Whitecaps search for season-changing win at Canadian Championships

Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos, second right, and Doneil Henry, right, leave the field after the first half of an MLS match against the Los Angeles Galaxy. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

VANCOUVER — Doneil Henry says his Vancouver Whitecaps simply need a victory at the Canadian Championships this week.

The ‘Caps are slogging through a five-game losing skid in Major League Soccer and are winless in nine outings across all competitions.

That could change on Wednesday, however, when the club hosts Calgary’s Cavalry FC of the Canadian Premier League in the second leg of the Canadian Championship qualifiers.

"It just takes one win and then the mood, the vibe, the energy around this place starts to change," Henry said after training on Monday. "So we take it one game at a time, but it’s important that we start building."

The slump has weighed heavily on the team, the centre back added.

"It’s not a good feeling," he said. "It’s almost like a nightmare that’s never ending. But mentally strong guys will be all right. I think you’ve got to have character to build for success."

Wednesday’s Canadian Championship action will also see the MLS’ Montreal Impact host York 9 of the CPL. The Halifax Wanderers, also of the CPL, will visit the United Soccer League’s Ottawa Fury.

The winners of each matchup on aggregate points will advance to the semifinal round of the Candian Championship, extending their chance at hoisting the Voyageurs Cup and playing in the CONCACAF Champions League.

All of the teams met earlier this month, and when the ‘Caps visited Calgary the game ended in a scoreless draw.

Ranked second in the CPL, Cavalry has proved to be a hungry group deserving of respect from its opponents, Henry said.

"I know that any time you’re playing a team that has nothing to lose, it’s very dangerous in football. Because you misjudge or you don’t take them seriously, you get punished, " he said. "And then you get kicked in the face and you’re always chasing the battle."

In the previous matchup, Calgary showed a fighting spirit and commitment that will only be intensified come Wednesday, said Vancouver coach Marc Dos Santos.

"They’re going to come out excited, they’re going to be intense," he said. "They’re dangerous on set plays, they’re dangerous in their direct play. And us, we have to be ready, we have to play with pride and we have to play with … the objective of being in the semifinal."

Despite playing in different leagues, the ‘Caps aren’t underestimating Cavalry, said ‘keeper Maxime Crepeau.

"It’s the (Voyageurs) Cup and every game can go to either side," he said.

"There’s underdogs in the Cup anywhere in the world. We see lower division teams beating high division teams, it happens everywhere. … We need to have humility for ourselves as well."

Meanwhile, at least one Montreal Impact player said his squad gave York 9 "too much respect" when the teams battled to a 2-2 tie earlier this month.

That won’t happen again on Wednesday, said Montreal midfielder Micheal Azira.

"When they come here, it will be totally different," he said. "We need to be able to outplay them, play faster, move the ball faster. Because we know they can’t match that. They play slower, so we need to be able to finish off our chances and defend well as well."

The Ottawa Fury were the only club to take a victory in the first leg of this qualifying series, clinching a 3-2 win over the Wanderers in Halifax.

Because of the result, the Fury only need a draw on Wednesday to advance to the semis. But Ottawa is still expecting a difficult game, said coach Nikola Popovic.

"We have to be very, very serious, very responsible," he said.

"What we don’t want is to change anything. We have to be very, very faithful to our model of play, to our principles."

With the Wanderers needing to score at least two goals, the Fury will also have to maintain a stalwart back end, said ‘keeper Callum Irving.

"We don’t want to take a single minute off because we know they’re going to come at us and they have to score," he said. "So we have to be prepared at the beginning and take it to them rather than let them take it to us."

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