Vancouver Whitecaps get confidence boost
Win over FC Edmonton was first shutout since March
It might have come against inferior opposition, but the Vancouver Whitecaps aren't downplaying their first shutout in nearly two months.
Vancouver blanked FC Edmonton 2-0 in the Amway Canadian Championship on Wednesday night, and although the result came against a team toiling in the second-tier North American Soccer League, it was Whitecaps' first shutout since the March 2 season-opening win against Toronto FC.
Shaky defending and a lack of goals has hurt Vancouver (2-3-3) in MLS play in 2013, so the midweek victory should give the Whitecaps confidence heading into Saturday's match at Real Salt Lake (3-4-2).
A win would not only snap a six-game winless streak in the league, but also see the Whitecaps overtake RSL in the congested Western Conference standings.
"I think (the clean sheet) was important because the first game of the season we had a clean sheet but then we hadn't had one since then," Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie said. "So that was a little bit frustrating and sometimes it was down to individual mistakes and other times as a team we could have defended better.
"But certainly on Wednesday we barely gave up a chance and I think that was a big step forward, so it was good for (second-choice goalkeeper) Brad (Knighton) to get the clean sheet and the defence as well and obviously the whole team earns that."
Salt Lake missing striker Saborio
Experienced central defender Andy O'Brien — who has played in every match this season — said the clean sheet was important going into a game against a Salt Lake team that will be missing injured star striker Alvaro Saborio.
"Some of the goals we've conceded have been a bit unlucky and some of them were superb," said the 33-year-old O'Brien. "But ultimately you get judged on clean sheets and the more of them you keep the better you're regarded.
"It isn't going to happen every week but we go to Salt Lake in good form."
O'Brien played with Honduran international Johnny Leveron against FC Edmonton and despite the language barrier, the English-born defender felt comfortable with the partnership.
"Johnny's done well," he said. "He's been working very hard to build his fitness up and I think from the two games he's played he's shown that he's a good player and only better things can come from that.
"(But) I think either I need to learn a bit more Spanish or him English but that will come. He's got a good future ahead of him."
O'Brien regularly plays with Brad Rusin in MLS matches, but Rennie could opt to retain the same central defensive pairing from the Edmonton game for the clash with Salt Lake.
Rennie would not reveal his lineup but said the 23-year-old Leveron — who has "got a great pedigree" — was ready to play at MLS level.
"He's had two games now where he's played the full 90 minutes and the last game we had the clean sheet and in the reserves game he's been playing well," Rennie said. "I think with a lot of the younger players that we've got we need to give them a chance to see how they do and I'm sure at some point soon Johnny will get his."