After busy August, Whitecaps get a break before final push towards the playoffs

Source: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Source: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER – Tim Parker picked his NFL fantasy football team. Jordan Harvey spent time working on a baby nursery.

After a jam-packed August that included eight games in 29 days, the Vancouver Whitecaps were in the unfamiliar position of having some down time this week.

No one was complaining.

“We didn’t know what to do with ourselves,” said Parker, a 22-year-old rookie defender. “We did a fantasy football draft … I’m planning on winning that league.”

But where Parker and his teammates are really focused is building on a strong spring and summer in Major League Soccer that has seen the Whitecaps climb to second in the overall standings behind the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Vancouver finished last month 4-2-2 in all competitions, including a victory over the Montreal Impact for its first Amway Canadian Championship.

September will see the Whitecaps play just five times, with a 10-day break between their last game, a 2-0 loss at the Houston Dynamo on Aug. 29, before they host the Colorado Rapids next Wednesday.

“It’s nice to get these opportunities throughout a season. You come back in, everybody’s energized, really ready to get back at it,” said Harvey, a 31-year-old defender who spent some of his time off building baby furniture with he and his wife’s first child on the way.

“(The team is) just focusing on the good performances … we need to fine-tune a few things, but once we’ve done that I think we’ll be up and running again.”

Veteran midfielder Mauro Rosales said the break came at the perfect time for a squad that has worked hard to earn respect after not getting much of it coming into the season.

“We recharged,” said the 34-year-old. “We are really pleased about what happened in the last month. Now we have to move forward and keep our heads up and just move with the same mentality.”

After rotating players in and out of the lineup during that eight-game marathon, Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson said he hopes to settle into a relatively consistent starting 11 with just seven league matches remaining. He will be forced to make at least two changes next week after defender Kendall Waston and midfielder Matias Laba were both sent off in Houston.

“There were a number of other tackles I thought were worse in the game and they weren’t picked on or cautioned for,” said Robinson. “It is what it is.”

The Whitecaps sit second in the Western Conference behind L.A. with a game in hand and play all three of their league matches this month at home, where Vancouver is 7-4-1.

“We always believe in what we have,” said Rosales. “We always have faith in what we can do. We believe in our players and that we have can face anybody.”

The Whitecaps have made the playoffs twice since joining MLS in 2011 — getting knocked out in the first round both times — but aren’t getting ahead of themselves with the franchise’s first-ever post-season home game looking more and a more likely.

“For us, it’s just not getting content,” said Parker. “We want to keep pushing and we want to win more. I think that there’s a lot of hunger in this team and we know that we’re capable of winning.”

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