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Whitecaps hope to put Canadian final loss behind them

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The Canadian Press
5/31/2013 6:25:27 PM
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VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Brad Knighton says the club must change its culture in the wake of a heartbreaking loss to the Montreal Impact in the Amway Canadian soccer final.

He wants the Whitecaps to do away with their trend of giving up draws and losses late in games and instead lock wins down.

"Until we can do that as a team and as players, collectively, we're not going to go any farther than we are right now," he said.

In other words, the Whitecaps need to move on from Wednesday's 2-2 draw with the Impact, which gave Montreal the title on the basis of more away goals.

Next stop for Knighton and company: New York City and Saturday's Major League Soccer match with the talent-laden Red Bulls (7-4-4).

Knighton said a good result is crucial to determining how the eighth-place Whitecaps (3-4-4) will fare the rest of the season as they attempt to move up the Western Conference standings.

"It's something that's needed now," said Knighton, who is expected to start. "We can't wait for more results to hopefully go our way. We need to start taking accountability, putting points on the board and moving up the table or it's going to be a long season here."

Accordingly, Knighton called on the Whitecaps to get tougher in one-on-one situations and win more battles for the ball on set pieces, such as corner kicks. Montreal scored its decisive goal Wednesday off a corner.

"I think we're soft at times," said Knighton. "We don't get enough into people to throw them off (so that), maybe, they don't get the header.

"At the end of last year, we were giving away late, soft goals on set pieces and it has continued this year. That just comes down to a mentality, a desire, to not let the person beside you win a ball."

Knighton also wants the Whitecaps to start excelling on the road where, in league play, they are winless and have only scored three goals.

"If you can't get points on the road in this league you're not really going to go anywhere," he said.

Saturday's contest and games over the next month, he added, will serve as a character test for the Whitecaps. But Vancouver defender Andy O'Brien said recent results must be put in perspective.

"The last two games, we've drawn, but there is a feeling that we've been annihilated -- and I don't think that's the case," said O'Brien.

The Whitecaps fired 20 shots at Montreal in Wednesday's Canadian final. They are looking to finish more of their chances after missing on several opportunities in recent games.

But O'Brien and his back-line mates are likely to spend a considerable amount of time defending the Eastern Conference-leading Red Bulls, who are riding a seven-game unbeaten streak and boast such stars as French icon Thierry Henry, fellow ex-English Premier League star Tim Cahill and Brazilian midfielder Juninho.

The Red Bulls have scored 22 goals this season, good for a share of the lead with Portland, while the Whitecaps have recorded 14 in total.

Meanwhile, Vancouver will have to shine without several regulars.

Interim captain Nigel Reo-Coker must sit out a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation, striker Darren Mattocks will be away on international duty, and midfielders Daigo Kobayashi (ankle) and Gershon Koffie (thigh) are injured.

"It's a good chance for the boys to put a claim for a (lineup) spot," said rarely-used midfielder Matt Watson, who is expected to draw into the lineup.

A good result could also bolster beleaguered coach Martin Rennie's chances of keeping his job. Rennie has faced increasing criticism over tactics, lineup decisions and strategy, such as playing for a 0-0 draw in the first leg of the Canadian final in Montreal, as the Caps did, when away goals effectively counted as double.

But Rennie said he feels no more pressure than he ever has a coach, and expressed confidence that the team is close to being where it needs to be.

"We know we have to pick things up in MLS and get good results," he said.

Notes: The Red Bulls get a 22-day break in league play after facing the Whitecaps.

Reo-Coker and Romero battle (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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