Two scoreless games in a row?
That’s the biggest problem these days in Vancouver, but it’s not due to a lack of creativity or ambition going forward. That’s the take from Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie, who brings his team to San Jose for a matchup against the Earthquakes on Saturday (4 p.m. PT, Sportsnet Pacific, TEAM 1410, watch LIVE online).
“I don’t see it like that,” Rennie told MLSsoccer.com on Friday when asked about the team’s seemingly conservative approach. “On the road [against Philadelphia], we created three or four really good chances, and on the road that’s quite a lot. If you take one of those, you win the game. If you take four of those, you win 4-0.
“I don’t feel like we’re not creating opportunities,” he added. “I don’t feel like we’re not attacking. The fact that we’re defending well is a good thing.”
Vancouver’s perfect defensive record over the opening four games has in some ways been overshadowed by consecutive matches when the offense failed to register a single shot on target.
“Today in football, it’s important to know what you do on the field defensively,” midfielder Davide Chiumiento said after Friday’s session at Burnaby Lake field. “We must be compact – everyone must defend – even strikers. OK, two games 0-0 and we didn’t score. But they’ve all been positive results and there’s no concern from me.”
But with one of the smaller pitches in Major League Soccer at Buck Shaw Stadium, the pinball environment created by the tighter confines might be just the tonic to get the shots – and the goals – flowing for Vancouver.
“[The size of the field] makes the game more direct at times,” Rennie said. “More balls come into the box, so that’s definitely going to test us defensively – we’ll have to be strong against that. I’ve never coached there or been there, but I do know it’s a slightly smaller field and that does tend to make it more of a direct game, which I think can suit us.”
It’s the same stadium where Eric Hassli had one of his best games for the club in 2011, scoring two goals set up by man of the match Shea Salinas.
Salinas is now thriving under Frank Yallop in San Jose after heading south in exchange for allocation money this offseason. The 25-year-old has a goal and assist in four matches thus far and has shown an end product that wasn’t always there during his season in Vancouver.
“He’s in a good team which has had good results, but tomorrow we go there without negative pressure," Chiumiento said. "We have to believe in our qualities and play our game.”
Rennie said Brazilian attacker Camilo Sanvezzo is “in the mix” for a starting spot after suffering a calf injury during the game against D.C. United.
Michael Nanchoff, meanwhile, who trained with the team, will not travel to San Jose. The 23-year-old is continuing his recovery from a heel contusion, and Rennie said he is getting closer to full fitness.
Etienne Barbara (groin) and Alain Rochat (left MCL sprain) were the only two players absent from Friday’s training session. Both are listed as "out" on the official injury list, as is rookie Darren Mattocks.
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.