Preview: 'Caps looking to get back to their 'winning ways' vs. Eastern Conference leading D.C. United

Robinson: "We have to pull ourselves together"

VANCOUVER, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps FC (7W-6L-12D) will be looking to get back into the win column on Saturday when they host Eastern Conference leaders D.C. United (14W-8L-4D) at BC Place. Tickets: http://ow.ly/B3lOU

Kickoff for Saturday’s match is set for 7 p.m. PT. You can watch the match live on TSN1 (more information on TSN's expansion), Bell mobile devices, and TSN GO. The match will also air live on TEAM 1410 and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 5 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show immediately following the match.

Playing against in-form D.C. United could be just what the doctor ordered for Whitecaps FC, who have already beaten two conference-leading teams – Seattle Sounders FC and more recently Sporting Kansas City – at BC Place after the World Cup break.

The ‘Caps are also undefeated against Eastern Conference teams in 2014 with a 4W-0L-5D record. This will be Vancouver’s final regular season match against an Eastern Conference opponent this year. 

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC

Last match: Vancouver Whitecaps FC 0-3 Portland Timbers

Whitecaps FC will be looking to bounce back against D.C. United after suffering a disappointing 3-0 loss to Portland Timbers last weekend at BC Place. It was Vancouver’s second straight defeat and third straight match without scoring a goal.

“We just have to maintain focus, maintain enjoyment in the game and get back to our winning ways,” head coach Carl Robinson said this week. “It’s been a pretty difficult two months for us. We’ve picked up a few decent results without really capitalizing on big chances that we’ve had. But that’s gone. We have to pull ourselves together and maybe it’s a good time to do it now after being beaten 3-0 by Portland.”

The loss dropped Vancouver out of the Western Conference playoff picture, though they remain just one point back of fifth-place Portland with nine matches remaining – one more than the Timbers.    

After being kept off the scoresheet in three straight games, Robinson said the coaching staff would consider a tactical adjustment this weekend with the goal of getting more bodies in the box and creating more chances.

The ‘Caps have predominantly lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation this season, but have also used a 4-4-2 diamond midfield at times. The latter would allow Kekuta Manneh to play up top as part of a two-striker tandem – something Robinson said the coaching staff has been pondering.

“It’s something that we’ve looked at probably over the last two weeks about maybe playing him up front,” Robinson said. “We didn’t think it was the right time. Will it be the right time this weekend? Maybe. But I think he needs a partner. Darren has done very well this year up front on his own, as has Erik at certain times.”

“I’ve got to find a solution,” Robinson continued. “I will find a solution. With the personnel we’ve got, we have to mix and match sometimes. If someone’s not doing their job correctly, then there will be changes.”

At the other end of the park, the ‘Caps will once again be without the services of centre back Johnny Leveron this weekend. Leveron, who was unavailable against Portland due to a red card near the end of the away match against LA Galaxy, will miss Vancouver’s next three matches while away with Honduras at the 2014 Copa Centroamericana. The 24-year-old played the full 90 minutes in Honduras' 2-0 win over Belize on Wednesday. 

D.C. UNITED

Last match: D.C. United 2-0 New York Red Bulls

After finishing dead last in MLS last season with just 16 points, D.C. United have turned things around in a big way in 2014. The Washington-based outfit enter Saturday’s match as the Eastern Conference leaders with 46 points and are very much in contention for the MLS Supporters’ Shield.

One player who’s been instrumental in their turnaround is veteran Fabian Espindola, who D.C. Untied selected in Stage Two of the 2013 MLS Re-Entry Draft. The Argentine striker leads D.C. with nine goals and nine assists, which is the fifth highest combined points total in MLS this season.

Another player to watch is Espindola’s strike partner Luis Silva, who has three goals and two assists in his last four appearances. With Espindola and Silva leading the way, D.C. United have scored a conference-leading 42 goals this season.

Midfielder Chris Rolfe, who has six goals and six assists, has also played a big part in that but the American suffered an arm injury Wednesday in practice and won't be available this weekend.  

Saturday’s match kicks off a four-match road trip for D.C. United, who will play a total of six matches in the month of September in all competitions.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Saturday’s match will be the first and only meeting between Vancouver and D.C. United this season and the fifth all-time. The ‘Caps hold a 2W-1L-1D record, including a 1-0 win last season at RFK Stadium. Whitecaps FC have never lost to D.C. United at BC Place.

NEXT UP

The ‘Caps conclude their three-match homestand on Wednesday, September 10, against San Jose Earthquakes. Club legend Carl Valentine will be inducted into the Whitecaps FC Ring of Honour prior to the match. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. PT at BC Place and tickets are still available at whitecapsfc.com/tickets.

It’s not too late to participate in the best sporting experience in Vancouver. Whitecaps FC offer a flexible range of ticket products, including prorated season tickets, 5-packs, student season tickets, and a youth soccer half-season ticket. Single-match tickets start at $22, subject to applicable fees. For more information on all Whitecaps FC ticket options, call 604.669.9283 ext. 2 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.