VANCOUVER — Now that Whitecaps have won their first Amway Canadian championship, they are hungry for more titles.
The Whitecaps enter Saturday's Major League Soccer road game against the Houston Dynamo looking to use Wednesday's Voyageurs Cup triumph over the Montreal Impact as a catalyst for more success. A victory in Houston will improve the Whitecaps' bid to get place first overall in the regular season, host a playoff game for the first time and contend for their first MLS Cup.
"We carried the momentum (from recent strong play) into the game on Wednesday, which we won and got a positive result, and we're looking to do the same on Saturday," said Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson.
The Whitecaps (14-9-3) sit second overall and in the Western Conference, having won four of their past five games. Houston (8-10-8) is tied for eighth in the West but not far out of a top-six berth and playoff qualification.
Although Saturday's game is Vancouver's third in a week, Robinson will go mainly with regulars - as he did in the second leg of the Canadian championship final, when the Whitecaps blanked Montreal 2-0 to take the title 4-2 on aggregate.
"There will be one or two changes, obviously, to the lineup, but the majority of guys want to play again," said Robinson. "I think we're in a rhythm at the moment."
David Ousted will start in goal despite hurting his leg in a collision with Vancouver central defender Tim Parker and Montreal midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker, an ex-Whitecap, on Wednesday. Ousted is not worried about a possible letdown in Houston after the Whitecaps' emotional win at B.C. Place Stadium.
"It was a good win, great to get that cup for the fans and for the club, but we're professionals," said Ousted, who has posted 10 shutouts in league play. "There's a game on Saturday now, and that's where our focus (is)."
An eight-game August schedule, which has included MLS, Canadian Championship and CONCACAF Champions League games, threatened to derail Vancouver's title hopes. But the Caps have gone 5-0-1 in all competition this month.
Their lone lapses came on the road as they squandered two-goal leads in a 2-2 draw in the first leg of the Canadian final at Montreal and a 4-3 league loss at Sporting Kansas City. However, Ousted is confident that he and his teammates can survive the intense heat and humidity in Houston.
Although the Whitecaps have never won there, they sport the best road record (7-5-2) in MLS. They have transformed into unwelcome houseguests after failing to win a single game away in their inaugural MLS season in 2011 and often struggling outside Vancouver in the meantime.
Ousted credits Robinson for instilling a winning mentality where players believe they can be excel both defensively and offensively away from home. In the past, the Whitecaps often reverted into a defensive shell on the road while generating few scoring chances.
"It's obviously, in this league, difficult going on the road with the travel and all that, and we've felt that as well," said Ousted. "But going into games knowing where and when to hurt the other team has been huge for us."
Another good road result will enable the Whitecaps to keep pace with MLS and Western Conference-leading Los Angeles and distance themselves from Kansas City, Portland, Dallas and Seattle as they give chase. But Ousted doesn't want to take anything for granted.
"(Other teams) can do all the chasing they will," said Ousted. Hopefully, it will be in vain. We need to finish what we've started here now."
Notes — Houston is battling injuries to a number of key players … The Whitecaps also have a shot at winning the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League crown and their third-straight Cascadia Cup, a fan-created trophy based on the best in-season record among Vancouver, Portland and Seattle. By winning the Canadian title, the Caps have already qualified for the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League.
Monte Stewart, The Canadian Press