VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps have displayed many flaws this season — except in CONCACAF Champions League competition.
Vancouver takes a perfect 2-0-0 record into Tuesday's road game against Sporting Kansas City. With a win, the Whitecaps can advance beyond CCL group play for the first time.
"We have an opportunity on Tuesday night to try and win that game and qualify (for the quarter-finals), so it would mean everything," said Vancouver coach Carl Robinson on a conference call Monday.
Sporting Kansas City has a 0-1-1 record in CCL play and needs a win to remain in contention for first place in Group C. Only the top teams in each group advance in the competition that will determine the North American, Central American and Caribbean zone's representative in the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup.
Robinson will be looking for a similar performance to the one his club delivered in a 3-0 win over Kansas City in their Aug. 23 meeting at B.C. Place Stadium. The Whitecaps could do little wrong that day as they enjoyed numerous scoring chances and Kansas City had trouble penetrating a staunch Vancouver defence.
But the situation will likely be much different when the Whitecaps take to the pitch in Kansas City, where they have never won.
"They've managed to make (their stadium) a home fortress for them," said Robinson. "It's a credit to them to way they ramp up the crowd, the way they use every possible advantage to put the officials under pressure. They seem to get the run of the call on all decisions. Credit to them for that. We've gotta focus on our performance. We've played well there. We've had opportunities to get results there, but we haven't managed to get results there."
The Whitecaps have excelled at the CCL level by deploying varied lineups that include young players who play less frequently in Major League Soccer. The lineup juggling has occurred largely due to a busy schedule that has included the pursuit of an MLS playoff spot — the team's top priority this season — and will continue Tuesday.
Second-year defender Tim Parker will slot in at centre back and Canadian rookie Fraser Aird is expected to start at midfield along with captain Pedro Morales after they were rested in Columbus.
"We've obviously rotated some players a little bit (for CCL games), but I think it's been good," said Parker. "The combination of having some of the younger guys with some of the older guys obviously creates a little bit of hunger within the team, and I think that shows through some of the results that we've been getting."
In addition to displaying a flair for goals in CCL, the Caps have been strong defensively, refusing to allow a goal thus far. Parker attributed the stingy defensive play to a renewed focus began with the home win over Kansas City.
"We want to just narrow down on our defensive blunders and mistakes and, obviously, make sure that we're as solid as can be at the back," said Parker.
"We know how they play," said Aird. 'We've played them a few times already this season. We know what we need to do to stop them, and we know what we need to do to hurt them when we have the ball."
Notes: The other team in the group is Central FC of Trinidad (0-0-1). ... Vancouver's Russell Teibert will miss the game due to a hamstring injury suffered in Saturday's MLS win over Columbus. Meanwhile, fellow Canadian midfielder Marcel de Jong is expected to start at right back after suiting up for Canada in two recent World Cup qualifying games last week.