SPORTS

Vancouver Whitecaps look to hold off chasing Colorado Rapids

06/15/2012 05:43 EDT | Updated 08/15/2012 05:12 EDT
BURNABY, B.C. - The Vancouver Whitecaps aren't putting too much stock in their fourth-place position in Major League Soccer’s Western standings. They know how fast the tables can change.

As the Whitecaps ready to host fifth-place Rapids on Saturday at B.C. Place, their two-point seperation from Colorado in the standings is nothing to get comfortable with.

“It’s a little early to look at the standings, but you’re always aware of it,” said Vancouver head coach Martin Rennie after training Friday afternoon. “Colorado over the last few years have proved themselves to be one of the better teams.”

Still, Vancouver should be feeling good about where the team is at compared to a year ago. The Whitecaps have already matched their win total of six racked up in their inaugural season.

The Rapids, meanwhile, are just a year-and-a-half removed from the 2010 MLS Cup championship, finishing 21 points higher than the Whitecaps in 2011.

The parity of the league is by design, says the ‘Caps coach.

“MLS is set up in that way to be equal in many ways, to make sure teams that aren’t doing well have a chance to improve,” said Rennie.

The Los Angeles Galaxy, for example, have fallen from first last year, and the MLS Cup, to last place in the standings currently.

“It’s crazy. That a team can go from first in L.A. to now low in the tables and the opposite can happen,” said Vancouver’s Jordan Harvey. "We’re looking for that opposite to happen. We had our woes last season but I think we’re pretty confident these days.

"We’re a on a run now and we need to keep it up.”

Though it may be early to be scoreboard watching, the importance of a win over a conference rival is not lost on the Whitecaps.

“The principle of taking points off a Western Conference team obviously applies at any point of the season,” said the Whitecaps’ Joe Thorrington. “Any point we get now is as valuable as one we get on the last day of the season.”

Consistency has been an issue for the 2012 Whitecaps FC, and the ability to finish off teams and minimize defensive lapses has been their number one issue.

"We have to make sure we’re consistently being clinical in front of the goal and defending well the whole game,” said Rennie. "Last game was probably the most consistent performance so far so there’s a standard there that we want to make sure we get to again.”

One of the strengths for Vancouver has been its depth and also the mentality of the reserve players when coming into games.

“It’s the attitude of the players coming off the bench,” said Rennie. “There’s been numerous games this season where players have come on and scored or set up a goal. The guys know that being part of a squad is being ready for whatever you’re called to do.”

In the last game Harvey came into the game and wound up tallying what would be the nail in the coffin in the 3-1 victory versus Houston.

“You need your squad in a 10-month season,” said team captain Jay DeMerit. “Everyone is needed in different parts of the season and roles change.”

Like Harvey, who played for Colorado and the Philadelphia Union and until this year had started 101 of the 105 games. Now he finds himself in a relief role.

“It’s a different role for me than it has been in years past,” said Harvey. “I’m still learning to come on as a sub. Learning to be prepared to come in at any given moment so you have to be warm throughout the game and just mentally preparing for the game."

Also out of the starting lineup has been last season’s leading scorer Camilo Sanvezzo and fan-favourite forward Eric Hassli. However, the players are buying into the team concept.

Colorado, meanwhile, has struggled away from home, with five or its six losses coming on the road. DeMerit wants to add to their road struggles.

“Anyone that comes into our home stadium needs to make sure they’re coming into a tough environment and a hard place to come and beat us,” said DeMerit. “We need to make our home stadium a fortress.”

Notes: Whitecaps FC will be without goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre and striker Atiba Harris (both knee), as well as youngster Omar Salgado (foot) for Saturday’s match… Colorado’s long casualty list includes Drew Moor, centre back Marvell Wynne, midfielder Jamie Smith. Defender Anthony Wallace (Achilles) and veteran midfielder Pablo Mastroeni (headaches) are also sidelined, while midfielder Ross LaBauex (sports hernia) is listed as probable.

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