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  1. The Whitecaps know they can't keep relying on others. With three defeats in their last four MLS matches, they know they need to start getting the job done themselves and pronto, but defender Jordan Harvey is confident the 'Caps will soon get the wheels back on the wagon and get back to much needed winning ways. "Every time we've gone through a loss or some sort of bad spell, we've come back on track," Harvey told reporters. "That's a credit to the consistency and not changing anything because that's what's really helped us throughout this year." The bounce back was meant to come last week at home to New York City. We all know how that ended. The less said about that now, the better. The new place for the fighting finish to begin comes tonight in San Jose. And that in itself is not going to be easy. Never mind the fact that the Whitecaps haven't won at the Quakes in their previous six attempts, San Jose are fighting for their playoff survival. A 'Caps win clinches them a playoff place, while a Quakes win moves them to within two points of Vancouver. It couldn't be tighter and the Whitecaps know they're going to be in for one hell of a battle. "It's down to the wire," admitted Harvey. "Guys are fighting for their jobs if they're out of the playoff race. If they're in it they're fighting for the playoffs. Or, like us, we're fighting for a top two spot and potentially the Supporters' Shield. "Everybody's fighting for something, everybody's got something to lose, so we're going to go in like we have in road games and really be determined and organized and see what we come away with." It would take quite the sequence of results in this last month of the season for Vancouver to not make the playoffs now, in both their own games and others, but it remains a possibility. A possibility they can kill off by the end of Saturday night. If that isn't enough to give the squad the kick up the ass they need, then I don't know what will. In reality, they don't need that kick. Everyone at the Whitecaps is painfully aware of how important the next four games are for their season. "We just need to get back on form," Harvey added. "I'm really looking forward to this weekend because everyone was hungry this week, the training was sharp and going in to San Jose we have a good opportunity." Vancouver and San Jose have served up some battles on the pitch in recent seasons with less to play for, although a lot of the key instigators in those games have moved on. They've also served up some shocking games down in California, a couple of which I've had the misfortune to be at. You have to feel it's the former that we'll see tonight and that's exactly what goalkeeper David Ousted is expecting. "They're scrappy," Ousted said of the Quakes. "They're pushing for their push into the playoffs and it's going to be a tough game. We know we have the quality to go and get a win. We just need to find that energy, to find that intensity and to match their scrappiness." Vancouver certainly need to be up for the scrap not only in this game but their remaining four matches this season. But Ousted also cautioned that it needs to be controlled if they're to come away with the wins they need. "Urgency is important at this part of the season," Ousted added. "Every team we're meeting is chasing the playoffs, is pushing and is going to have that urgency, so we definitely need to have it as well. "It doesn't have to be a panic or something that's counter effective but knowing that going into these games we need to be on top of our game." The 'Caps remaining league matches are evenly split. Two at home and two away. Those road games both come at places that Vancouver have yet failed to record a victory, San Jose and Dallas, but that doesn't faze Ousted in the slightest. "We've showed this year that we're really good on the road," Ousted said. "We've showed that we have the mentality that we can win anywhere we go, so I'm not that worried going in to away games. It's some tough places we play but I've got confidence in that we can get away with three points." It's a view shared by winger Kekuta Manneh, who feels that no matter where the Whitecaps are playing this month, they have to stick to their gameplan and use their attacking strengths to get the wins they're looking for. "For us, we're going to try and approach every game the same, whether we're home or away," Manneh stated. "We need to win the [san Jose] game if we want stay in the title hunt. We're going to out, attacking minded." But as we've seen in recent games, playing in that manner may generate chances galore for the Whitecaps but it doesn't guarantee that any of them are going to be put into the back of the net. And while the goals haven't been coming at one end of the pitch, they have been at the other with two goals given up to both Houston and New York in the recent losses and three goals conceded twice to Seattle in two matches. Both are aspects of the Whitecaps game we weren't seeing even just a few weeks ago. "It goes both ways," Harvey admitted. "We've given up goals that at the beginning or the middle of the season we haven't given up. We need to address everything and really get back to the basics and what we do well, which is being organized, hard to break down and we get chances. That's the most important thing." The lack of goals for Vancouver may put additional pressure on the Whitecaps defence, but with 11 clean sheets already recorded this season, Ousted feels he's capable of holding up his end of the bargain to reduce what's needed at the other end of the park. But he's confident a change to the 'Caps fortunes is about to play out. "Obviously you need to keep more clean sheets to get points," Ousted said. "But we've got confidence in the goalscoring ability in this team. We're creating chances and I feel like the goals are coming, but we need to tighten up as a backline as well. Not let in too many goals and if it's a one-nil win, it's one-nil win. That's going to be ok by me."
