The Vancouver Whitecaps will try to continue their winning ways against some familiar foes Saturday.
The Caps will face former defender Alain Rochat and midfielder John Thorrington as they visit D.C. United in Washington. Of the two, Rochat is expected to play a more prominent role as he tries to curb Vancouver's potent offence after being traded unexpectedly for a pair of draft picks in early June.
"[Rochat] brought the same thing here that he brings to D.C. — obviously his presence as a veteran and his ability to get forward and his ability to defend," said Vancouver goalkeeper Brad Knighton. "I'm sure they enjoy having him, and it'll be good to see him."
Thorrington, a steady performer who has battled injuries, made 35 appearances for Vancouver between 2011 and 2012 before being waived in the off-season.
The Whitecaps (6-5-4) are looking to win their third straight game and fifth in the past seven. United is in last place overall with a 2-11-3 mark, but is coming off a win over San Jose. Vancouver has scored 11 goals in its past four games, but the Whitecaps need to shore up their goals-against record. They have allowed 24 goals — the fourth-highest total in the league.
"We're obviously scoring goals at a premium right now, which is great for us," said Knighton. "We just need to be sound defensively, and the wins will keep coming."
Currently fifth in the Western Conference, the Whitecaps have a chance to move ahead of four-place Los Angeles, pending the Galaxy's result Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes.
Playing from behind
Vancouver coach Martin Rennie said his charges have to balance their offensive prowess with better defence as they attempt to move up the table. While winning their last two games against New England and Chivas USA, the Whitecaps had to overcome deficits.
"We've been scoring a lot of goals," said Rennie. "So we need to make sure that we keep attacking teams and making sure that we're creating chances.
"I think that, as a team, we generally need to defend better, although against Chivas, they didn't really have too many chances. We limited their opportunities. So we need to do that well in the next game."
The Whitecaps are surging after struggling early in the season. Rennie said another victory will do a lot for the team's morale as the organization, in its third MLS season, strives to become one of the league's top clubs.
"Confidence is hard to build, and we're still working hard to build that," said Rennie. "As a team in general, we're still a new team trying to create a positive culture, and I think these little steps do make a difference. Every time you get a win and go on a winning run and show good form, that always builds confidence.
"It's such a tight league, Major League Soccer, so if we can go on a run and keep doing well, then we can move up the league fairly quickly."
The Whitecaps will return to action following a 10-day break that has allowed some injured players to mend. Midfielder Gershon Koffie (thigh) and Brad Rusin (calf) are healthy again after they both missed the past four games.
"I'm looking forward to getting out there, scoring goals and, hopefully, getting a clean sheet," said Rusin, who is slated to play a holding midfield role instead of his usual central defender spot.
Johnny Leveron and Carlyle Mitchell will continue in the centre back spots, while Nigel Reo-Coker, usually a midfielder, is slated to shift to right fullback, a position that he has played occasionally in the English Premier League and in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship against Montreal this season. He is making the move because veteran Young-Pyo Lee, 36, is being rested back in Vancouver.
The game is the first of two straight on the road for the Whitecaps, who conclude their trip Wednesday in Kansas City.