SPORTS

Sitting atop the MLS standings, Whitecaps will look to continue road success

04/10/2015 04:01 EDT | Updated 06/11/2015 07:59 EDT
Winning on the road in Major League Soccer is always a challenge.

Tough travel schedules, the season's wear and tear, and home teams looking to impress fans with an attacking style are often factors when visiting sides fail to pick up points.

But not much of that has mattered to the Vancouver Whitecaps so far in 2015.

The Whitecaps already have two away victories — they had three all of last season — and will be looking for a franchise-record third straight when they visit the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.

"We've got a better mentality at the start of this year because everyone knows about us," said Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson. "We've still got a lot to improve on, but I've got a group in there that don't like losing. You see in training. They kick lumps out of each other."

After a disappointing home loss to Toronto FC to open the season, the Whitecaps scored back-to-back 1-0 victories in Chicago and Orlando thanks to late goals from Octavio Rivero.

But the players say a commitment to each other, not individual moments of brilliance, as the main reason for Vancouver's early success on the road that has helped the club to the top of the MLS standings with 13 points.

"It's the cohesiveness we have in the team and the way the coaching staff sets up when we play away, but also the will, the desire and the determination to do well," said defender Pa-Modou Kah. "Everybody knows when you go out on the road it might be a little bit difficult, but for us every game is the same whether we play home or away. There's no difference."

Another factor is Vancouver's speed up top with Rivero, who leads MLS with five goals in six games, along with Kekuta Manneh, Nicolas Mezquida and Darren Mattocks.

"I think we're a team that's excellent at counter attacking," said Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted. "That's a little bit easier on the road. A lot of teams, when they're at home, they want to press a little more, get higher, and that leaves more space for the guys up front."

Vancouver (4-1-1) saw its franchise-best four-game winning streak come to an end on Wednesday after twice coming back from a goal down at home in a 2-2 tie with the Columbus Crew.That result came on the heels over Portland and Los Angeles of victories at B.C. Place Stadium.

The Whitecaps will be playing their third game in eight days on Saturday and Robinson could have some selection issues in his starting 11. Diego Rodriguez limped off after 15 minutes in midweek with a groin problem, while fellow defender Kendall Waston was involved in a scary incident that saw him land on his head after going up for a ball late in the game. Waston said Thursday he's fit to play against San Jose if called upon.

"We're beaten up and banged up at the moment, but we'll deal with it. We'll get on with it because we have other players that can step in," said Robinson. "It's getting a sense of my players and who's ready to go and who's not. If I ask them if they all want to play, they'll all say yes, but it's based on their age, it's based on what I think's right for the team."

The Earthquakes (2-3-0), meanwhile, have some injury and suspension concerns of their own, but have been buoyed by a new stadium and a new coach in Dominic Kinnear, who is back with for a second stint at the club.

"It's going to be a tricky game for us, but one that we'll go into looking full of confidence knowing what we need to do to get a result," said Robinson. "We know we're going into a hostile environment. They'll be pumped up."

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