Russell Teibert is looking to pick up where he left off with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The 20-year-old midfielder is expected to return to the lineup Saturday as the Whitecaps visit the Los Angeles Galaxy. The Niagara Falls, Ont., native is returning from an illness-shortened stint with the Canadian national team.
"The team's been on a high when I was with the national team," he said this week. "So I'm excited to be back in the team.
"It's a great feeling to see all the guys again after being away for a couple of weeks. It felt like a couple of months, to be honest."
Teibert has enjoyed a breakthrough season in his third MLS campaign after playing sparingly in his first two. He has posted two goals and six assists while starting 10 of the 11 games in which he has appeared.
The six assists have come in four of his past five games.
He left the Whitecaps (9-5-5) to take part in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the U.S., but he was only able to play in Canada's first game, an upset 1-0 loss to Martinique, in Pasadena, Calif. He was felled by an illness that required him to head to hospital for tests in Seattle.
As a result, he missed Canada's final two games in Seattle against Mexico, and in Denver against Panama. But he was encouraged by his stint with the rebuilding Canadian squad.
"It's always a good thing to play with the national team, and it was my first Gold Cup," he said. "I think it's a good experience for me."
Teibert had a great experience in Vancouver's last meeting against the Galaxy (9-8-3) on May 11 at B.C. Place Stadium. He he came off the bench as an early first-half substitute, following an injury to Daigo Kobayash, and scored the first two goals of his pro career against the two-time defending MLS champions.
Along with red-hot striker Camilo, he has been a catalyst in a run that has seen the Whitecaps post seven wins and two ties in the past 10 games. Teibert has also helped the Whitecaps overcome road woes that, until recently, plagued them throughout their three-year MLS existence.
The Whitecaps are brimming with confidence as they attempt to post their third win in five road games — which would be unprecedented in the club's brief MLS history.
"I think we've always been confident on the road," said Teibert. "Maybe things weren't going our way at the beginning of the season, but we're on a roll right now. We have to keep that going."
The Whitecaps have moved from also-ran status into third place in the Western Conference. With a win, the Caps could overtake Portland for second place, depending how the Timbers do in their game against Philadelphia the same night.
But a loss would be costly, because the Galaxy are just two points back of the Whitecaps and can move ahead of them with a win.
Teibert could boost a Vancouver offence that has scored just nine goals on the road compared to 23 at home. Prior to a win over the New York Red Bulls in June, the Whitecaps had not won a regular-season road game this year.
Goalkeeper Brad Knighton said the Caps have changed their mentality after launching a turnaround following a disappointing tie with Montreal in the second leg of the Canadian championships in May, which gave the Impact the national title.
"We've been very good on the road," said Knighton. "We don't feel like if we get down a goal that we're going to lose the game. We always know we're capable of being in a game, and we can score two."
Coach Martin Rennie said his club is now being rewarded after playing well on the road but not getting points earlier in the season. Vancouver players have also become more focused when playing away from home, and they are not letting their recent success get to their heads.
"We're not over confident, but we are playing with a belief in ourselves," said Rennie. "That's where we need to be, and I think we're going to need all that confidence to get a win in the next game, which will be a tough game on the road."