Veteran Vancouver Whitecaps centre back Andy O'Brien says it's not acceptable to believe the hype that's growing around a team that hasn't lost in four MLS games this season.
Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG files
VANCOUVER — Andy O'Brien says the unbeaten Vancouver Whitecaps aren't getting ahead of themselves.
The club has opened the Major League Soccer Season with two wins and two draws, but the former Irish defender and his teammates are wary of letting up as they prepare to host the Colorado Rapids on Saturday (3:30 p.m., CTV, Team 1410).
"I think sometimes when you have some good performances and people are writing pleasant things about you, you can maybe believe your hype a little bit too much," said O'Brien. "That's not something that's acceptable."
Vancouver's two victories so far in 2014 have come at home in impressive fashion — a stunning 4-1 rout of the New York Red Bulls in the season-opener and a 2-1 decision over the Houston Dynamo last weekend.
"We've had a positive start but it's going to take time to get to where I want to get with this group," said Whitecaps rookie head coach Carl Robinson. "They've started very well, but there will be no complacency in the group, I know that. We might not play was well as we want some days, but when we don't it's important I make sure they work 100 per cent."
"It's just about maintaining standards. They've set the standards — not me — they have. I've put demands on them and they're the standards that they've set."
A former assistant with the club who replaced the fired Martin Rennie after last season, Robinson has changed both the culture and a number of Vancouver's players in a short period of time.
The messy divorce with star striker and MLS Golden Boot winner Camilo Sanvezzo during the first few weeks of Robinson's reign has been turned into a positive, with the transfer fee being used to acquire a host of talent, including playmaker Pedro Morales and fellow midfielder Matias Laba (in a trade from Toronto FC).
But with all the hoopla after four games, it's worth noting the Whitecaps have seen early success on the schedule before. The club was quick out of the gate the last two seasons, making the playoffs in 2012 before missing out in 2013.
"I want to create a winning environment here," said Robinson, a Welsh international during his playing days. "Winning environment means that when you come to work, you enjoy it, you learn and you develop. But also you maintain standards and if you do that in a training environment then it becomes second nature in games. That's what's happened in the early part of the season for us.
"We're growing but it's going to take time. I'm not getting carried away. We've had a good start be we've still got a long way to go."
A designated player like both Laba and Morales, veteran striker and former Scottish international Kenny Miller is healthy again and has been one of the beneficiaries of Vancouver's early success in 2014.
"You want to build, you want to get better every game you play," said Miller, who has three of the Whitecaps' seven goals. "It's important with a new team that there is a progression, that you do improve. Where we are at the moment, eight points out of 12, undefeated, I think we should be going into Saturday full of confidence.
"When we're at home we fear no one."
The boisterous crowd at BC Place Stadium has been a big part of that success and the players have taken notice, with Miller even going into the stands to celebrate with supporters after last weekend's victory.
"They are our 12th man," said Robinson. "They're very important to us and it's important we get them behind us from the first whistle. We've done that from the first home games. We must make sure we continue that."
The Rapids (1-1-1) enter Saturday coming off a 3-2 home loss to Sporting Kansas City last weekend. Colorado defender Marvell Wynne was sent off in the 85th minute after being shown his second yellow card and his absence could be a key for a Vancouver team that has already scored six goals at home this season.
"Unfortunate that he got a red card but that's going to give us a boost," said Whitecaps striker Darren Mattocks. "That's a lot of speed that's out of their team and most definitely we can exploit that."
At the other end of the park, Uruguayan striker Vicente Sanchez has four of Colorado's five goals so far this season, with each coming on penalty kicks.
The Rapids' pension for drawing fouls in the 18-yard box through their first three games means that the Whitecaps will have to extra cautious in their defending.
"They've got quite a lot of threats up front, both athletically and technically," said O'Brien. "We're aware of their abilities and they're to be respected, but we're also looking forward to being at home and showcasing what we can do."
Note: The Rapids eliminated the Whitecaps from playoff contention with one game to go in 2013, but Vancouver walloped Colorado 3-0 in the season-finale at BC Place thanks to Sanvezzo's hat trick that secured his MLS scoring title.