win against Philadelphia was important for the team's confidence, said midfielder Terry Dunfield.

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"It was coming," said Dunfield. "I don't think that win was a one off.

"I think we have played well, not only in the last few weeks, but in the last month. It was huge for the players, for the staff, the fans, the entire organization."

Cannon said Soehn has brought a different energy to the club.

"There's more attention to detail," he said. "Tommy has brought his experience in. I think everyone feels they have a fair shot at every individual position.

"I think everyone fought for Teitur. Everyone liked him. Tommy has shown he's not going to miss anything. He's going to make sure we are all accountable. I think (with) Tommy it's been a little better as far as the little things."

Defender Alain Rochat said Soehn has changed the Whitecaps style.

"The biggest change is before we were trying to be fast, attacking," said Rochat. "Now we need to have more patience."

The players kept believing in themselves even during Vancouver's 14-game winless streak, said Rochat.

"From the beginning we wanted to make points," he said. "We wanted to win.

"Now the coach has changed. He has new ideas. Let's see if they are going to work. The attitude is still the same. We want to be good in this league."

Ten of the 18 teams in MLS make the playoffs.

The top three teams in each of the two conferences advance, joined by the next four teams with the highest point totals.

Heading into Wednesday night's games, the Whitecaps sat four points out of the final playoff spot.

"We are not so far," said Rochat. "There is a long way to the playoffs. Everything is possible."

The Whitecaps will be looking to put together their first win streak of the season when they play Sporting Kansas City at the new Livestrong Sporting Park on Saturday.

The last time the teams played, Vancouver battled back from a 3-0 deficit for a draw at Empire Field.

"We played them before, so we have some knowledge of what they are about," said Soehn.

"They throw a lot of numbers in the attack, which should leave some space to get after them. Most importantly, we have to be organized.,"

Vancouver will then travel to Toronto for a pair of games.

They will Toronto FC in a MLS game June 29, then play the Reds again July 2 in the final match of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship.

That game was rescheduled after a May 26 game was cancelled due to bad weather, with Vancouver leading 1-0.

Dunfield said the Whitecaps have improved, but still can get a lot better.

"This isn't the end product right now," he said. "We are still improving.

"We are going to get better. Hopefully we can take these battling qualities and work ethic into this road trip."

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