Having been shut out in three of their last four games, the Vancouver Whitecaps are eager to end their scoring woes.
It won’t be easy, though, as the Whitecaps prepare for a stretch of three games in eight days, starting with Friday’s road game against the Chicago Fire.
Despite an overhaul this past off-season, both on and off the field, Vancouver is without a victory after five matches (0-4-1). Equally as surprising, the club has the worst offence in the Western Conference, with just four goals.
While Vancouver has improved its overall play from the beginning of March, it has squandered too many chances, and left far too many points on the table. Those are two subjects new coach Marc Dos Santos has been stressing to his squad heading into one of their busiest stretches of 2019.
“We need that win. When are we going to get it? I hope in Chicago,” Dos Santos said this week. “Are we in a critical situation? If you’re talking about the playoffs, of course we are.
“If I look at three of the last four halves we’ve played, do I see a lot of positives? Yes, I do. If the game is 0-0 and you don’t finish the big chances that you have, you see what happens.”
Big chances have been hard to come by for Vancouver. Last week, after being gifted an early penalty kick against the LA Galaxy, Ali Adnan stubbed his cheeky attempt, which barely made it to the goal-line. That was one of just 18 combined shots on goal for the club this season. Only Atlanta United (13) have fewer in MLS.
The offence is sputtering, in part, due to the lackluster play of two of their main attackers. Both Freddy Montero and Yordy Reyna have provided some electric moments the past few seasons for Vancouver, but their lack of production this campaign has been noticeable.
“As any other member of this club, I can do better, and I will,” admitted Montero, who led Vancouver with 13 goals in 2017. “It’s been tough, my first time being on a team that’s gone a long period of time without winning. I’m 100 per cent sure the victories are going to come soon.”
Montero scored on a penalty kick on March 16 against Houston. That has been his lone shot on target so far. That is not a stat you expect to see from player brought in to score goals.
“Freddy is not in his best moment right now,” Dos Santos stated. “I’m trying to figure out where he is physically. He still needs a bit of time to adapt to everything after being in Portugal [during pre-season].”
In Reyna’s case, he has arguably been the club’s biggest disappointment. Through four games, the Peruvian-international has just one assist and one shot on goal. Last season, he led the club in assists (11) and nearly 40 per cent of his shots taken were on net.
“I believe in the tools he has,” Dos Santos said. “He is a 1-v-1 player that at any given moment can make a difference.
“What I’m still learning about Yordy is that there are very high moments and very low moments. Sometimes he’s at 80 per cent and then at 15 per cent. I have a find a way [as a coach] to have him playing at 70 to 80 per cent all the time.”
After the Chicago trio, Vancouver returns home to prepare to host LAFC next Wednesday before hitting the road against Orlando City next Saturday.
“We need a victory and that’s going to give confidence to every single player on this team,” Montero said. “We’ve been working hard during the week. It’s time. We deserve a victory.”
NOTES & TIDBITS
This will be the sixth time the Whitecaps visit Chicago. Vancouver is 1-2-2 on the road against the Fire, which included a 4-0 loss in their last visit on Canada Day in 2017.
Former Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted has started all five games for Chicago this season. In his lone appearance against Vancouver, Ousted posted a 3-1 win at home for DC United last July.
The Fire (1-2-2) are being led offensively this season by one of their newest acquisitions. Striker C.J. Sapong has netted three goals, after scoring four all of last season in Philadelphia. Into his ninth MLS campaign, Sapong was acquired in late February from the Union.