  2. The 'Caps led the Western Conference in draws last season with 14. Still not the highest in MLS, that fell to Chicago Fire with a staggering 18 of them. Both teams certainly provided punters with a go to bet on their fixed odds coupons. Vancouver's draw total was three more than any other side that made the playoffs, and despite the 28 points lost in those drawn games, the Whitecaps still made the postseason and recorded their highest ever MLS points total in the process with 50 points. But you couldn't help but fall into that traditional pastime of football fans and wonder "what if". What would their positioning, points total and playoff experience have been like if they had only managed to turn some of those draws into wins? It would have certainly made the end of the season and that final win against Colorado Rapids a lot less stressful and maybe we wouldn't have been Geigered in Dallas. For the Whitecaps to build upon last season's performance and do even better this year, those draws had to go. They have and making that happen was a key focus from Carl Robinson and his coaching team during the offseason. "It was, without a doubt," Robinson admitted to AFTN. "People can say you're unbeaten, and three draws is three points, or you can go win one, lose one and have an extra game as a bonus game. "We drew a number of games in the first year I was here. I tired to say if we can win half of them games, then we'll obviously be in a better position, and that's what we've done. We've lost a number of games this year, we know that, and we've won a number of games, so the low draws doesn't really bother me." The Whitecaps have turned things around dramatically, going from the highest draw total in the Western Conference last year to the lowest number of draws in all of Major League Soccer this season, tied with Seattle. That number is three, and with five games remaining, if things stay that way, that would be the lowest ever number of draws in a season since Vancouver came to MLS in 2011. Seattle and New England had four in 2014, matching Colorado's total in 2012. The 'Caps had been steady in their numbers during their MLS era up until last season. From ten in their first two years to nine in 2013. Defender Jordan Harvey has been here mostly through it all and for him, this year's dramatic shift comes down to one thing, the winning mentality that abounds at the club right now. "For me, it's that desire to win and not settle for a draw," Harvey told us. "On the road, you've seen some really disciplined performances and those have led to wins this year. But at home especially, we're going for wins every time, because draws in this league don't bump you up. It's the wins that do. Even on the road we've pushed it. We just haven't been complacent." Those road wins have certainly helped. Vancouver have seemingly found the winning formula for how to execute successful tactics away from home. They've ground out results and found ways to turn what would have been draws last season into three points. Just cast your mind back to the start of the season and those huge 1-0 road victories at Chicago and Orlando. Those wins kickstarted the 'Caps season and they haven't looked back since. The 'Caps have already set a club MLS record with seven away victories this season and there's still two games to go. A win against New York City at BC Place on Saturday would set a club points record in the MLS era, with four games to go. The losses may have increased slightly, up three on last year but still their second best number to date, and Vancouver have also already recorded their most ever wins in a season, currently standing at 15. Finding a way to turn those draws into wins has been behind a lot of that. The clean sheets help too. David Ousted has 11 on the year, coming on the back of a league leading 13 last season, and he echoes Harvey's thoughts as to what's been behind the 'Caps turnaround. "I put it down to mentality," the great Dane told us. "I put it down to not coming in for a draw anywhere. If we're away, if we're at home. Obviously some of the losses we'd have liked to have drawn those instead. But it's down to mentality going in to games thinking we can win it and we still believe that these last five games, so hopefully the mentality doesn't change." So mentality, a desire to get the win no matter where they're playing and the belief they can do that all play a part but another key element behind the reduction in draws, and the clean sheets, has been the defensive play coming from the whole team. Midfielders and strikers have taken on their defensive responsibilities better than we've seen in recent years. Tracking back to mark runners, winning tackles, hitting on the counter. The effort from the whole team has been massive and several players have really improved that aspect of their game, with Darren Mattocks and Kekuta Manneh near the top of that list. Both still have work to do in that regard, but Manneh acknowledges it's an important aspect of his game and vital to the success of the side. "It's the teamwork," Manneh told AFTN. "We're doing it as a team now, attacking as a team and defending as a team. We've had a lot of clean sheets. It's not just the defenders that are defending but the whole team's come together. "It's amazing this year. Everything's just clicking for us. We're playing as a team and everything's just working for us right now." It certainly is. And long may it continue.
