April 11, 2014, VANCOUVER (ISN) – The Vancouver Whitecaps have cleared many hurdles in their four Major League Soccer seasons. One hedge that has continually tripped them up is playing the L.A. Galaxy on the road. Vancouver has never beaten the Galaxy at StubHub Center, where they have lost four times and been outscored 10-1.
“Thanks for reminding me,” coach Carl Robinson said with a grin this week after his team practised at the University of British Columbia. “It’s got to change at some stage.”
The Whitecaps (2-1-2) are aware of the challenge they face when they play the Galaxy (1-1-1) Saturday in Carson, Calif. The team is packing a sense of confidence for the road trip.
The Whitecaps have managed a win and tie against the Galaxy at B.C. Place Stadium. Saturday’s game is another chance to measure themselves against one of MLS’s perennial powerhouses.
“Both sides have good competitors,” said Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit. “Them being one of the better teams it’s a time for us to raise our game and really test ourselves and see how good we are.
“That creates that battle sense.”
The Whitecaps are coming off their first defeat of the season, a 2-1 home loss to the Colorado Rapids last week. Vancouver led 1-0 but, playing one man down, gave up two goals in as many minutes to Rapids’ midfielder Jose Mari.
“Those things happen and you move on,” said DeMerit.
“Knowing the calibre of team we are up against this weekend, that should excite us. That should take our focus and make sure we are preparing right. If we do the right things we can beat anyone in this league.”
The Whitecaps will be without midfielder Matias Laba who is suspended after picking up two yellow cards against Colorado. He could be replaced by Nigel Reo-Coker who missed two games after tripping over a bike rack and bashing his head.
The 29-year-old from London was back practising with the team this week sporting an ugly scar on his head and a desire to get back on the pitch.
“I’m excited,” said Reo-Coker, who started the first three games of the season. “When you sit out and watch one or two games it’s not nice.
“I’m someone who is used to competing.”
DeMerit said Reo-Coker makes the Whitecaps more abrasive.
“Nigel brings a grit, he brings competitiveness, he brings a toughness in the tackle,” he said. “He can really help us going forward when he gets the ball at this feet and drives at the defence.”
The Whitecaps have been a tale of two teams this year. Both their wins have come at home where they have outscored their opponents 7-4 in three matches. On the road Vancouver has managed two draws and just one goal.
Robinson relishes the challenge the Galaxy present.
“We’re a young evolving team,” said the first-year head coach. “It will be a good test to see where we are.
“It’s important we go on the road and try and dictate what we can, control ourselves, deal with them attacking wisely but putting a focus on us attacking.”
The Galaxy won their first match of the season with a 3-0 defeat of Chivas USA last week. Captain Robbie Keane scored his second goal of the season in the match. Keane has 36 goals and 22 assists in 58 MLS games since joining the Galaxy in 2011.
Forward Landon Donovan needs just one goal to reach 135. That would make him the MLS all-time regular-season leader in goals scored.
Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted said he doesn’t want to be the answer to a trivia question.
“It would be nice not to be that guy,” said Ousted. “I am trying to keep a clean sheet so it doesn’t matter who scores.”
Donovan has scored four goals against the Whitecaps, the most of any L.A. player.
Keane and Donovan combine for a dangerous one-two punch, but defender Andy O’Brien said it’s dangerous to focus on them because the Galaxy have plenty of other players able to deliver a knockout blow.
“If you emphasize on Keane there are 11 players on the pitch,” said O’Brien, who has been a teammate with Keane on the Irish national team. “Not only does Robbie score goals he creates goals.
“We need to close him down. He is one of a number of players they’ve got that can score goals. From a defensive prospective you try to make life difficult for him and stick to it.”
DeMerit agreed the Whitecaps can’t become too focused on just two Galaxy players.
“One of their best qualities is they have a lot of interchangeable parts,” he said. “You will see guys on the left end up on the right and guys in the centre on the left.
“Guys have to make sure they are sticking with their jobs and their spots on the field. They are going to try to get us moving and change around. Defensively we need to be wary of that and get help from all 11 (players) defensively, not just the back four.”