BURNABY, B.C. – Vancouver Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie hopes some time off will help his team end a goal-scoring drought.
Vancouver (2-1-2) has only scored one goal in its past three games heading into a game Wednesday at home to Sporting Kansas City.
Unbeaten Kansas City is the first team to start the season with six regulation-time wins since 1996. The Los Angeles Galaxy earned eight that year.
“Especially in a home game, it’s important for us to come out strong,” said Rennie after practice Tuesday in suburban Burnaby. “Having had a few days off, I think everybody’s looking forward to getting back to it.”
The game will be the Whitecaps’ first in 10 days. They last played April 7, while suffering their first loss of the season in the form of a 3-1 setback in San Jose.
In that game, the Whitecaps established an MLS record for the most minutes at the start of a season without allowing a goal (426). Three San Jose goals in a 10-minute span cost them the game after Vancouver had taken a 1-0 lead shortly after halftime.
“We actually played well in that game,” said Rennie. “But we had a disappointing 10 minutes where we gave them some goals and made some mistakes, but we’ve addressed that and worked on that. But the main thing for us is to get back to doing the little things that we’ve been doing well.”
Rennie wants to see his club continue to push the ball forward and take and finish its scoring chances. But that will be a difficult task.
Kansas City has gone 337 minutes without surrendering a goal — the second longest perfect defensive run this season behind Vancouver’s mark. The visitors went a league-record 335 minutes without allowing a shot, before goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen made a routine save in last Saturday’s 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake.
Nielsen has only faced eight shots this season while posting a league-leading five shutouts. Playing all of his team’s games, he has surrendered just one goal while Kansas City ranks second in scoring with nine. By comparison, the Whitecaps have scored just four goals, with Sebastien Le Toux accounting for two of them.
“They’re doing well and, obviously, they’re on a good run right now,” said Rennie. “So it’s a great challenge for us.”
The Whitecaps will get a boost by the return of wounded Brazilian striker Camilo. He was Vancouver’s top scorer last season with 12 goals and can come off the bench.
“He’s been injured for four weeks,” said Rennie. “So he’s not really done anything in those four weeks … but he’s obviously one of our best players. Once he gets back healthy, he’ll be a big contributor.”
Camilo, who has one goal this season, is recuperating from a quadriceps injury that has limited him to four appearances this season and just three starts. He played 14 second-half minutes against San Jose after sitting out a scoreless draw in Philadelphia a week earlier.
Rennie said he wants to ease Camilo back into the lineup, so he is unlikely to start against Kansas City, but should be involved in the game somehow.
If the striker does get in, he hopes to re-live the magic he enjoyed against Sporting in 2011. Last April, Camilo scored two goals as many minutes apart — in added time — as the Whitecaps came back to post a miraculous 3-3 tie with Kansas City after trailing 3-0.
“I feel very confident against this team because it was the first time we (tied) a game,” he said. “But another year, another (Kansas City) team.”
Camilo, who also scored in a 2-1 loss in Kansas City in June, is frustrated by his lack of production. His only goal this season came in Vancouver’s opening 2-0 win over the expansion Montreal Impact.
“I want to score every game,” he said. “But sometimes we have to work hard for this.”
Last weekend, Rennie put star striker Hassli through two workouts in a day to help get him ready and feeling more confident following the layoff. Hassli scored 10 goals last season, but has gone 14 games over last season and this season without scoring.
He and Camilo called on the Caps to get more shots on net.
“We’ve played hard,” Camilo said. “Now, the most important thing is to score more goals.”
Notes: Kansas City striker Teal Bunbury, a Hamilton native who has dual Canadian and American citizenship and plays for the U.S., has been limited to three games this season because of international duty. He has played for both the U.S. under-23 team, which unexpectedly failed to qualify for the Olympics, and the senior national squad. He has yet to score while starting one game and subbing into two others. … Vancouver defender Alain Rochat remains out with a knee injury. … Kansas City manager Peter Vermes has gone with the same starting lineup for the past four games. His starting 11 include Kei Kamara and C. J. Sapong, who rank among league scoring leaders with three goals apiece. Graham Zusi, leads MLS with six assists, including a league-best four helpers on game-winning goals.