MLS's table-topping Sporting Kansas City will be in Vancouver to face the Whitecaps Wednesday, but this early in the season head coach Martin Rennie isn't getting too excited.
BURNABY, B.C. – “Are they the best team in the league?”
That was head coach Martin Rennie’s response when asked if Wednesday’s match between his Vancouver Whitecaps and Sporting Kansas City would be a “statement game” as one reporter posited, given that club’s early domination.
“Kansas City [is] the form team at the moment,” Rennie told Goal.com after training at Burnaby Lake field on Monday. “Obviously we find out who the best team is in a few months, in quite a few months – but it is an important game for us because they’re doing well.”
Sporting has looked nigh unbeatable six games in, claiming victories in each match, conceding only one goal, and not even allowing opposition teams a single shot on target during a 300-minute-plus spell recently.
“They’re riding such a high right now from what I’ve heard,” goalkeeper Joe Cannon said. “They’re just going to want to continue their success and excel, and try to become the dominant team in the league. For us, we’re still trying to fight. We started off good, had a little setback in San Jose [in a 3-1 loss], but we still have a lot to prove. Every game, especially at home, we’re going to come out with a chip on our shoulder.”
While Rennie was downplaying the significance of the game, saying that every game is important given he’s trying to turn a team around that finished dead last in Major League Soccer in 2011, he was complementary of Sporting’s approach to the game.
“They’re well organized,” Rennie said. “They have a good structure to their team. They play a system that I like – the 4-3-3 system with a holding player – they’re on a little run right now, and once you get on those runs your confidence is high and you’re expecting to do well. I was impressed with them when we saw them in Florida [during preseason] and it will be nice to get a game against them on Wednesday.”
For the Whitecaps, the match represents a first chance at a victory after a three-game winless skid during which the team scored only one goal. Getting back to winning ways will require discipline at the back and invention in the final third, according to captain Jay DeMerit.
“They have weapons so we need to be aware of them and defend well as a team,” DeMerit said. “We’ve done that all season. That can’t change and now it’s just about, when we do win the ball, expressing ourselves in the final third and getting more goals.”
Getting those goals and getting a first win since matchday two would be a whole lot easier if designated player Eric Hassli could bump his diabolical slump, in which he’s failed to score in his last 14 appearances. Rennie has defended his struggles by implying ankle and hamstring injuries have slowed him down, while expressing confidence the big Frenchman will return to form.
“He’s missed a couple of games with little knocks,” Rennie said. “With forwards they do get judged on goals, but as a coach you have to judge them on not just the goals, but all the other things they’re doing, and I think he’s doing a lot of other things. Defending well from the front, pressing from the front, holding the ball up, linking up quite well, but as a striker he needs a goal. If he gets one, he could go on a run of getting a few. Hopefully we could start that on Wednesday.”