By Ian Walker
Bob Lenarduzzi doesn't make a habit of accompanying the Vancouver Whitecaps on the road during the regular season. Last season, the team president didn't see a game away from Swangard Stadium until the second round of playoffs.
It's a philosophy based on economics more than superstition or a fear of micro-managing.
"I've always felt I'd rather the team take an extra player than me," said Lenarduzzi, whose team opens a three-game home stand against Miami FC on Sunday. "When you're budgeting X number of dollars for travel and it means me going at the expense of a player ... It just doesn't make sense to me."
League business allowed Lenarduzzi to take in Vancouver's 1-1 draw with the Charleston Battery on Thursday -- a game he says the Whitecaps could have won. They didn't though, and as a result failed to improve their position in a three-way battle for one of the final two playoff spots in the United Soccer Leagues' First Division. Seven of 11 teams make the post-season.
Vancouver (7-9-7) currently sits one point back of the Montreal Impact (8-10-5) for sixth place and is three points up on Miami (7-10-4) for the final playoff berth. Miami has two games in hand, but one of those disappears today in Portland against the USL-1 leading Timbers. Miami will take on the Whitecaps less than 24 hours later.
"It's a huge game for us, as it is important that we get a result from it," said Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson, whose team returned home Friday after playing three games in six nights.
While it's hard to ignore the fact Vancouver is winless in six games, Lenarduzzi said the stat is somewhat deceiving and not indicative of the team's effort of late. Four of those six contests have been draws.
"I think I'm straight up enough to mean it when I say that we've been playing well," said Lenarduzzi. "That said, now is the time we have to turn good play into results. All these games are winnable and we need to take that approach into every one of them."
Five of Vancouver's final seven regular-season games are at home, with all but one of them against foes with sub-.500 records.
"It's there for the taking," he said.
- The Whitecaps will be without injured striker Marlon James (groin) and winger Justin Moose (foot). Ethan Gage is also lost for the foreseeable future after joining German Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt's U-23 side for a trial this past week.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun