Currently out of the playoff spots in a very tight Western Conference, Carl Robinson's side needs to become more consistent.VANCOUVER — On the balance of the 90 minutes played at Toronto's BMO Field on Wednesday night, Vancouver Whitecaps FC were satisfied with a point from their latest Canadian derby clash with Toronto FC.
Vancouver could have won the game after taking the lead through a well-worked goal from Darren Mattocks, but another clumsy Nigel Reo-Coker challenge in his own box meant a share of the spoils.
More could have been achieved on the night, but such was not the case. In many ways, the previous phrase provides a fair assessment of the Whitecaps season to date. It's been good — great in moments — but more could have been accomplished…
With only one victory in their last six MLS matches and six points taken from a possible 18, the statistics make for unpleasant reading. If that doesn't cause concern, Vancouver now sits outside the MLS Cup Playoff places in the Western Conference after LA Galaxy's midweek thrashing of free-falling New England Revolution.WORLD CUP: Beautiful people | Germany homecoming
And yet, true to the almost trademark parity that is MLS, only two points separate the sixth-place Whitecaps from their weekend opponents Real Salt Lake, who are second in the West.
It makes Vancouver's second visit of the year to Sandy, Utah, a vital clash in the team's aspirations to make the postseason. A win over struggling RSL would suddenly have the 'Caps back in the playoff mix – such is the current logjam in the Western Conference standings.
As the 'Caps make the turn to the second half of their campaign, the need for more consistent performances has never been greater.
Robinson has stated regularly of how young his side is, and that inconsistency is common among young players. Since returning from the World Cup break, that inconsistency has very much been in evidence.
The biggest challenge facing Robinson and his coaching staff is to get the Whitecaps to put a run of results together that will see them become upwardly mobile in a hurry. It is the big opportunity that is in front of the Blue & White, but the question remains if they can take full advantage over the next few weeks.
Results home and away versus their Western Conference rivals are the key, starting with Saturday's trip to Rio Tinto Stadium and the 'Caps next home game versus FC Dallas on July 27.
READ: Toronto 'disappointed' with comeback draw
And while the short-term goals are obvious, Robinson also needs to consider what moves he needs to make in his squad, with the summer transfer window now open.
Boosting his attack with an out-and-out striker has already been debated, as has the need for another centre back, although Robinson has been encouraged by the recent displays of Johnny Leveron and Carlyle Mitchell.
With a mostly fit squad, Robinson will likely be careful in how he handles his transfer dealings, in a bid to not upset the balance of his burgeoning squad. The former Wales international stated as much back in the spring when the club parted ways with striker Kenny Miller.
Arguably a squad built more so for the future, Whitecaps FC are trying to develop into an MLS contender this term. The step in front of them now is to put consistent, professional performances together that go a long way to locking them in for the playoffs.
They may still be some ways off from being an elite MLS club, but the second half of the season should outline how much work and improvement is still required for Vancouver to become a top side in the league.
Can this latest trip to Salt Lake offer a significant turning point upward in the future of Robinson's side?
It's in the Whitecaps' hands to make it so.