  3. Have a listen! You can listen to this, and all previous, episodes of the podcast on iTunes HERE. Or download it for your later listening delight HERE. We also have an iPhone app, so you can now add our podcast to your phone as an app. Visit the podcast's mobile site HERE and then at the bottom of the screen just click the "Quick Launch" icon and the podcast will be added to your home screen and appear as an app. And if that's not enough, we're on Stitcher Radio Network. Download the app and listen to the AFTN podcast on your device, along with over 20,000 other shows HERE. Or after all that, you could just listen on the player below!
  4. But the signs are not looking all that promising from various reports coming out on Tuesday. Beitashour is one of two MLS Players' Union reps at the Whitecaps. The other is Jordan Harvey. The pair have 15 years MLS experience between them and have seen the league grow rapidly in recent times. Both players have been flying out to attend meetings over the past few weeks, with Beitashour heading to DC for talks following last Saturday's friendly game with Chicago down in Portland. "They went well," Beitashour suggested of the meetings on Sunday and Monday. "It was back and forth. They're continuing right now, so we'll see and hope for the best. "Each one of the players over there are talking to their respective teams. Everyone's united. Everyone's together. We either play together or we don't play together, that's the beauty of it. "It was a good group of guys that we had there and even in our locker room personally we have a great group. We're all in this together." That was a view backed up by Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted. Coming from Europe, MLS contracts are something new for the Dane, but he feels that what the players are fighting for is simply the chance to have contracts like their footballing brethren elsewhere in the world. "I don't think anybody wants a strike but we as players right now are fighting for what we consider as some basic rights. Everyone wants a deal but it has to be some terms that we as players can agree upon. "I think everybody wants progress and that's what we're looking for. Everybody wants to play Saturday but we've got some basic things that we need fulfilled. I'm still positive about it and I'm still positive about the talks that are going on and still hopeful." Beitashour, though, knows that time is rapidly running out to get a deal done in order for the season opener in LA on Friday evening and this weekend's other First Kick matches to go ahead. "We are getting down to the wire," the Iranian international admitted. "It's just one of those things. Both parties aren't going to be 100% happy but it's a negotiation, so we just got to keep working on it and hopefully we can get to something." When negotiations on a new CBA were last held in 2010, a deal was eventually thrashed out with five days to go before the season got underway. This time around, if a deal is going to get done, it's going to be even more last ditch. Beitashour was a rookie in 2010, just drafted out of San Diego State University by his hometown San Jose Earthquakes. He wasn't part of the negotiations back then, but remembers that the feeling of unity was the same. Is there a feeling though that the players five years ago may have caved in a little too easily, leading to the situation that everyone now finds themselves in? "Then, it felt like we were talking about holding strong and it felt like we did buckle a little bit too much," Beitashour mused. "So I'm hoping that the guys that were there during that time, that are here now, won't have the same kind of feelings. "It's a matter of holding strong. I don't know if that will be the case, but right now we're holding strong and we feel confident in what we're going to get." TFC are set to fly to Vancouver on Thursday morning and train here later in the day for Saturday's First Kick encounter. Away teams all across Major League Soccer are holding back flights until they know if there is any point in travelling. With the clock ticking, if talks break down or no agreement can be reached, thenBeitashour revealed that the vote on whether players will take strike action is imminent. "It's either late tonight or tomorrow morning, so we'll find out hopefully within 24 hours."
