Whitecaps look to strengthen defence in rematch vs. Earthquakes

Vancouver club hosts San Jose on Saturday at BC Place

Vancouver Whitecaps’ Kei Kamara, front, and San Jose Earthquakes’ Jimmy Ockford battle for the ball during first half MLS soccer action in Vancouver on May 16, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

The Vancouver Whitecaps know they will have to work to successfully defend home turf when a revenge-minded San Jose Earthquakes club visits B.C. this weekend.

The Whitecaps (10-9-7) snatched a 3-2 victory from the Earthquakes (4-14-8) last Saturday in California despite San Jose scoring twice in the first 20 minutes.

“The first 25 minutes of that game were awful. But we went from awful to awesome pretty quick,” midfielder Russell Teibert said after training this week.

A frank talking-to at the half and a pair of subs changed the Whitecaps’ fortunes. They scored three second-half goals in nine minutes for the comeback.

It was an exciting win, but Teibert said the team needs to figure out how to get motivated before they’re down on the scoreboard.

“I don’t understand why it takes two goals for us to wake up. Again, that’s something that’s unacceptable,” he said.

READ MORE: Whitecaps’ Alphonso Davies excited to play with Bayern Munich stars

On Saturday, Vancouver will host San Jose for a rematch. It will be the Quakes’ third game in seven days after the team beat Dallas FC —No. 1 in the Western Conference — 4-3 on Wednesday.

San Jose will be ready for a fight, said Whitecaps striker Kei Kamara.

“What we did in their place, I’m sure they’re going to come over here and want to replicate that against us,” he said. ”They’re not in a good place in the (standings), but they’re in the position to spoil parties and we really have to be ready for them.”

The ‘Caps are riding a five-game unbeaten streak and sit in eighth place in the MLS Western Conference, where the race for the post season is tight. The Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy and Whitecaps are all currently within three points of each other.

“It’s really close with the rest of the teams. And we know for sure we can put ourselves in the playoffs at the end of it,” Kamara said.

With just eight regular-season games left, Saturday’s match with be “huge” for the playoff push, he added.

The Whitecaps play their next three matches at home, and strong defence will be key to making the most of the games, Teibert said.

The ‘Caps have conceded 51 goals this season — an average of nearly two a game.

“We need to make B.C. Place a fortress. Teams need to know that when they come to B.C. Place, they’re not going to score goals,” Teibert said.

Head coach Carl Robinson wants his team to be better defensively and cut down on individual errors going into Saturday’s game.

“We have to make sure we tidy up defensively and when we make mistakes, it doesn’t cost us goals, which it has done too many times this season,” he said. “Because when it comes to crunch time, we’re probably not going to be able to get out of jail like we did this weekend.”

Still, there are a number of things the ‘Caps are doing right, the coach said, including rallying in the face of adversity.

“What’s important in sports, when you have a disappointment, you collectively get together and get your mind right and you don’t go under,” he said.

“What we’ve done really well is be able to regroup when we weren’t playing well in the first half and settle the game down and get into halftime where we can make some adjustments.”

Those adjustments pushed the ‘Caps to a come-from-behind win last weekend. And defender Aaron Maund said the energy from that win will help push the team going forward.

“We’re a team that believes. I think that goes a long way,” Maund said.

—-

SAN JOSE (4-14-8) AT VANCOUVER (10-9-7)

Saturday, B.C. Place

BIRTHDAY GOAL?: If Vancouver’s Kei Kamara finds the back of the net on Saturday, the goal would be a birthday gift to himself. The striker — who turns 34 on Sept. 1 — has 11 goals this season, tied for seventh place on the league’s leading scorers list.

LUCKY STADIUM: San Jose has earned points the last three times they visited B.C. Place during the regular season. Their last visit on May 16 resulted in a 2-2 draw.

‘CAPS CALLED UP: Four Vancouver Whitecaps have been tapped to play for Canada’s men’s team next month. Midfielders Alphonso Davies and Russell Teibert, and defenders Doneil Henry and Marcel de Jong are all on the roster for the Sept. 9 match against the U.S. Virgin Islands, the first of four CONCACAF Nations qualifying games.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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