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Slumping Vancouver Whitecaps searching for goals, road win in Kansas City

Vancouver Whitecaps forward Brian White falls to the ground as time is called to end the team's MLS soccer match against the Seattle Sounders in a 1-1 draw Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson) Vancouver Whitecaps forward Brian White falls to the ground as time is called to end the team's MLS soccer match against the Seattle Sounders in a 1-1 draw Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
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The Vancouver Whitecaps need a win.

Heading to a mid-week matchup with Sporting Kansas City, the Whitecaps (5-5-4) are winless in their last six Major League Soccer outings, with three losses and three draws across the stretch.

A loss to Inter Miami at home on Saturday was especially bruising, as it came in front of more than 51,000 fans who were already disappointed the visiting side left soccer superstar Lionel Messi at home.

Wednesday's game in Kansas City represents a clean slate, said 'Caps striker Brian White.

"I think for us it's an opportunity to right the ship and start scoring goals and winning games again," he said after training on Tuesday.

Vancouver has slid down the standings in recent weeks but, at seventh spot in the Western Conference, still holds a playoff berth.

Sporting Kansas City (2-7-5), meanwhile, sit at the bottom of the table. The club heads into Wednesday's game mired in an eight-game winless rut and on a five-game losing skid.

The Whitecaps can't take their opponents' woes for granted, though.

“We cannot think that way because we have not won the last games as well," said Vancouver left back Luis Martins. "So we cannot go with a mentality that this is going to be an easy game. It’s not going to be easy, for sure.”

Martins knows SKC better than most, having played for the club from 2019 to 2021. He says the crowd is loud and the games are competitive even when the team isn't putting up results.

“It’s always a tough place to play," the defender said. "Even when things are not going well for them, they always try to find a way to be aggressive team at home. It’s what we’re expecting.”

Kansas City thrives on momentum, said Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini, and that can be dangerous both across a season and within a game.

"Normally when they lose, they lose for some games and then they pick it up and then they become invincible for 15 games," he said, noting that it will be crucial for Vancouver to stay on top of their opponents for a full 90 minutes on Wednesday.

"The more we are in control, the more they are going down. If you allow them to be five, 10 minutes to be a little bit ahead of you, then vroom, they are ahead of you."

Sartini is planning to make some tactical adjustments in a bid to spark his team's offence following Saturday's loss to Inter Miami.

Scoring has been an issue for the 'Caps recently. After putting up 15 goals in its first seven games of the MLS season, Vancouver has registered just five in its last seven games.

White — who has five goals this season — said execution has been lacking in recent games.

"Whether it's getting the cross in the right spot, making the right run, we just haven't been able to connect in that final third," he said. "I think if we get that final pass right, that final movement right, then I think we'll score a lot more goals again.”

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (5-5-4) at SPORTING KANSAS CITY (2-7-5)

Children's Mercy Park, Wednesday

INS AND OUTS: Vancouver defender Sam Adekugbe remains out of the lineup with a calf injury but midfielder Damir Kreilach will be on the bench after sitting out Saturday's game with an ankle sprain. Kansas City will be without Memo Rodriguez as he serves a suspension.

HISTORY BOOKS: Kansas City holds a 13-8-6 record in all-time meetings between the two clubs. The last matchup saw the 'Caps drop a 3-0 road decision to Sporting back on July 1, 2023.

ROAD WARRIORS: The Whitecaps have a 3-2-2 road record so far this season, fourth best in the Western Conference behind Real Salt Lake, Minnesota United and the L.A. Galaxy.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2024.

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