VANCOUVER, BC – The best team in Major League Soccer is coming to town this weekend, but Vancouver Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson said his team has “nothing to fear.”
The 'Caps are preparing to host Cascadia rival Seattle Sounders FC, who currently sit atop the MLS standings with 35 points from their first 16 matches. Heading into Week 17, that’s at least 10 more points than any other MLS team.
“I think they probably have one of the best squads on paper and they’re proving it at the moment,” Robinson told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s going to be a big challenge for us. They’re beating everyone at the moment, so we’ve got nothing to fear. We’re at home in front of our fans, who are always great, and we’ll try to put on a performance. If we can perform to the levels we did the last time we played them … it will be a great game.”
Robinson admitted those levels dropped this past weekend in Colorado, when Whitecaps FC suffered their first loss in over two months. But the ‘Caps manager also said there’s still a lot of confidence within the group – as well an understanding that they "need to be better."
“Overall, individually, and collectively – myself included,” Robinson said. “We’ve had a very good week in training. We’ve got back to good habits, back to the competitive spirit. It’s on the edge at the moment, which is good because we’ll need to be physical against the best team of the league on Saturday.”
News and notes
- Whitecaps FC welcomed Steven Beitashour back to training this week and the 27-year-old right back could make his return this weekend after representing Iran at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
“Steven’s a great guy in the locker room and a great player on the field as well,” Robinson said. “He’s a natural right back, our starting right back. Nigel has come in and done very well in a position that he can play, but is not his favoured position. Obviously, having Beita back is a big bonus for us.”
- Fullbacks Sam Adekugbe and Ethen Sampson, who have been sidelined with knee injuries since late April, are both back to full training. Adekugbe played just over an hour in Tuesday’s Premier Development League (PDL) match with the U-23s.
“It’s been about 10 weeks,” Robinson said. “With Sam and Ethen coming back it gives us other options. Jordan Harvey has played every minute of every game so at the right time when Sam is up to his fitness levels, I’ll give him an opportunity. I want every person in the squad to have an opportunity at some stage. It’s nice to have them back.”
- According to Harvey, the ‘Caps took a moment in the locker room to “pay respect” to Mehdi Ballouchy, who played in first MLS minutes since August 2013 this past weekend. Ballouchy appeared in just 11 matches over the last two seasons after tearing the same ACL twice.
“He worked so hard to get back,” said Harvey, adding that he thinks Ballouchy has the “best feet” on the team. “We wanted to mention that and let him know that we’re all behind him and that we’re really happy for him to get those minutes in Colorado.”
“It’s an honour that they appreciate it,” Ballouchy said. “It just shows what this group is all about.”
- Andy O’Brien (hip) sat out Wednesday’s training session, but Robinson said he’s hopeful the centre back will be in contention this weekend.
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