  5. Have a listen! You can listen to this, and all previous, episodes of the podcast on iTunes HERE. Or download it for your later listening delight HERE. We also have an iPhone app, so you can now add our podcast to your phone as an app. Visit the podcast's mobile site HERE and then at the bottom of the screen just click the "Quick Launch" icon and the podcast will be added to your home screen and appear as an app. And if that's not enough, we're on Stitcher Radio Network. Download the app and listen to the AFTN podcast on your device, along with over 20,000 other shows HERE. Or after all that, you could just listen on the player below!
  6. What makes a team successful? Talent, skill and the ability to produce that on a consistent basis are clearly important ingredients. But other vital components to the mix are that of harmony, trust, respect and relationship building. All of those attributes, and others, help make a successful environment at a football club. Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson is a firm believer that how you handle your players off the pitch contributes massively to how they perform on it. "It's an absolute must in the game, in modern day football," is how Robinson views the importance of building personal relationships with his squad. "90% of the job is the man management side of it. Coaching is just a small percentage of getting the best out of the players. "It's important that I spend a lot of time individually with my players individually as well as collectively to tell them what they're good at, what they need to improve on. Although he plays down his own influence in it all, the much lauded harmonious locker room atmosphere starts at the top and Robinson's approach to player management kicks it all off. He's relaxed, but tough when he needs to be, and he places high importance on one-to-one relationship building with all of his squad. The now departed Andy O'Brien probably summed it up best. "He's got a nice balance between disciplining us and putting an arm round us," the veteran defender said of Robinson's management style. "He's got the relationship, not only with the younger players but also with the older players, and the ability to do that is a big thing. Man management is a massive part of the game and it's something that he possesses a lot of." Football is a game played as much in the mind as it is on the pitch at times. The mental strength needed by both players and management to succeed should never be underestimated. Players have to be mentally tough to get them through the goalscoring droughts, the dips in form, the times they ride the pine on the bench and the abuse they'll get from fans and pundits alike. Managers are no different. If you're not mentally strong, the insecure world of football management is not the career path you should likely have chosen to follow. That's why Robinson sees a two way flow of trust and belief between himself and his players to be crucial to the Whitecaps success. "They know I've got their back through thick and thin," Robinson said. "It's important that when I see some players sticking up for me, as well, that I know that they've got my back. It's part of a successful team. You need to have that within the club, within the organisation and that's slowly building here." It may have been slowly building in Robinson's eyes last summer, but by the end of the season is was very evident to anyone that spent even a modicum of their time around the team at training or on a matchday. Goalkeeper David Ousted puts a lot of the good relationship the players have with their coach down to that trust and belief shown in them. "That's huge," Ousted said of the trust instilled in himself and others by Robinson. "Feeling that the manager trusts you and will put some responsibility on your shoulders just makes you want to grow as a player and develop as well, so that's a big thing." Ousted may be an experienced player but it's still always good to have that feeling from your manager, and the same is even more true for the younger players and the rookies. Erik Hurtado was one of the young players that Robinson kept faith in last season and it paid off in spurts on the pitch, but in a lot more ways going forward off it. "It means the world to me to get that chance [from him]," Hurtado said. "A lot of the time coaches don't want to put their faith in the younger players and then let them get experience. His motto is if you're good enough, you're going to play and if you deserve to play you're going to play. That's a great attitude to have as a coach." It all makes for a happy dressing room. Well on the whole. You can't legislate for having a player with a perpetual pout like Omar Salgado. With the South American influence heavily cited as part of the great atmosphere at the club last season, there were some concerns when a couple of those players moved on in the offseason. Add in the influence a much loved player like O'Brien had on all the players, and eyes were on how quickly that harmonious locker room environment would take to resurface this season. Would the fun, belief and trust still be prevalent with the new mix of players brought in? The answer was quick in coming in day one of preseason training camp. The same spirit appears to still be in abundance