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Whitecaps aim to score more goals
By Monte Stewart, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Whitecaps will be looking for an overdue breakout game from their youthful offence when they visit the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday.
Throughout the season, Vancouver coach Carl Robinson has stuck with young players in key offensive roles. With 11 games remaining in the regular season, Robinson adjusted course slightly this week by acquiring veteran midfielder Mauro Rosales, 33, from Chivas USA., but the Caps coach will still rely on his young guns against the star-studded Galaxy.
"No one's probably expecting us to get a result," said Robinson after a practice this week. "I am, because I've got confidence in my players, and I'm trying to drum that (confidence) into these players."
Relying mainly on strikers and offensive midfielders with three years or less of pro experience, the Whitecaps have scored only six goals in their past 10 games. The scoring difficulties have been offset by a staunch defence that has helped the club produce 12 ties.
The Whitecaps are unbeaten in six games and have three straight shutouts, but Robinson wants to see more goals and, ultimately, wins as the regular season enters the homestretch.
"We know it's a three-point league," said Robinson, referring to points awarded for a win. "It's important when you don't play well and pick up points," he said. "What we're doing is, we're playing well (but) we're only picking up one point."
After battling Chivas to a scoreless draw on the same pitch in Carson, Calif., last weekend, the Whitecaps (7-4-12) hope to end their low-scoring ways against the supposedly tired Galaxy (10-5-7), who will play their third game this week. With a win, the fifth-place Whitecaps can pull within a point of the fourth-place Galaxy, at least temporarily.
Robinson takes some consolation in the fact the Galaxy have allowed seven goals in their past two games.
"It does give us a lot of hope, because they are human and they are conceding a lot of goals," said Robinson. "But I know the way (Bruce Arena, the Galaxy's coach) is, and I know the way he works. He'll make sure that they get back to work. And, they did play on Wednesday night, so they shouldn't be fresher than us. So we'll make sure we're full of energy and full of freshness."
However, Los Angeles, led by the likes of former American international Landon Donovan and Irish star Robbie Keane, rallied from a 3-1 half-time deficit Wednesday to beat the Colorado Rapids 4-3. That result puts more offensive onus on the Whitecaps, who are winless in six all-time games on the Galaxy's home field in Carson, Calif.
Robinson wants his young charges to display more consistency and some of the offensive firepower that they demonstrated early in the season - but not let the success, or media attention, go to their heads.
"On Saturday, you're the best guy on the pitch," he said. "On Sunday, you're fish-and-chip paper, because, as in England, you get wrapped up in your fish and chips, and you get thrown away, and the next news story comes."
He rejected the suggestion that young players like Erik Hurtado, 23, and Kekuta Manneh, 19, have hit a proverbial wall.
So did Manneh, who has been used largely as a substitute. Praising the club for its emphasis on developing young talent, he said it's just a matter of time before "all of the pieces" come together, despite what critics have been saying lately about the team's need for more offensive experience.
"We've been playing well with the young players, and I don't really see anything wrong with that," he said. "I think the performance has been good. Sometimes, we've just been unlucky. Some of the games that we've tied, we could have won. I don't think experience works in every case."
Manneh has three goals in 19 games played after scoring six in 20 last season. Hurtado, a revelation early in the season after being used sparingly in his 2013 rookie campaign, scored four goals - his season total - in as many games during one prolific stretch, but has gone scoreless since then.
Still, Robinson is determined to emphasize an offensive-oriented style - even against an L.A. squad that ranks second in the league in goals for with 39.
"I've got attacking players in the team, so there's no point putting attacking players in a defensive system," said Robinson.
Notes: To help end their victory drought in L.A., the Caps changed hotels and decided to practise on the road instead of at home Friday. … Winger Omar Salgado, who issued a public apology after he snubbed Robinson and teammates while subbing out against Chivas, is expected to dress but not start. … Vancouver midfielder Matias Laba will sit out a one-game suspension due to yellow-card accumulation. … Recently signed central defender Kendall Waston, a Costa Rican international, made the trip and could dress for his first game, albeit as a substitute. "I'm just working hard to be, hopefully, soon on the pitch," said Waston. … Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted tweaked his knee in training during the week and sat out one practice, but was slated to work out Friday and expected to start. He has started all 23 of Vancouver's games this season and 36 in a row dating to last season.