Action from the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League game between the host Vancouver Whitecaps (white jersey) and Sporting Kansas City on August 23, 2016. (Photo: Mexsport)
KANSAS CITY, Kansas -- The Vancouver Whitecaps can become the first team to book a spot in the 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals when they visit Sporting Kansas City Tuesday night.
A Group C win would boost the Whitecaps (2W-0D-0L, 6 points) would make it mathematically impossible for either Central FC (0-1-1, 1) and Sporting (0-1-1, 1) to finish in first place.
Although his side recorded a 3-0 SCCL home victory over Kansas City on August 23, Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson isn't expecting a cakewalk over his Major League Soccer rival this time around.
"KC is a difficult place to go, we know that," Robinson said. "We've been there twice already. But we'll be up for a scrap."
The Whitecaps lost both of their games against host SKC at Children's Mercy Park earlier this season, falling 2-1 on March 12 and dropping a 2-0 decision on August 20.
Vancouver has been bolstered by the return of six players from World Cup qualifying duty. Midfielder Christian Bolaños scored two goals in Costa Rica’s 3-1 home win over Panama on September 6.
Robinson noted that Bolaños played "at an exceptionally high level.”
He held out two players who could see action and play pivotal roles against Kansas City -- Panama striker Blas Perez and Canada midfielder-defender Marcel de Jong -- who played in qualifiers as well.
"We mixed up our roster to get a very good result," Robinson commented.
Clinching a quarterfinal spot can only help the lift the spirits of the seventh-place Whitecaps (9-7-13, 40) in their quest of reaching the MLS playoffs. The top six teams in each conference qualify.
"II have full faith in that group of players in there, I really have," Robinson concluded. "They have fantastic ability. When you lose games it's easy to point the finger at people and blame. We don't do that as a group. I don't do that as a coach. I genuinely believe that you can make your own luck and you keep going. The rewards will come."
One might come as early as Tuesday.