The side has just one point from a possible 12 away from BC Place, and that's a statistic that needs to change if the Whitecaps have playoff ambitions, writes Martin MacMahon.The Vancouver Whitecaps need to end their road demons.
Major League Soccer is a tough league and nobody informed on the challenges associated with travelling such a large continent expect samba football from teams away from home.
But a few points will need to be taken from hosting sides if this ‘Caps team intends to once again participate in this year’s MLS Cup Playoffs.
There’s still plenty of matches to play, and the Whitecaps are not far off those teams occupying playoff positions, but the club has just one point from a possible 12 in MLS play after four road matches.
Over the course of a season, that sort of record catches up with you.
“The statistics are phenomenally bad,” centreback Andy O’Brien said of MLS teams playing on the road after a training session at the University of British Columbia on Friday. “Not just for us, for a lot of teams. I’m yet to work out why it is the case. It’s drastic, there’s a difference in home and away form.
“Which does put an extra emphasis, pressure on when you do play at home. You do need to get the points. Maybe it’s a case of just going away from home and getting a point, and being very difficult to beat.”
The ‘Caps have a chance to get their first road win of the season on Saturday, as they travel to Rio Tinto Stadium to take on Real Salt Lake, which will be missing leading scorer Alvaro Saborio, as the Costa Rican is out with a calf injury.
Even without Saborio’s absence, Salt Lake haven’t looked their usual free-flowing selves, scoring just seven goals in nine matches.
Still, O’Brien wasn’t playing up his team’s chances as a result of their opponent missing their star man.
“They’re only names on paper,” O’Brien said. “I think the guy that scored against us last time, Garcia, was a rookie, so nobody is to be underestimated and they’ve got a good squad. They’ve got a manager who’s experienced and achieved great things at the club.
“It won’t be an easy game, but we’ve got to concentrate on ourselves…we’d like to change that statistic with regard to away games.”
If the Whitecaps are to pick up their first road win, it’s possible they’ll have to do it without centreback Brad Rusin, who’s struggled this week with a knee problem. The Indiana native has filled in admirably in the absence of captain Jay DeMerit since his Achilles tendon rupture on opening day.
That could mean a first MLS start for 23 year old centreback Johnny Leveron.
“He’s had two games now where he’s played the full 90 minutes in those Canadian cup games,” head coach Martin Rennie said. “The last game we had a clean sheet. In the reserve games he’s been playing well.
“He’s got a great pedigree having played for Honduras over 20 times, and obviously captained the Olympic team. So I think with a lot of the younger players that we’ve got we need to give them a chance to show what they can do, and I’m sure Johnny will get his.”
O’Brien has previously discussed the challenge of playing alongside the Spanish-speaking Leveron, who has yet to learn much English, but after playing alongside him for two Canadian Championship wins is feeling a bit more comfortable.
“It’s been fine,” the former Irish international said of the communication with Leveron. “I’m sensitive to the way that he plays and I am with every player I play with. It’s a relationship between centre-halves, fullbacks, midfield, so when new players come in…I think I’ll be learning a bit of South American, or he’ll be learning a bit of Yorkshire, I’m not sure.”