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  • With Champions League goal in sight, importance to future Whitecaps squad strength is huge

    Needing that one point is based on TFC closing out their season with two wins. I'll let Toronto fans be the gauge of how likely that will be, but it looks like that job has been done for Vancouver. Chalk that one up 'Caps. Somewhat surprising really considering the preseason spending of both sides as we covered a couple of days ago.

    Whilst it's easy for fans and media to get carried away with what lies ahead for Vancouver Whitecaps this season, Carl Robinson's feet remain firmly planted on the ground. There's no chickens being counted here.

    He won't talk too much about anything other than the next game. Neither will the players. You'll get no public proclamations or flights of fancy looking ahead to the playoffs or a Champions League campaign until both are locked up. Frustrating when you want to write about such things, but understandable!

    But Robinson knows what playing in the Champions League for the first time means for the Whitecaps in many regards.

    "It's very important," Robinson told AFTN. "It was a goal at the start of the season to do it. We've still got some work to do because Toronto can go on and win the last two games of the season, so we know we need to go on and get a result. Two wins hopefully will get us there, in the playoffs as well as the Champions League spot. I'll talk about it then.

    "Goals at the start of the season are always there to try and be reached and if it's something that we manage to do, it will be a great achievement for the group of players and very important to the club. But we've still got work to do with that as well."

    We know it's kind of ironic to be getting excited about qualifying for a competition that is likely to see lowish crowds and fringe players turning out for the Caps, but for me, it's a Cup competition, a chance of silverware and that always excites me. But there's a lot more to it.

    Some will see the Champions League as a distraction and a possible playoff killer. That can be very true. I'm pretty sure Portland would prefer not to be having their final group game just days before what could be a MLS away game with vital playoff implications.

    The Caps will get more allocation money to build a stronger and deeper pool of players and that will also have a key role to play in what is going to be an even tougher Western Conference next season.

    "I'll need to build a squad," Robinson admitted. "I'll need to build a bigger squad and a better squad, so that will be very important for me when I'm trying to build, as well as the recruitment of players from abroad. So it'll be a busy offseason for me.

    "There won't be much rest, but it will be very important when I'm trying to piece together a roster that I think can compete for the playoffs, and maybe if we manage to reach our goal of getting into the Champions League, competing in the Champions League as well. It'll be a very important offseason."

    A Champions League campaign also provides a further outlet to get some of the fringe and younger players in the squad more experience and more minutes. Again, that can only help in MLS action and make for a much stronger Whitecaps side in general.

    That, along with the new USL PRO team, could have massive longer term implications.

    "It's a very important part of the club's development for younger players", Robinson told reporters, talking primarily about the USL option. "There needs to be a platform to play. Now and again you'll get young players that are able to make that jump, like Kianz did on Friday, but not every player follows the same path. So it's important that we have another outlet for them to play games, so that there's not a gap between the Residency and the first team.

    "That's very important, so hopefully that'll come through as well. So there will be a lot of games and you guys will be following a lot of games and travelling a lot of places, and I'll be sitting on the sidelines as well at a lot of games."

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