VANCOUVER — Midway through the Major League Soccer season and the Vancouver Whitecaps are still desperately searching for scoring.
Though Vancouver has climbed its way back from a slow start thanks to strong defensive efforts, the Whitecaps have scored just 11 times in 12 games and are second-last in the league in goals for.
"We need to be better offensively. That's not a secret. We need to be better," coach Marc Dos Santos said Thursday before the squad embarked on a two-game road swing.
Only two Whitecaps (3-6-3) have scored multiple goals this year, including striker Fredy Montero, who has three, and centre back Doneil Henry, who's tallied two.
"We have many players who can score goals. As a midfielder, as a group, we need to create the opportunities for those guys," said midfielder Felipe Martins, adding that he and his teammates need to move the ball more quickly and limit the number of long passes they send down the field.
Everyone is still confident in the team's offensive abilities, said right back Jake Nerwinski.
"I think that we just need to continue to do what we do," he said. "We trust in our front guys to score goals and we know it's going to happen."
The club is currently scouring the international soccer scene for talent that could be added in the summer transfer window, Dos Santos said, but staff are also looking for improvements from current players. What the coaches really want to see is more chances created in the final third of the field.
"I'm looking for results. I'm looking for more shots, better quality in the last pass, putting guys in better positions," Dos Santos said. "A little bit of everything there."
The Whitecaps' next opportunity for results will come Saturday when the team visits Sporting Kansas City (2-4-4).
It'll be Vancouver's third match in eight days and the compressed schedule, combined with some injuries, is making roster decisions difficult.
Winger Lass Bangoura left Wednesday night's game against Atlanta United in the 64th minute with a hamstring issue. The Whitecaps previously lost striker Yordy Reyna to a hamstring injury and midfielder Jon Erice was sideline with an ankle injury on Monday.
"I'm totally lost right now," Dos Santos said of his lineup for Saturday's game.
Kansas City, meanwhile, are working through their own offensive woes amid a spate of injuries to key players like centre back Matt Besler and midfielder Roger Espinoza.
Sporting hasn't posted a win since March 30 when they beat the Montreal Impact 7-1. Since then, the club has lost six league matchups — its longest winless run since May 2016 — and has been shutout in its last two contests.
"They're having a difficult time, a lot of injuries. But they're still a good team with a good mentality. They are very good playing at home," Martins said. "But we're going to go there full of energy and confidence that we can make points and win a game."
Dos Santos knows better than most not to count out Kansas City. He spent 2016 with the club's United Soccer League affiliate Swope Park Rangers and knows Sporting's coach Peter Vermes well.
"In Kansas City, it's never the right time (to win)," he said. "They're a very strong team (at) home, it's very special to play there, it's going to be a very hard game."
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (3-6-3) VS. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (2-4-4)
Saturday, Children's Mercy Park
NEUTRALIZE NEMETH: The Whitecaps will be looking to shutdown Sporting striker Krisztian Nemeth, who has six league tallies so far this season. The 30-year-old Hungarian is tied for fourth place in MLS goals, sharing the spot with D.C. United's Wayne Rooney, Mauro Manotas of the Houston Dynamos and Los Angeles FC's Diego Rossi.
QUICK START: Early goals have been key to Vancouver's success this season. The 'Caps are 0-5-0 when allowing the first goal and 0-3-0 when trailing at halftime.
THE HISTORY BOOKS: Sporting dominated the Whitecaps last season, routing Vancouver 6-0 in Kansas City and taking a 4-1 victory back in B.C. Sporting boasts an 8-3-3 all-time record against the 'Caps in MLS competition.