Protecting Empire (Bob Frid)
Bob Frid

Whitecaps FC motivated to protect home field against Columbus Crew

Since Tom Soehn became Vancouver Whitecaps FC head coach, he has won his only home game, a 1-0 victory in a June 18 encounter with Philadelphia Union. On Wednesday night against Columbus Crew, he's hoping to double his total on Bell Pitch at Empire Field (7 p.m. PT, watch live on TSN and Bell mobile devices, listen live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca).

“To make the playoffs, you have to take care of your home performances,” Soehn told MLSsoccer.com. “This one is no different. We need to make sure we get those points.”

Home games loom large for the ‘Caps in the coming weeks, as the play five of their next seven matches in Vancouver, including a July 18 matchup with English Premier League side Manchester City.

“It’s always easier to play at home, especially in this environment with the fans and all,” Soehn said. “After the long road trip and the disappointing results, we’re happy to get home and play in front of our home crowd.”

The Whitecaps expect Columbus to be physical and well-organized.

“One thing you can count on is they’re going to be good on set pieces,” Soehn said. “They have some big targets. [Andrés] Mendoza has caused some havoc up top, and they have two strikers who like to beat you up physically. We’ve watched enough game footage to make sure we’ll know what those strengths are, and hopefully we’ve identified a few of their weaknesses and prey on those.”

But Soehn isn’t the only one preaching the importance of winning at home. Veteran goalkeeper Joe Cannon was singing from the same hymn sheet.

“It’s about taking care of business at home, and that’s where Wednesday comes into play,” Cannon said. “I’m hoping we can all come together as a team, as an organization, as a city and do the right things.”

Midfielder Terry Dunfield anticipates Columbus will be organized and well-drilled.

“When it comes to the Crew, you’re up against two banks of four, a very experienced team,” Dunfield explained. “They’ve got internationals in their team, just like us, and as you see in this league, you need to win your home games, and I’m confident we can do that.”

The return to the friendly confines of Empire Field is particularly welcome for a squad coming off two defeats away to rival Toronto FC. The Whitecaps fell to the Reds 1-0 on June 29 before following up three days later with a 2-1 loss in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship that earned the home team their third consecutive Voyageurs Cup.

“It’s been one of the toughest weeks we’ve had this season,” defender Michael Boxall said. “But we still know what we’re capable of as a team, and as long as that belief is there in the locker room and we feel we can get results, we’ll come out firing [Wednesday] night.”

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