VANCOUVER — The road has not been kind to the Vancouver Whitecaps this season.
Three months into the 2022 campaign, the 'Caps (3-7-2) have yet to earn a result away from B.C. Place, dropping six straight road games. They are the only Major League Soccer team without an away point this season.
It's a trend the club needs to reverse in short order, said defender Jake Nerwinski.
"I think everybody kind of knows it," he said. "It's been six games now that we haven't. And I think in order for us to make that leap into the playoff contention, we're gonna have to start getting points on the road."
Vancouver's next chance to change its fortunes comes Saturday when they visit Sporting Kansas City (3-7-4).
Both clubs sit at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, separated by just two points. A win in Kansas would see the 'Caps leapfrog SKC and get out of last place.
The 'Caps know what they need to do to move up the table, especially after beating Kansas City 2-1 back on April 2, Nerwinski said.
"(Sporting's) front four is always very dangerous, dynamic. Very good on the ball," he said. "But we are able to kind of exploit them (in the last game) with our press. So I think if we can do that, press them, keep them under pressure, we're gonna get chances off."
Kansas City has struggled this season, going winless in April and getting blown out 7-2 by the Portland Timbers earlier this month. But the team is unbeaten in its last three games across all competition (2-0-1), and is coming off a 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo in U.S. Open Cup action on Wednesday.
Sporting has been strong at Children's Mercy Park this year, boasting a 3-1-2 record.
The field was the site of a tough game for Vancouver in November, when SKC ousted the Whitecaps from the first round of the playoffs with a 3-1 victory.
The Whitecaps head to Kansas City on a high note, though, having edged Canadian Premier League side Cavalry FC on penalties Wednesday. The comeback win advances the 'Caps through to the semifinals of the Canadian Championship.
Down 1-0 midway through the second half, Vancouver equalized in the 85th minute, then hit every penalty to take the win.
The way the team played shows its recent growth, said head coach Vanni Sartini.
"If the game was played like a month ago, we would have lost," he said. "We found the resource, we found the strength, we found the willingness to come back and to score and even to have another couple of chances to finish before the extra time.
"So I think that on a mental side but also on the physical side, we are in a very good moment."
The win also marked a milestone for the 'Caps -- it's their first positive road result in any competition this year.
Now they'll look to repeat the success in MLS play on Saturday.
"Hopefully we broke the spell," Sartini said. "And for sure I'm gonna I'm gonna wear the same jumper that I had (on Wednesday.)"
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (3-7-2) AT SPORTING KANSAS CITY (3-7-4)
Saturday, Children's Mercy Park
TEIBERT OUT: Vancouver's Russell Teibert suffered an eye injury when he took a ball to the face in Wednesday's Canadian Championship match and is expected to miss Saturday's match. The 29-year-old Canadian midfielder usually wears the captain's armband for the 'Caps.
CANADA CALLING: Whitecaps striker Lucas Cavallini has been called up to the Canadian men's national team for a pair of CONCACAF Nations League matches in June. The 29-year-old forward will join Team Canada following Saturday's game and reunite with his 'Caps teammates before they visit FC Dallas on June 18.
SPORTING STAR: Johnny Russell scored his 44th regular-season goal for Kansas City on Sunday, moving him into third place on the club's all-time scoring chart.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press