National News

Whitecaps learning how to grind out wins

By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - David Ousted has seen a change in the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The goals were flying in almost at will for the Major League Soccer club early in the 2014 season, but Ousted was also picking the ball out of Vancouver's net far to often.

Following a tough 1-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders last weekend, the Vancouver goalkeeper says his team is learning what it takes to win consistently and will be looking for another complete performance when Chivas USA visits B.C. Place Stadium on Saturday.

"I like us going forward, I like us trying to score goals, but that said we need to learn to how to kill games and we did really well against Seattle," said Ousted. "I thought we possessed the ball really well and were still going forward and still trying to score the second (goal), but knowing when to calm it down and let them run after the ball. That was textbook.

"I think everybody learned coming into this half of the season."

Rookie head coach Carl Robinson has preached an attacking style since taking over in December, giving his talented Whitecaps the freedom to push forward.

That enthusiasm also sometimes left Ousted and the back line exposed. In the three games prior to last month's World Cup break, the Whitecaps scored nine goals but surrendered eight in winning one and drawing two.

In the three matches since Vancouver is 1-1-1, but the numbers that really stand out are one goal scored, two against and two shutouts for a team that is trying to find that balance between exciting soccer and being responsible defensively.

Robinson said he prefers to play wide open, before adding he will do what it takes to get results.

"The opposition manager's tactics will dictate how the game goes. Ideally I want to go play an attacking, free-flowing game every game. Sometimes that doesn't dictate that," said the Welshman. "It's important we're able to grind out results.

"Ideally I want to win 4-0 but it doesn't always happen, does it? At the end of the day, I think the points on the board will dictate rather than the goals in the goals-for column."

Whitecaps defender Jordan Harvey said improved communication has helped the back line, especially last week when Vancouver scored early against Seattle and withstood the Sounders' late charge.

"I thought it was our most complete performance," said Harvey. "We've scored goals and had very entertaining games but we got the goal and shored it up in the back."

Fellow defender Steven Beitashour, who played 90 minutes against Seattle in his first game since returning from Iran's World Cup squad, added last weekend's result is one the Whitecaps will have to duplicate as the season goes along.

"It's definitely entertaining when we score three, four goals, but if we're giving up two (or) three that's not good," he said. "If you want to go far in the playoffs you need those 1-0 results. I think that was a great example of it."

Added Ousted: "It's always nice to get the clean sheets and it's nice to get some of those 1-0 wins. It takes the pressure a little bit off the guys in front that they don't have to score three or four."

The victory over Seattle snapped a two-game winless skid for Vancouver (6-3-7), which welcomes an opponent on Saturday that is making a move in the Western Conference standings.

Chivas (5-7-5) has won three straight 1-0 decisions of its own and is undefeated in five, thanks in large part to striker Erick Torres.

The 21-year-old Mexican has scored in four straight games — including last week's stunning bicycle-kick winner in injury time against the Montreal Impact — and has 12 of his team's 17 goals in MLS play this season.

"The boy's been on fire, really," said Robinson. "He's got super movement and he's an excellent finisher. We'll have to be on our game, not just the defenders, but as a team, to try and stop him. It's what we do and if we perform to the levels we can, hopefully we can get a result."

Harvey and his fellow defenders will look to negate Torres' time and space, something they weren't able to do when he scored a deflected goal in the teams' 1-1 draw in California back on March 16.

"He gets a little chances and he creates an amazing goal," said Harvey. "We're just going to have to eliminate him getting the ball into his feet and try and cut it off from the source, if possible."

Vancouver currently occupies the fifth and final playoff spot in the West, but the L.A. Galaxy are four points back with two games in hand. Meanwhile, Chivas is five points adrift but has played one more match.

The Whitecaps have been quick out of the starting blocks in most of their games at B.C. Place this season, and despite his request for defensive awareness, Robinson wants more of the same on Saturday.

"I think every (home) team in Major League Soccer wants to come out and attack quickly," he said. "Nine times out of ten you go away from home and the home team does come out strong. If we're at home we have to make sure we can do that."

Notes: Saturday starts a busy stretch of three games in eight days for the Whitecaps, who visit Toronto FC on Wednesday before travelling to Utah for a date with Real Salt Lake on July 19. ... Robinson said defenders Christian Dean and Sam Adekugbe could see action sometime over that span. Adekugbe has yet to suit up this season because of a knee injury, while Dean — the third overall pick at this year's MLS SuperDraft — has played just 14 minutes of league action. Vancouver's defence has been banged up in recent weeks, with captain Jay DeMerit (ankle) and Andy O'Brien (hip) both on the shelf. O'Brien was back training this week, while the timetable for DeMerit's return is a lot longer. Johnny Leveron and Carlyle Mitchell have taken their places in the centre of defence for the time being. ... Harvey, Beitashour and Ousted all picked Germany to win Sunday's World Cup final, while not surprisingly, Whitecaps' Argentine midfielder Matias Laba went with his countrymen.

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