Whitecaps look to ease defensive concerns vs. Real Salt Lake

Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps are not quite ready to push the panic button, but there are some twitchy fingers.

The Whitecaps (7-8-4) hope to calm some nerves when they play Real Salt Lake (8-5-5) in a Major League Soccer match Wednesday at BC Place Stadium.

Vancouver is sitting in the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 25 points and have the Portland Timbers breathing down their necks. Salt Lake City is third in the West, tied with the L.A. Galaxy.

The Whitecaps are 1-3-2 in their last six games and haven’t won a MLS game at home since May 11.

"We are mid table," Whitecaps’ coach Carl Robinson said after training this week. "If you ask any coach they want to be at the top of the table.

"We are in the mix. We need to tidy up and clean up a lot of things. We have made individual errors and collective errors. We need to be better across the board. We’re not in the perfect position but we are in a decent position. As long as we remain in a decent position, while we are still trying to regain good form, we’ll be OK."

One of the major concerns for the Whitecaps are the number of goals the team is allowing and when those goals are scored.

Vancouver has allowed 33 goals this season. They have given up two or more goals in six of their last seven games.

"It’s not great," said Robinson. "You’re not going to win enough games in football if you are conceding two (goals) because you need to score three every time.

"Sometimes we do look like we can score three but other games we don’t. We need to be tighter. Defending starts from the front and attacking starts from the back. It’s a collective effort. Individually we need to be better, collectively we need to be better."

Only New York City FC have allowed more goals in the league with 34, and they are first in the Eastern Conference. The Whitecaps allowed 36 goals all last season when they finished second in the West with a 16-13-5 record.

Just as troubling as the goals allowed is their timing.

On Saturday Vancouver conceded a goal late in extra time which allowed the Colorado Rapids to claim a 2-2 draw. In their previous home match the Whitecaps conceded a goal in extra time that allowed Toronto FC to win the Amway Canadian Championship.

"Moving on from that (Colorado) game is important," said defender Tim Parker. "We have to remember we got a point out it. Going forward we have to take care of business."

Forward Kekuta Manneh, who limped off the field Saturday in the 43rd minute, was at practice this week on crutches and wearing a walking boot on his right foot.

"It’s not good news," said Robinson. "He’s going to be missing for a period of time."

Salt Lake is coming into the match following a 1-1 draw with the Montreal Impact Saturday. It was Salt Lake’s third draw in the last five games.

Salt Lake struggled early against Montreal and head coach Jeff Cassar thinks playing on the road will be good for his side.

"Points are crucial whether you’re at home or whether you’re away," Cassar told the team’s webpage.

"This gives you something to concentrate [on] as an entire group. We also need to not just think defensively in Vancouver, we also need to think offensively. I know we are going to put out a very strong team against them and I’m excited to see this team play."

The Whitecaps lost 1-0 to Salt Lake back in April in a game played at Rio Tinto Stadium.

"We’re both kind of middle-of-the-table Western Conference teams right now," said Parker. "It’s going to be a good game."

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