Style points won’t be top of mind for the Vancouver Whitecaps when they face Real Salt Lake on Friday night.
Snapping a three-game Major League Soccer losing streak is all the Whitecaps care about when they host Salt Lake at BC Place Stadium.
“The main thing here is we need to win, pretty or ugly, just win,” said captain Kendall Waston.
It’s only the ninth game of the season for Vancouver, but Waston didn’t hesitate to label the match a must-win.
“Must-win, yes of course,” said the big Costa Rican defender. “Nothing else.
“In our mind only three points and that’s it.”
The Whitecaps suffered the worst defeat in their MLS history when they were throttled 6-0 by Sporting Kansas City last weekend at Children’s Mercy Park. Forwards Yordy Reyna and midfielder Efrain Juarez were handed red cards during a melee in the 40th minute when Vancouver was already trailing 3-0.
Midfielder Felipe said the Whitecaps are facing a test of pride.
“Now it’s not about the beautiful soccer,” he said. “It’s about how much we care about this team, how much we show personality next game.
“That’s what good teams do. It’s a wakeup call. Play ugly and win. The most important thing is to get three points.”
After a promising start to the season Vancouver (3-4-1) has tumbled down the table and now sits in the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings with 10 points.
Both Real Salt Lake and the L.A. Galaxy have 10 points from 3-3-1- records but have played one less game.
Salt Lake beat Vancouver 2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium two weeks ago.
Head coach Carl Robinson has faced criticism this season for playing a bland, unexciting style that has failed to produce goals.
The Whitecaps have been outscored 10-1 over during their losing streak and 17-8 on the season. Vancouver’s minus-nine goal differential is the worst of any team in the league.
Felipe said now isn’t the time to be thinking about artistic merit.
“It’s not about putting on a good show,” he said. “It’s about winning. You can play ugly and win three points. That’s what soccer is about.
“We played well in Salt Lake and we didn’t win. We had other games where we played ugly and we won. In the end nobody is going to remember if we played beautiful or not. It’s what we do to get three points.”
Midfielder Jordon Mutch is expected to return to the lineup after missing several games with a hamstring injury. He said all teams navigate choppy waters during a season.
“This happens with every team, it doesn’t matter what league you are in,” said Mutch, who is on a one-year loan from Crystal Palace of the English Premier League. “You have these sorts of results.
“It’s how you bounce back. The season is 10 months, it’s not three weeks. I’m sure we will be fine.”
Real Salt Lake is coming off a 3-0 win at home over the Colorado Rapids. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando knows Vancouver is going to be motivated.
“It’s going to be a big game,” Rimando told the Salt Lake website. “We are going to be ready for them to have some hunger.
“It’s not good to lose the way they did in Kansas City, so we expect them to have some fire in them.”
The Whitecaps have played five of their eight matches on the road, but home hasn’t always been comfortable. After winning their opening game, Vancouver is 0-1-1 and hasn’t scored a goal at home.
The Whitecaps were booed off the field by their fans following a 2-0 loss to Los Angeles FC April 13.
“The fans should be mad,” said Felipe. “That’s their job. It’s also time to support us in the difficult moments. It’s easy in tough moments to scream at us and say things about us.”
Jim Morris, The Canadian Press