VANCOUVER â€” Sheanon Williams felt strange leaving Providence Park last weekend.
With a 2-1 defeat to the Portland Timbers still fresh in his mind, the Vancouver Whitecaps veteran defender thought his team had done enough to get something out of the game.
“We had played so well and didn’t come away with the result,” said Williams, in his first season with the club. “We created more than enough chances to get at least a tie. I thought that’s what we deserved â€” could have even won the game.”
But while Williams is new to the West Coast, that losing sensation away from home is all too familiar for the Whitecaps.
Vancouver (2-4-1) has dropped all three of its road games in Major League Soccer so far in 2017 and has a solitary away victory dating back to last June, a 1-8-3 run that translates into just six of a possible 36 points.
The Whitecaps were 3-5-9 on the road in head coach Carl Robinson’s first season in 2014 before a 7-7-3 mark, the best in MLS, helped propel them into second place in the Western Conference the following year.
But a 4-10-3 away record combined with lacklustre home form in 2016 sent the club tumbling down the standings and out of a playoff spot.
“Every team in this league finds it very difficult to win on the road,” Robinson said after training earlier this week. “We’ve got to try and pick up points on the road. The teams that are at the top of the table always manage to grind out even five (wins).”
Travel and the varied climates across North America are usually cited as reasons why MLS clubs struggle in front of opposing fans. No club in the last two seasons has won more away games than it lost â€” New York City FC was 7-7-3 in 2016, while Toronto FC was 6-6-5.
Some coaches try to grind out draws on the road, as Vancouver did in 2014 with its nine ties, but the Whitecaps feel they’re more suited to attack opponents away from home, similar to the style they try to employ at B.C. Place Stadium.
The results have just yet to materialize.
“We go after games on the road. As I player, I’m OK with that,” said Williams. “It shows that we’re not afraid of anybody.”
Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted said he likes seeing his teammates pressing on opponents’ fields.
“Our strength is to possess the ball, to go forward and try to create chances,” he said. “One win is better than two draws. If we go in with that mindset hopefully that will pay off in the long run.”
Vancouver is hoping to cash in sooner rather than later with a trip to Montreal to take on the Impact (1-2-4) set for Saturday before a four-game road trip continues with visits to Colorado and Houston.
The Whitecaps’ two away losses this season prior to the Portland defeat â€” both goals by the Timbers were partly due to Vancouver miscues â€” came with excuses after Ousted was sent off at San Jose before a setback against Real Salt Lake in a blizzard, but their road woeful road numbers over the last 10 months don’t lie.
“At the end of the day you’re going to get more points if you have the right mentality,” said defender Jordan Harvey. “That’s something that two years ago we had. Last year, we were lacking a little bit. This year the way we’ve approached games on the road, I think has been spot on.”
Spot on, except on the scoreboard.
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press