Whitecaps look to settle unfinished business with Minnesota United


Vancouver Whitecaps' Fredy Montero. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

VANCOUVER — This time the Vancouver Whitecaps want to finish what they start when they play Minnesota United FC on Wednesday at BC Place Stadium.

When the Whitecaps first played Minnesota back in June they led 2-0 at halftime and looked to have the match under control. But Minnesota battled back with a pair of goals for a 2-2 draw.

“Any time you feel like you should have won you have unfinished business,” said Vancouver midfielder Brek Shea. “We want to go out and win.”

On paper the game is a mismatch. The Whitecaps (12-9-5) head into Wednesday’s game sitting third in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference standings with 41 points. Vancouver is 7-3-3 at home and trails first-place Portland by three points.

Minnesota (7-14-5) is 10th in the 11-team West with 26 points and is 1-8-2 on the road. The expansion team has allowed 20 more goals than the 33 they have scored.

The Whitecaps are on a two-game win streak and are unbeaten in their last four matches (3-0-1). Still, Shea said it would be dangerous for Vancouver to become complacent against Minnesota.

“They are a really good team,” said the lanky Texan who the Whitecaps acquired last February from Orlando City SC. “If you watch them play, they possess the ball well.

“They have a lot of good players. They can attack from any direction.”

Defender Marcel de Jong, a native of Newmarket, Ont., said the Whitecaps need to focus on their own game and can’t afford to give away points down the stretch.

“The season end is coming closer and every game counts like a final,” said the left back. “We need every point. The way we have been playing we should only think about ourselves, not worry too much about Minnesota.

“We can’t worry about the last game. We deserved more over there. We didn’t get the result we wanted. When you can score two away goals that builds some confidence for the home game.”

The Whitecaps are in a busy stretch of three games in eight days. Vancouver defeated Real Salt Lake 3-2 at BC Place over the weekend and will host the Columbus Crew this Saturday.

Vancouver then gets a week off before playing three more games over eight days beginning with a home match Sept. 23 against Colorado. That will be followed with road games Sept. 27 in Seattle and Sept. 30 against Sporting Kansas City.

Head coach Carl Robinson said the schedule tests a team’s depth.

“It’s very challenging,” said Robinson. “The reason I carry a squad is for weeks like this.

“They will all get their chance to play. It’s important I make sure the personnel I put on the field have the high energy levels.”

Some players run up to 12 kilometres during a game. That makes rest and recovery important. Robinson usually plans his lineups in advance but that can be shifted by someone delivering an outstanding or substandard performance.

“It’s subject to change,” said Robinson. “Many times I have told some players they are going to play in three days time and it changes. That’s the way I work because I try to engage my players to keep themselves right.

“It’s important to keep players 11 to 22 happy, not No. 1 to No. 11 because they keep themselves happy because they are playing.”

It’s not uncommon for teams in Europe to play three times in eight days, but Robinson said geography and time zones are much different in North America.

“They travel one hour to games,” he said. “They fly privately and they are back at home that night. We travel five or six hours, we take connections, it’s different time zones.

“If (MLS) was scheduled every week from Saturday to Saturday, it would make it easier for players, it would make it easier for coaches and the quality (of games), I think, you would see continually rise.”

De Jong said a busy schedule doesn’t allow a lot of time for thinking.

“You just play,” said the Canadian international. “Win or lose, you have to move on and keep focusing on the next game.

“Sometimes it’s a good thing.”

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