VANCOUVER, BC - Vancouver Whitecaps FC reached the midway point of their season this past weekend with their 2-1 win against New York Red Bulls.
The 'Caps have made an impressive start to their campaign, one that currently sees them sitting in a tie for first place in the Western Conference and third in the Supporters' Shield standings.
But no one within the club is getting too carried away with their early success. Talk to anyone within the group and their feet are firmly on the ground.
That measured mood stems from coach Carl Robinson. Having experienced several dips in the ‘Caps fortunes during the summer months in his four years in Vancouver, he is keenly aware there is still a long way to go before this season can be called a success.
“It’s not what you do in the early part of the season, it’s how you finish,” was Robinson's take on where Whitecaps FC are right now. "It’s a marathon, not a sprint … but we’ve done OK. We’re where I thought we might be, give or take one or two points.”
"We’ve dropped points when I don’t think we should have; we’ve picked up points maybe when we didn’t probably deserve to, but I think it evens itself out at the end of the season. We’re doing OK. We’re sitting nicely."
The ‘Caps are sitting with 29 points from their first 17 matches this season, an increase of four on where they were last year. Their 9W-6L-2D record is three wins better off than at this stage last time around and they've already broken a club record with five road wins in a season.
Last year was Whitecaps FC’s best ever season in MLS. Following on from that was always going to be the challenge and the measuring stick to where Robinson was taking his team and, so far, he feels it's still going in the right direction.
“I think we’re progressing, which is important, and we’re continuing to evolve as a team," Robinson added. "As I keep saying, we’re young. We are young, and I make no bones about it. I want us to be young because I want to build, and if this team continues to build and evolve and get better and pick up points and score more goals, then we’re slowly getting to a place we want to get to."
Goals have continued to be the bugbear for Vancouver this year. Despite the addition of a top striker in Octavio Rivero, they've still proved hard to come by and numerous chances have gone wanting.
Robinson targeted 15 to 25 more goals this season. That was what he felt Vancouver needed to compete with the top teams in the league. At the halfway stage, their tally of 20 is actually seven less than last year. Not ideal, but having also conceded nine less goals, there's still contentment there.
“We've not managed to [score more] from the start of the season to this point but we've tightened up very well defensively,” Robinson told reporters last week. “We'll continue to work on it. We get chances. We just need to take a few more chances.
“[Goals] might be hard to come by, as they are proving to. Not just for us, but as has been proven by a lot of teams. Will I swap the 15 to 20 goals for five or six more points? 100 per cent I would.”
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