VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps know exactly what they need to do to capture their first win of the season against Los Angeles FC on Wednesday, says coach Marc Dos Santos.
But whether they'll be able to accomplish the task against the top team in Major League Soccer remains to be seen.
"We know exactly what they're going to be about and we know exactly how we can hurt them. But then we need the execution to come," Dos Santos said after training on Tuesday.
The Whitecaps (0-4-2) are still searching for their first victory of the year, while L.A. (6-0-1) has yet to be defeated.
But Dos Santos knows the LAFC squad better than most — he was an assistant coach for the team's inaugural season last year.
"We know their strengths and some are very obvious. The pressure they put is very very high," Dos Santos said.
L.A. forwards Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi have been dominant to start the season, combining for 14 of the club's 21 goals.
Vela leads the league in scoring with eight goals and five assists through his first seven games of the year.
Diego is tied for second in goals with L.A. Galaxy's Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Both have six tallies apiece.
Shutting the duo down will mean stopping them from attacking the 'Caps flanks, cutting inside and shooting, said Vancouver defender Jake Nerwinski.
"We know we have the capability of doing that," he said. "It's just being focused for 90 minutes, that's what we need to do."
The Whitecaps know that Rossi and Vela are dangerous, said midfielder Jon Erice, so they'll be looking to shut down their passes.
Erice has had a better look at Vela than many of his teammates after playing with the Mexican striker back in Spain 11 years ago.
Vela was good then and has only improved since.
"His level now is I think the best level in his career. He's mature, he knows what to do all the time with the ball, without the ball. He's so clever in the field and so quality," Erice said. "He was a great player and he's now maybe one of the best in the world."
The Whitecaps have put up several solid defensive performances, despite a slow start to the season. But the team has struggled to capitalize on offensive opportunities, scoring just five goals in their first six games.
Dos Santos said his group needs to up their possession numbers to at least 50-50, and to do that, he'll need his midfielders to be more patient, more pragmatic and cleaner on their passes.
Finishing against L.A. could be an even tougher challenge, however. The team hasn't conceded a goal since their 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake on March 23. They've put up 13 tallies of their own over the same stretch.
Still, Wednesday's match up could be a statement game for the Whitecaps, especially since they'll be facing Dos Santos' former club.
"We're only here because (Dos Santos) brought us here and we're only staying because he wants us here," midfielder Russell Teibert said. "So if you want a game to do something to give back to him, this is the game that you do it."
LOS ANGELES FC (6-0-1) VS. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (0-4-2)
Wednesday, B.C. Place
SCHEDULE CRUNCH: Wednesday will mark the Whitecaps second game in six days after they battled the Chicago Fire to a 1-1 draw last Friday. There's little rest on the horizon for the 'Caps, either, as they head to Florida to face Orlando City SC on Saturday.
TEAM URUGUAY: Both the Whitecaps and LAFC have a young Uruguayan forward on their roster. Joaquin Ardaiz joined the Whitecaps in February while Diego Rossi signed with L.A. in 2018. The pair have previously played together with Uruguay's U-20 national team.
STRIKE FIRST: An early goal could be key for the 'Caps. Vancouver has yet to go into the half with a lead this season and has allowed the first goal in three losses. L.A.'s only draw of the season came when they conceded first.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press