and the upbeat, and at times downright jokey, nature of the entire squad is infectious. Whether it's new addition Pa Modou Kah nicking a camera and filming his teammates or veteran Jordan Harvey having a Gatorade shower on his birthday, this is a squad that clearly gets along and that can go a long way in terms of results on the pitch. Some may dismiss just how much of an impact a good dressing room can have to on field results, but Robinson's not one of those people. "The players believing they've got your trust, believing that they've got your belief and if they have, I think they'll run that extra yard, make that extra tackle and know they'll hurt themselves, in a good way." And it needs to be like that. After last year's highs, the pressure is on Robinson and the Whitecaps to take another step forward. The Western Conference has got even tougher, there's been strong, big name signings made around the league and the 'Caps now have additional games in their first ever CONCACAF Champions League campaign. The Whitecaps haven't gone for the big name or the big money signings. It's still a very young squad. More than ever, a close knit unit is required to continue all that Robinson and the club achieved last season. And Robinson's relationship building with his players will continue to have an important part to play in it all, especially as there will be the prospect of more unhappy players in the squad looking to get more MLS minutes than might be getting afforded to them. That will test Robinson's man management and the dressing room harmony more than ever this season. When Robinson's contract extension was announced a few weeks back, you'd have been hard pressed to find to find any detractors both outwith and within the club of the job the Welshman has done in his first year as a head coach. The players have bought into what he is trying to do at the Whitecaps and so have the fans and much of the media. It's refreshing, and somewhat unusual, to find these days. The pressure now comes in abundance in his second year in charge. To his players, he's seen as approachable, honest, and perhaps most importantly, fair. "I think he's easy to talk to," is goalkeeper Ousted's view. "He's passionate about things. He listens to the players as to what their needs are. He's played himself so he knows the little twerks and things that people can have. I think he's good at making everybody feel that they're part of the team. A player who has had his fair share of managers over his footballing career so far is Nigel Reo-Coker, but the now departed Whitecap echoed Ousted's thoughts. "His door's always open for your ideas and if you have any issues," Reo-Coker felt. "He's more than just a manager. He's got a personal touch to him where he does genuinely care about his players. He's wanting to speak to his players if he has any issues off the field and he's willing to help you in any way he can." And if anyone knows how Robinson handles players off the field issues, it would have been Reo-Coker. It's interesting to note that the bond Robinson develops with his players does appear to carry on once they are no longer under his management. Robbo and Reo-Coker kept in regular contact after the 'Caps coach traded the Englishman to Chivas USA. Robinson still hears regularly from Camilo and has previously told us that he hears from his good friend Kenny Miller almost every day since he moved back to Scotland. There has to be a line of course and it's one each of the management team are aware of and will speak about. They have to be the boss. They're not there to be every players friend and confidant. That said, Robinson does come across as more than just a coach to his players. There does appear to be an obvious friendship connection with Robinson and the players in his squad. "I think there is," Ousted continued. "Carl feels that he's a big part of the team and he is and I feel that the guys in here respect him a lot." What should be remembered in all of this is that last year was Robinson's first year as a head coach. He's the first to admit he made mistakes and needs to improve himself as a manager, never mind simply improving his squad. Coaching qualifications are all well and good but putting them into practice is not always so easy. For Robinson, his management style has helped to be shaped by some of the experiences he shared himself as a player, and there's one manager he had in particular who has played a key part in that. "Mick McCarthy," Robinson stated. "He was my manager at Sunderland. He wore his heart on his sleeve. He always said he wasn't the most talented player, but he'd go to war with you. If you wanted a fight in the trenches he'd be one that would be right behind you. That stood out to me as a young player at Sunderland and I've always remembered that. "That's what I want to try and instil here. I'll go to war for these boys as long as they give me their unbelievable effort, which they have done. Hard work, concentration and I'll back them to the hilt every day." Can that attitude and the squad of 2015 take Robinson and the Whitecaps to the next level they need to get to? We'll soon see. It takes more than money and big name to build a winning team and Vancouver have that other part in abundance right now under Carl Robinson's tutelage.
