Whitecaps end busy stretch against struggling rival
Vancouver, Real Salt Lake meet in important Western match
Perspective is always important.
Maybe that's why midfielder Russell Teibert managed to sound enthusiastic about a schedule that sees the Vancouver Whitecaps play their third Major League Soccer game in eight days.
The Whitecaps' match against Real Salt Lake Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium comes on the heels of a 1-1 draw Wednesday in Toronto against Toronto FC and a 3-1 loss to Chivas USA Saturday at home in BC Place Stadium. The Whitecaps will have travelled over 7,300 kilometres by the time they return to Vancouver.
The stretch can be physically exhausting but Teibert's rationale is more games in a short time period means increased playing minutes for everyone on the team.
"I think it's the most exciting stretch to be going through, especially with the squad we have this year," said the 21-year-old from Niagara Falls, Ont., who played 82 minutes against Toronto after not getting on the field against Chivas.
"You never know when you are going to have the chance to be on the field. Now that we have more games there's a better chance you have in playing. It's exciting and it keeps all the guys on their toes."
A win would help Vancouver gain ground in MLS's competitive Western Conference. Heading into the weekend the Whitecaps are sixth in the West with 26 points from a 6-4-8 record. That leaves them just two points back of Salt Lake, which has a 7-4-7 record.
"Each point, each win is vital," said Teibert. "Hopefully we get a good result and can jump back up there."
Perspective can also be applied in analyzing the Whitecaps recent fortunes. For three months Vancouver rode a franchise-record eight game unbeaten streak (3-0-5). During that stretch the team scored 18 goals but allowed 14.
Over their last four games the Whitecaps are 1-2-1. The team has managed just three goals and allowed six.
"You are always going to have ups and downs in a season, that's professional sport," said Teibert. "It's how you handle those up and downs.
"We have got a couple of draws and we did lose an unfortunate game last weekend. It's all about moving forward."
Defender Steven Beitashour can't explain why the ball suddenly isn't going into the net for the Whitecaps.
"I don't know what the reason is for that," said Beitashour, a member of Iran's team at the recent World Cup in Brazil. "Any time we play we try to put up as many goals as possible and give up zero goals."
Teams often improve defensively as the season progresses, said Beitashour, who is playing in his fifth MLS season. The Whitecaps are also still adapting to new coach Carl Robinson.
"The coaching staff has more time with the team," he said. "Guys are getting used to each others' tendencies and things like that.
"With Carl being new here we are all trying to understand exactly what he wants defensively and we are starting to jell together."
Real Salt Lake has struggled of late and is winless in their last five games (0-3-2). One problem is goal scoring.
In the first five games of the season Salt Lake scored 23 goals. In their next seven the team managed just four, with two of those coming on penalty kicks in one match. In the first 11 games Salt Lake was shutout once. In the last seven games they have been shut out four times.
Defender Tony Beltran said no one is panicking.
"I feel like we talk about that every year at a certain point," he told the Real Salt Lake website. "We trust our forwards. We trust our midfielders.
"We know they're capable of finishing chances when they get them. For whatever reasons they're not going in right now."
Sticking with the game plan
Coach Jeff Cassar wants more production from his forwards, but said scoring is a team effort.
"Scoring chances don't just come from the forwards," he said. "It comes from the build up. Getting numbers forward.
"We need that final pass to not be close, but to be perfect, so that they [forwards] are then able to do their thing."
The last time the two teams met Real Salt Lake took an early 2-0 lead only to see the Whitecaps battle back for a 2-2 draw.
Teibert said the Whitecaps will be playing with fire if they let Salt Lake take an early lead in the rematch.
"They are a very possession-based side," he said. "They play their style of game very well.
"They know what they are good at. They can pass through teams. It's important for us to really key in on that. It will be a great match."
The Whitecaps' recent struggles haven't dented the team's confidence.
"We're not trying to change for anybody," said Teibert. "We are always going to stick to our game plan. Some days it works, some days it doesn't.
"We always want to be an exciting team to watch. We have a never-say-die attitude. We have a sense of togetherness. We believe we can go out and win games."