VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps aren't taking anything for granted, despite some early season success.
The 'Caps (2-1-1) have had a solid start to the campaign and are set to face a slumping Minnesota United (0-0-4) side on Wednesday, but striker Lucas Cavallini knows the standings don't matter once players get on the field.
"Teams have time to bounce back if they’ve had a bad start," he said. "But we don’t want to be that team that Minnesota starts gaining their confidence against."
Vancouver is coming off a big 2-0 win over Canadian rivals CF Montreal on Saturday where speedy Colombian forward Cristian Dajome scored both goals and 'keeper Maxime Crepeau had four saves. Both players were named to the MLS Team of the Week.
There's been a "good vibe" around the club this season, Cavallini said, and it's showing on the field.
"The consistency, you can see that it’s there. And you can see that the team wants more," said the 28-year-old Canadian, who has one goal on the season. "The energy is really good. We have to keep this up and stay humble."
While the 'Caps are riding high on a win, they know there's still work to be done on improving their game.
Vancouver has yet to score from open play this season, with all five goals coming off of set pieces (two penalty kicks, three corners).
It's something the team has been talking about a lot lately, said Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos.
The group has been good about recognizing moments of transition and acting quickly to get behind opponents, but they need to be better with the last pass, he said.
"I think there's still a lot of work to do in our open play. But the way you get set pieces opportunities is because you do something by open play," Dos Santos said.
Cavallini isn't too concerned about where the team is scoring from.
"A goal’s a goal," he said. "It doesn’t matter how it is (scored)."
Minnesota will be looking to limit the goals it gives up on Wednesday. United dropped its fourth-straight on Saturday, a 3-2 decision to the Colorado Rapids.
It's been a rough run of play for the Loons, but Dos Santos said the results don't tell the full story.
He noted that Minnesota went to the MLS Western Conference final last season, and was a team "a lot of people praised not long ago."
"Plus it doesn’t happen a lot in soccer in the world that a team loses five consecutive games. So we know. We’re all ready for a very difficult game," Dos Santos said.
"We know they’re going to come in hungrier. We know that any team that has four losses in a row doesn’t want to stay like that. … They know that one win could get them started, get them going."
Minnesota will have one sure advantage on Wednesday — fans in the stands. Most of the spectators will be cheering for the hometown Loons, but Crepeau said the Whitecaps have been eagerly anticipating an audience.
“All the guys at breakfast during the week, after training in the gym, we’re all saying ‘Hey, we’re going to play with fans soon.’ Even if it’s not our people, we will play with attendance, which is amazing," he said.
The 'Caps last played in front of their fans on Feb. 29, 2020 when they dropped a 3-1 decision to Sporting Kansas City at B.C. Place in Vancouver.
The team saw action in front of limited-capacity crowds on Aug. 25 in Montreal and on Sept. 19 against Real Salt Lake.
"(The crowd) is a big part of the adrenalin of the game day, of the feels of the season," Crepeau said. "We’re all excited, to be honest.”
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (2-1-1) at MINNESOTA UNITED (0-0-4) Wednesday, Allianz Field
STACKED SCHEDULE: Wednesday's matchup is the second of three games in eight days for the 'Caps. They'll visit Sporting Kansas City on Sunday.
GOAL GAP: Minnesota has score three times this season and conceded 10 goals. United's -7 goal differential is the highest in the MLS Western Conference. Vancouver has a +2 goal differential after scoring five and allowing three in its first four outings.
CANADIAN CONTENT: United 'keeper Dayne St. Clair hails from Pickering, Ont., and has played on the Canadian national team with Crepeau, Cavallini and Whitecaps defender Cristian Gutierrez.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2021.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press