  7. Carl Robinson has already indicated that the Honduran will get the start for Waston, ahead of other choices Christian Dean and Carlyle Mitchell. It's a bit of a downgrade on Waston in terms of aerial presence, but then who wouldn't be?! Leveron though bring a calm, steady and usually reliable mindset to the backline. Just what the Caps could be needing in what could be a night of hot heads in Northern California. "He's ready, he's fine," Robinson said of Leveron's return to the team. "Johnny lost his place, not because he was playing poorly but because he went away with the national team, so sometimes you get penalised for being a top quality player unfortunately. "He was playing probably as well as he's played in the last two years. Unfortunately he picked up an injury, he's come back and Andy and Kendall have done great. "Kendall being suspended is a big loss for us. Johnny is a different kind of player but I've got no worries about him stepping in. He'll be confident as always, he'll defend right and hopefully he can fit in with the team we're going to pick." There is no doubting that Vancouver will miss Waston's presence, as I covered over on MLSsoccer.com earlier in the week, but having an international player like Leveron at your disposal to replace him, is a nice luxury for Robinson to have at this key stage of the season. It may not feel like it, but Leveron has made only three fewer appearances (15 in total) for the Whitecaps this season than he did last year. Robinson had been keen to keep as settled a side as possible down the stretch. Sometimes his hand is forced, but having that settled backline the last couple of games has been important. Leveron now has to come in, readjust and settle back into the swing of things pretty quickly, with a lot on the line. The man that will be directly behind him, goalkeeper David Ousted, is unconcerned about the enforced change. "The continuity's nice and you get to learn the people in there," Ousted admitted. "But Johnny's a good player and Johnny's shown before that he can go in and fill that spot. Like I said last week with Seba out, where's there's people out, others need to step up and Johnny has to step up now and we know he can do that." His centre half partner Andy O'Brien has been getting used to partner swapping these past two seasons, but O'Brien and Leveron have played multiple games together now and know each other's game inside out. "I played with Johnny before so hopefully we can get back in the groove we had prior to Kendall coming in," O'Brien told reporters at training. "That's what we've done well in recent weeks, the relationships across the whole team. Not only in the 11 that have started but the whole 18 squad and the guys that are not involved. They may have played together before, but defenders get a familiarity built up with each other. How they're going to play and move and pass. O'Brien has had that with Waston over the last eight games, so what kind of extra challenge does having to adjust to a new partner pose for the veteran? "It is different," O'Brien admitted to AFTN. "They're very different players in terms of their style. As I've said before, it sometimes isn't who you're playing with but who you're playing against and what do you need to do to counteract what they're doing. "I think there's a real team ethic that even if you're marking but you can intercept the ball, don't think you're happy enough just doing your job. Guys are filling in and there's been times where I've been playing a little bit higher than I normally would do, but guys are filling in. Whether it be a full back or whether it be Rusty, and likewise if strikers drop short the pocket in front of us is getting well protected in terms of the defensive screening. "Sometimes you have to do other people's jobs and I think a lot of the guys are doing that and when they are doing that, other lads are filling in, so it's working well." Exactly how much the Caps will be tested by the Quakes tonight is the unknown commodity. San Jose are a bit of a shambles of a team at the moment. A 13 game winless streak, two goals in their last four games, they've just sacked their manager and looked woefully out of form the last couple of matches. Can they find the scoresheet no matter who is playing in the defence? Can the Caps? 0-0 would do the job! There's always a danger going in to a game like this that last weeks heroics against Seattle could lead to a flatter performance against a weaker team. We have seen it all season from Vancouver. Having the pressure of knowing that they have to come away with at least a point is another factor as well. Robinson knows the pitfalls and admits to a little apprehension. "For me, this is a more difficult game than against Seattle away," Robinson told reporters. "At Seattle, no-one expects anything from us, obviously everybody expects us to go there [to San Jose] and get a result. But all the information we're getting out of San Jose is that they've nothing to lose. They're fighting for contracts those players. Dominic's going to be going in for next season, so they're going to be wanting to prove a point to him." The Whitecaps themselves would no doubt settle for a point tonight. But if they can get all three, then next week is set to be a barnstorming season finale. To get there, the defence will likely be the key. So keep calm and Leveron.
