The Whitecaps play their next three games away from B.C. Place Stadium, starting with Saturday's contest against FC Dallas.
"I think that going into this stage of the season, we've got a chance to play a number of games on the road, in a row," said Vancouver coach Martin Rennie. "Which, I think, allows us to come up with a way to play and really focus and make sure that we do well on the road — because, in the end, you want to get in the playoffs and be able to win on the road in the playoffs."
The Whitecaps (10-9-7) are tied for sixth with Dallas (9-7-10) in the Western Conference. Only the top five clubs will qualify for the post-season.
"At this point in the season, we've definitely got an improvement to make, but we find ourselves in a great position," said Rennie.
But Vancouver has fallen below the playoff bar in recent weeks. Not too long ago, the Whitecaps' lock on its second consecutive spot appeared secure. But they have lost ground with middling results — including ties in three of their past five games and a 1-2-1 mark in their past four home contests.
With games starting to mean more down the stretch, Rennie is looking for an improved effort from his club, which has shown a distinct lack of finish in recent outings.
"Our concentration has to be better in both boxes because we're missing a lot of good chances and we're giving up goals that we shouldn't be giving up," he said. "But overall, the character and hunger from the players was excellent. Now we’ve got to get a couple things really focused in both boxes, and that's important."
He is looking for a better defensive effort after Chivas USA rookie Erick Torres scored a bicycle-kick in the third minute before the Whitecaps overcame a 2-0 deficit in a dramatic 2-2 tie last weekend.
"The marking in the box has to be tighter," said Rennie.
Marking has a chance to improve if captain Jay DeMerit can display some of the form evident before he suffered a torn Achilles in the first game of the season in early March. DeMerit, a central defender whose return has been expected in recent weeks, made the trip to Dallas and has a chance to play following his long rehabilitation.
Midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker's return from a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation should also help the Caps defensively. But Vancouver will play without midfielder Russell Teibert. The 20-year-old Niagara Falls, Ont., native is away at a Canadian national team camp in Spain with new coach Benito Floro.
Striker Darren Mattocks will also be away on international duty with his Jamaican national side.
Notes_Former Whitecap Eric Hassli has a chance to play his first game since July 20. The Dallas striker has been sidelined with a back injury and apologized to fans Friday for not being more forthcoming about his health woes. ... Dallas will be without Blas Perez (Panama) and Raul Fernandez (Peru) due to their international duty, and striker Kenny Cooper will be absent as he serves a suspension for receiving a red card in his club's previous game against San Jose.