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Whitecaps look to capture road momentum for home game against Rapids

Vancouver Whitecaps Levonte Johnson - The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — It hasn't been an easy month for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Between Major League Soccer play and a bid to defend their Canadian Championship title, the 'Caps are playing nine games in six cities in 29 days.

Now Vanni Sartini is asking his players to make one final push before next week's international break. He wants the team to once again give its all when Vancouver (6-5-4) hosts the Colorado Rapids (6-6-4) on Saturday.

"Put everything that you have in your tank because then you have a lot of time to recharge," the head coach said after training on Friday.

May saw the Whitecaps weather a six-game winless drought (0-3-3) before downing Sporting Kansas City 2-1 in a road match on Wednesday.

Adding another three points on Saturday would set Vancouver up well heading into the second half of the MLS campaign, said striker Fafa Picault.

“I think Wednesday's game was really important for us to get three points," he said. "And then if we can end with six in the week, that would be really important for us overall, just moving us up the table, which gives us a lot of confidence coming back from the break as well.”

The 'Caps don't need to look far back when searching for motivation heading into Saturday's game. The Rapids blanked Vancouver 1-0 on May 15 after the Whitecaps were left short-handed due to a red card for a handball in first-half injury time.

It's a game the team hasn't forgotten, Picault said.

"(We're) just taking the kind of bitter taste and the anger and turning it into something positive," he said.

"(We) know that we’re going to have a little break (next week) and we just want to end this on a good note.”

Colorado has struggled since topping the 'Caps, going 0-2-1 in its last three outings, including a 3-1 loss to the Dynamo in Houston on Wednesday.

Capitalizing against the Rapids isn't about exploiting the visitors' weaknesses, but focusing on the Whitecaps' strengths and structure, said midfielder Damir Kreilach.

"(We have to) just bring the same energy, the same pressure from the beginning," he said. "Because we are home, we have to control the game, we have to stick to our plan defensively and offensively.”

One strength for the Whitecaps mid-week was captain Ryan Gauld, who scored both of Vancouver's goals and earned himself a spot on the MLS Team of the Matchday.

The Scottish attacking midfielder's brace equalled the total goals scored by the club across their four previous league matchups.

Continuing to create offensive opportunities for Gauld — and other players — will be critical to securing a victory on Saturday.

“I think overall we know we can score. It's just a question of the ball getting in there," Picault said. "You have moments in the season where there's little droughts or just things are not going our way, the ball doesn't get in or we're not finishing plays.

"At the end of the day, I think we're jelling, we've stayed positive as a group and that’s the most important thing.”


B.C. Place, Saturday

INS AND OUTS: Whitecaps defender Sam Adekugbe remains out of the lineup with a calf injury while striker Brian White is questionable with an ankle sprain. The Rapids will be without centre-back Daniel Chacon (knee), winger Kimani Stewart-Baynes (groin) and midfielder Wayne Frederick (hip).

HISTORY BOOKS: Colorado holds a 13-10-8 edge in all-time meetings between the two sides.

GOALS GOALS GOALS: The Rapids lead the league in expected goals with 32.59. The Whitecaps, meanwhile, have allowed just 16 goals across their first 15 games of the MLS season, and are tied with Real Salt Lake for second fewest goals conceded in the Western Conference.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2024.