The Vancouver Whitecaps are on the brink of going pointless in their opening three matches of the season for the first time in their MLS history. To avoid doing that, they will have to find a way on Saturday to take down the Houston Dynamo.
Despite conceding a controversial penalty kick last Saturday in Utah, the Whitecaps failed to cash in on a handful of chances in and around the box, resulting in a 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake. A 0-2-0 start has many Whitecaps supporters wondering if this is just a sign of a team with new players getting familiar with one another, or is this a preview of what to expect in 2019.
“We’re still positive and really strong,” defender Doneil Henry said. “Obviously, it’s not the start we wanted, but we’ve had a lot of good glimpses.”
Henry is one of just a handful of players who have had the best glimpses for Vancouver over the opening two weeks. He scored his third career MLS goal late in the second half in the Whitecaps’ season opening 3-2 loss to Minnesota United. Last week, he had the best chance to find the equalizer, but failed to beat veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Despite Vancouver failing to score on five shots on target last weekend, Henry said they are better than what they have shown so far.
“We have 14 or 15 new players into the team, so we’re still getting familiar with each other,” Henry said. “It’s going to take time… but we should have at least picked up some points already.”
Henry and fellow central defender Erik Godoy are the only Whitecaps to have scored for Vancouver. Newly acquired designated player Inbeom Hwang leads the club with seven shots, but only two have been on target. Veteran striker Freddy Montero has four shots so far, but not one has even forced the goalkeeper to make a save.
“After two games, I’m not having the chances to score,” admitted Montero, who led the Whitecaps with 13 goals in 2017. “I need to show a little more hunger.
“We’re not panicking. We have to trust in the process. There are a lot of things that we’re doing that are good, but of course there are always more things to improve.”
Coach Marc Dos Santos has stressed that even if his club has yet to collect a point for their efforts, his approach to this weekend’s match against the Dynamo will not change.
“When you go on the road in MLS against teams that have experience like Houston, you have to have the right mentality to sacrifice as a team to get points,” Dos Santos explained. “Houston is always a difficult place to play.
“If we stick to our principles and stay very well organized over 90 minutes, we’re always going to have a chance to win.”
NEWS AND NOTES
The Whitecaps posted a 2-1 win in their last trip to Houston, which came in their opening road game last season. It was Vancouver’s first ever victory at BBVA Compass Stadium. The Whitecaps earned a point vs. the Dynamo in their most recent meeting, a 2-2 tie at BC Place on May 11.
Henry was one of four Canadians named to Canada’s roster for a Concacaf Nations League qualifier vs. French Guiana. Fellow defender Derek Cornelius, midfielder Russell Teibert and goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau will also have a chance to suit up for Canada at BC Place on March 24.
Other Whitecaps players who received call-ups for their country for next week’s international break include Hwang (South Korea) and Yordy Reyna (Peru).
Houston is 1-0-1 to start the season, having drawn 1-1 on the opening weekend at home against Real Salt Lake before winning 2-1 last week against visiting Montreal Impact. Colombia-born striker Mauro Manotas, who led Houston with 19 goals last year, has scored twice so far this season.
Manotas, along with the majority of the regular starters for the Dynamo, played on Tuesday in a 1-0 road loss to Mexican club Tigres UANL in the final leg of a Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal series. Houston lost 4-0 on aggregate.