VANCOUVER, BC — Vancouver Whitecaps FC have had some defensive lapses in their opening two road games, but it's nothing to do with the long-term absence of captain Jay DeMerit.
That's the take from head coach Martin Rennie, who insisted the team's first road losses, a pair of 2-1 defeats to the Houston Dynamo and Chivas USA, have nothing to do with a team adapting to a new-look backline featuring centre back Brad Rusin following DeMerit's Achilles tendon rupture.
"I don't think so," Rennie told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday at the University of British Columbia when asked about whether the Green Bay, Wisconsin, native's leadership at the back has been missed in the club's first two games away from home. "Brad and Andy O'Brien were probably the two best performers on Saturday [against Chivas USA]. I think Brad even brings a little bit of a different dimension because of his height.
"He defends well. I think going into [this Saturday's] game against San Jose it will probably be an advantage to have Brad there. He wins a lot of headers and against San Jose he'll do that — they'll put you under pressure with balls in the box."
But while the goals conceded may not have been down to Rusin's inclusion in Rennie's estimation, the Scottish tactician still acknowledges things must improve defensively for this weekend's match against San Jose Earthquakes (7:30 p.m. PT, watch LIVE on Sportsnet Pacific and Bell mobile devices, listen on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca).
"That's two games in a row where we've lost two goals," Rennie said. "We're a team that's consistently got clean sheets. We've consistently been one of the best teams defensively, so we have to get back to that.
"It's one of the things we've worked on today making sure that everyone's doing exactly the same thing, making sure we're on the same page with that. Against San Jose we need to defend second balls well because they put a lot of balls forward into the box. They've got usually a good physical presence and we'll have to manage that properly."
Goalkeeper Joe Cannon insisted the margin of defeat in both games has been slight and cautioned against the temptation to make significant lineup or tactical changes early in the campaign.
"At this point you can't micromanage anything," Cannon said. "It could just be some bad luck at one end. You don't want to be really drastic about it. But we lost twice, and there has to be a response."
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com