  8. If the Timbers get chopped down at home to RSL, then a victory at Buck Shaw Stadium, where they haven’t won in four attempts, would see the Whitecaps in the playoffs with a game to spare. A game where they can either try and keep momentum going against a defensively woeful Colorado side, maybe even grabbing some confidence boosting goals in the process, or rest up some key or close to suspension players like Pedro Morales. A Portland point against Salt Lake, would see them jump ahead of Vancouver on the tiebreakers, but the ‘Caps would then just need at least one point of their own against the Earthquakes to claim it back a day later. A Portland win (we don’t really even want to consider that option), would mean Vancouver falling back out of the playoff places and sitting two points behind the Timbers. But fear not, because matching the Timbers’ result, no matter what, see them back above the red line. Not getting anything out of this scenario is simply unthinkable. For all that Vancouver want their focus to be solely about themselves, Portland have perhaps an equal part to play in the whole race to the playoffs. "I said we couldn't look at Portland too much, we're little bit forced to look at them now," goalkeeper David Ousted told us at training this week. "It's about us finishing the job. "Win, draw or lose for Portland, we still need to go and get hopefully two wins to push our way in there. If we get two wins, it doesn't matter what Portland does. If we can focus on that, it's going to be easier for us. If they lose points, then good for us and we don't have to maybe make a win too, but still, we need to push our way in there and not hope that Portland loses." Carl Robinson has preached for weeks that all that matters is taking care of their own business and it doesn't matter what anybody else does if the Caps can't do their own job. He has shifted from that stand with two games to go, but him and his squad will most certainly be watching Friday's Portland result with keen interest. "I think my players will generally watch [Portland's] results," Robinson told us. "I watched them on Wednesday night [against San Jose]. We beat Dallas 2-0 and suddenly we were in a decent position and then they followed up with a result and then they followed up again with another result and then apparently the pressure was on us. "I just said to the guys, 'listen, it doesn't matter what anybody else does, we've just got to concentrate on ourselves' and we did on Friday [against Seattle] and we won the game. It changes every week and every game that goes on, a different result changes the dynamic of the playoff race. "If we win two games we're in. I'm trying to make it as simple as possible for them [the players]. Obviously I'll look at their result Friday and watch their game, because I love watching games of football, and if they win, then it puts a little bit of pressure on us. If they don't win it puts pressure on us because we need to get our result."
  9. Or are they right? Have the Whitecaps not been getting some decisions of late? Are the football gods still angry at games being played on fake grass under a closed roof? (Or is that just me?) Is all it is going to take is getting in the groove and then just watch these uncoiled springs go? I’m a firm believer that you make your own luck in football, and life. Every team can look back at the decisions that didn’t go their way, the calls they didn’t get, and of course some of them can cost matches and vital points. Are the Caps just getting a spell of these calls of late or are they simply not good enough to be fighting for the postseason this year and that makes for a good deflector? It is understandable why the Caps might be feeling this way. One thing has looked certain and that is that Sebastian Fernandez can’t seem to get a penalty call go in his favour to save his life. He was taken down in the box during the second half in Portland on Saturday when the score was still 1-0. That could certainly have been not just a game changer, but a playoff one. Simon Borg and the boys at MLS’ Instant Replay have certainly felt that the Whitecaps had been hard done by of late and although Caps coach Carl Robinson wouldn’t be drawn too much on the issue, he did point to their analysis. "I watch the Instant Replays and listen to their opinions and they're brilliant," Robinson told reporters at training on Tuesday. "Sometimes I agree and sometimes I don't know and I watch it, and it's two weeks now that the guys think that we should have had a penalty. We haven't and that's not masking over a disappointing performance for us. So we've got to move on and we will move on. "I think we're not getting that many breaks at the moment as I would like but that's no excuse." So is Seba paying the price for simulation earlier in the season, including that infamous face holding one in Portland in June that saw him land a one match ban? "Maybe. I'm not sure. I hope not," Robinson said. "I know referees have been told that if there's some simulation they must book players. In the last two games I think we've seen it against us