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Whitecaps looking to get back on track at home against lowly Union

05/08/2015 03:47 EDT | Updated 05/08/2016 05:59 EDT
VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Whitecaps want to bring their successful road formula back home.

In years past the Major League Soccer club has boasted about how difficult it is for opponents to play on its artificial turf, but Vancouver is a pedestrian 2-2-1 as hosts in 2015 compared to a surprising 3-1-1 away mark.

The Whitecaps have dropped points in all three games against Eastern Conference opponents at B.C. Place Stadium so far this season — including two losses — and are eager to get back on track in front of their fans when they welcome the lowly Philadelphia Union on Saturday.

Vancouver's issues at home have been mostly on the defensive side, where the team has given up seven of its eight goals against. The Whitecaps want to play attractive soccer, but they are often more dangerous when they sit back and strike on the counterattack with their blazing speed up front.

Head coach Carl Robinson knows it's about finding a happy medium between entertainment and results.

"We go on the road and we concede one goal in five games. The mentality of the group is fantastic, hard to beat, very focused," said the Welshman. "(Then) we come home, and we want to play an attacking, exciting brand of football, but do we want to sacrifice conceding goals and giving points away and losing? No.

"I've got to find the balance of doing that and obviously trying to make this into a fortress that we know it can be. Teams don't like coming here. It's very difficult for them and we love playing here."

Added defender Jordan Harvey: "To win is the most important thing. We want an entertaining brand, but I think the fans would agree that getting three points here is most important."

Home results aside, another issue for the Whitecaps (5-3-2) in recent weeks has been a lack of finish no matter where they step on the pitch. Vancouver has just two goals over its last four games and 11 in total on the year, but will be hoping the floodgates open against Philadelphia (1-6-3), which has conceded an MLS-high 18 goals, including 12 on the road.

"There will always been times in the season where something is lacking," said Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted. "It might be goal scoring, it might be conceding goals. We're not worried. The guys we have up front are high quality and showed before they can score goals, so the goals will come."

The Whitecaps, who had their mid-week Amway Canadian Championship first leg against FC Edmonton postponed because of snow in the Alberta capital, should have midfielder Matias Laba back against Philadelphia after he was sent off in Vancouver's last home game, a 2-1 loss against D.C. United two weeks ago.

The Union, meanwhile, come into Saturday with a crisis in goal after John McCarthy and Andre Blake both went down with injuries in practice this week. Rais Mbolhi only just rejoined the club after some time away so Philadelphia are expected to start Brian Sylvestre, who was signed on a short-term loan from the second-tier Carolina RailHawks on Friday and is a former member of Vancouver's youth system.

Regardless of who patrols the Union's 18-yard box this weekend, the Whitecaps know incorporating what has worked away from home will play a big factor in them bouncing back at B.C. Place.

"We've been getting away a little bit from the mentality we have on the road of being sound defensively and then going (on attack)," said Ousted. "There needs to be a balance, and I think we're slowly figuring out the balance."

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