One point behind the Portland Timbers and with a game in hand, Vancouver Whitecaps FC look set for a Western Conference play-off push.

That is, until you glance at the fixture list.

Carl Robinson's men will play a huge part in Major League Soccer's six-way tussle for the Supporters' Shield, with clashes against DC United, Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders FC and FC Dallas (twice) all to come. Meanwhile, a trip to Cascadia rivals Portland represents another tough encounter.

A worrying picture

If the Whitecaps were currently enjoying the sort of form that saw just two defeats in their first 14 matches of the season, these trials might look manageable. As it is, two wins and eight goals in 11 games paint a worrying picture.

And it's goals that have become a problem for the Canadian outfit.

Prior to the World Cup break, Vancouver had notched 25 times, but a paltry tally since then is a genuine cause for concern. Unlike many similar slumps, though, these struggles don't have an obvious explanation.

Where other sides may see hard graft and good fortune result in an increased tally, the Blue and White were blowing their opponents out of the water.

A prime example of their earlier dominance came in the visit of the San Jose Earthquakes to BC Place, when a Kekuta Manneh strike and Pedro Morales brace had the Caps 3-0 up after 20 minutes. Though Chris Wondolowski pulled two back, the deficit was simply too much to overcome.

Lack of goals

Now, the British Columbians' frontline aren't providing that head-start, and the pressure is too often proving too much for the defence, despite admirable efforts - three consecutive clean sheets before recent back-to-back defeats.

Manneh, Erik Hurtado and Darren Mattocks are fine young forwards, but only the latter has offered any threat to the score-sheet since the start of June.

It's an issue that hasn't escaped Robinson's attentions. However, while the 37-year-old has conceded that recruiting a new goal-getter may be an option, he retains belief in his current charges: 

"I don't want to make a kneejerk reaction. I've got 100% faith in these young players and we're continuing to be better," he said.

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O'Brien stance

Veteran centre-back Andy O'Brien has been less political on the topic, meanwhile, expressing his disappointment at the club's form of late: "Ultimately, if they don't score more goals, they will be replaced and that's the nature of the business.

"It's self explanatory from a senior guy's point of view but I guess the frustration is that we've seen them score goals. We've seen them score headers, we've seen them score left foot, right foot, we've seen them being a nuisance. It's just a matter of it happening more often and more consistently between now and the end of the season."

With people inside the franchise recognising these faults, and a tortuous run on the horizon, Vancouver's attackers will start to feel the heat without significant improvement.

Topics:
Football
MLS
Vancouver Whitecaps