as well, a little bit of simulation and refs usually do clamp down on it. I don't think that if anyone thinks anyone is diving or cheating or trying to gain an unfair advantage they should book them and if they don't it's a free kick. It's a very fine line." But bad breaks and bounces seemed to genuinely be how some of the Whitecaps players are seeing things right now and that the luck will change soon and the goals will start to go in and the points will go on the board. Never mind the horrible defending, uncreative midfield and impotent attack. When Russell Teibert was asked how the team viewed some of the goals that the Caps had been conceding of late, he didn't agree that there was a trend of poor marking and poor tracking back. "A fluke goal like the one in Dallas. How can you talk about that?," Teibert responded. "It's one of those things that sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way. Then we're in Portland, we're dominating the game and Valeri gets free and he hits a cracker that ends up in the back of the net. "Sometimes the ball bounces for the other team, sometimes the ball bounces your way and unfortunately for the past couple of games, the ball hasn't bounced in our favour. That's how sport is sometimes, that's how professional soccer is and you have to battle through it. "Maybe teams that don't have the locker room that we have, that don't have the belief that we have, would give up. But this locker room has a lot of belief, has a lot of character and we'll push through the tough times. We know we're going to make our way out of it." When your team’s in a rut, you like to think that it’s all going to turn around. Everything’s going to be just fine in the end if you have a little faith and believe. Unless you’ve had 30 years of watching and supporting East Fife. Then you know it’s all fucked. I imagine TFC fans must feel the same. Believing you're going to get out it and actually doing what you need to do to get out of it are two different things altogether. Can the Whitecaps do that? Do they have the personnel to do that right now? "I think fans, us, the coaching staff all expect that at some point it's going to go in, right?" Steven Beitashour responded when asked if fans were just to grab onto the hope that things will change for the better soon and the necessary goals will come if they just keep the faith. Getting some of those calls to go the Whitecaps way would undoubtedly have helped in some games, but so would goals, and plenty of them. They can't rely on getting favourable calls to save their season, and nor should they according to goalkeeper David Ousted, who took a more realistic view on the recent bad beat stories. "I'm looking forward to the last five games, we've got a lot of decisions coming our way," Ousted joked at training when he was asked it the Whitecaps were due some luck. "It always evens out at the end of the season and I think it will. "We can't look at decisions not given or referees. We need to look at ourselves and if we're at it. If we can see after the game that we didn't get a decision or whatever it is, then we'll take it from there. But we have to put in a performance. We can't let the referee do it for us. "I still think everybody believes in this. We can make it in. I think Portland will drop points and we will be there to pick up those two points that we're behind." But the only way to do that is to get goals, goals and more goals. Maybe just five will do. One goal a week to secure three points a week. It is possible, but even managing one a game from the team right now is looking a little far fetched to many. Not Russell Teibert though, who felt that Vancouver played really well for the first 30 minutes down in Portland before fading. "I know you guys might be tired of hearing that and the end product is what we've been lacking recently, but we've scored goals all year long and it's inevitable that we're going to score goals until the end of the season. It's going to happen. It's bound to happen. "I can't tell you when. It could be this weekend. We could score four or five, we could score one or two. We know it's going to happen at some point. These are the times that are the most exciting. It's a big game for us this weekend against Salt Lake. No matter what happens in the week before we're putting it past us and we're looking forward." It's good not to have negativity in the dressing room and if the players don't believe in themselves, then no-one else is going to, but there also needs to be a dose of reality mixed in there as well. It may not make your life as happy, but it has to be done. No-one is expecting the players to come out and say "we're pretty crap up front" and yes, that wouldn't help anyone, but there has to be more offered than just blind faith. The fans are alright with having faith and hope, they just need to see Whitecaps players taking advantage of some charitable defences to help them keep it. Vancouver players and management are all saying the right things, now they need to back their words up with actions.
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