VANCOUVER - It has been exciting for their fans but the Vancouver Whitecaps recent streak of late, game-winning goals have taken their toll on coach Carl Robinson.
"You must have been looking at the colour of my hair," Robinson said with a grin, pointing to the dusting of grey in his short-cut, light brown hair.
During their last three Major League Soccer matches the Whitecaps scored in the 86th minute for a 1-0 win over Chicago, the 96th to beat Orlando 1-0 and last week in the 90th to edge Cascadia rival Portland 2-1.
The last-minute heroics may have resulted in some frayed nerves but Robinson will be happy if the trend continues when the Whitecaps (3-1-0) play the Los Angeles Galaxy (1-1-2) Saturday at a sold-out BC Place Stadium.
"It doesn't matter if you score in the first minute or the 96th minute," said Robinson. "It's about scoring a goal between the first whistle and the last whistle.
"We've done that the last couple of games which is good. We'll take the points, but we know there are areas we need to improve on."
Defender Steven Beitashour said the never-say-die attitude is an example of the Whitecaps' maturity. Last season those close games easily could have ended in ties, or even heart-breaking losses.
"It gives you confidence as a defender," he said. "You just keep defending and we have a chance to get a winner.
"You keep pushing, you keep fighting for that extra run every time because you know until the final whistle is blown we have a chance of winning."
Despite their winning record the Whitecaps' game still needs some polishing. In the win over Portland, Vancouver had possession of the ball just 34 per cent of the game and needed a couple of late saves from goalkeeper David Ousted.
Midfielder Russell Teibert said improving ball possession has been a priority during practice this week.
"It's something we will focus on, trying to connect more passes and still be dangerous and create chances," he said. "We need to find the balance of counter attack, defending well and keeping the ball."
Robinson said this early in the season the Whitecaps are still adjusting to new players being inserted into the lineup.
"It's a long-term fix," he said. "With the players we brought in it takes time to develop the technical ideas we want on the defensive side and also the attacking side.
"We are always a work in process. We are always trying to get better. I want to try to increase our attacking shots."
The MLS-defending champion Galaxy have plenty of explosive talent. Forward Robbie Keane has a team-leading two goals. Forward Jose Villarreal has a goal and two assists while midfielder Stefan Ishizaki has eight shots on goal, second only to Keane.
Teibert said the Whitecaps appreciate L.A.'s skill but are not afraid to step on the pitch against the Galaxy.
"You need to respect the L.A. Galaxy for what they are," he said. "There's a fine line between respect and not giving them too much time and too much space.
"I think we are going to want to press them and we are going to want to be on our front foot."
Vancouver has its own proven goal scorer in forward Octavio Rivero who was named the MLS player of the month for March. The Uruguayan has collected three goals in four games.
"I am very happy," Rivero said through an interpreter about winning the award. "More important is the team winning every game."