Santa Clara, CA – Vancouver Whitecaps FC can establish a new MLS record shutout streak to start a season at the San Jose Earthquakes, but a win Saturday could still be out of their reach.
Vancouver has not allowed a goal in four games, a span of 360 minutes, and is just 61 minutes off the mark set by Red Bull New York in 2007. But while their defense has been great, the Whitecaps' offense has been nearly silent.
Whitecaps FC (2-0-2) have just three goals this year, and two of those were in a season-opening win against the expansion Montreal Impact. With no goals over their last two games, and 202 minutes overall, don't expect a turnaround soon.
The Earthquakes (3-1-0) have allowed just one goal this season, and that was a penalty kick in their one loss, 1-0 to the Houston Dynamo. The most recent win - 1-0 at Seattle Sounders FC - proved coach Frank Yallop has a good side.
"I thought we deserved a victory. It's not often you can say that. I think it was a well-earned three points on the road, which is difficult to do in our league," Yallop said.
Last year, San Jose won just three games on the road, but its win over Seattle was its second straight. San Jose beat Toronto FC, 3-0, in its previous game.
And with Chris Wondolowski, who has four goals in four games, San Jose has the one player on the field who could make the most of a rare opportunity at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Over his last nine games dating back to last year, Wondolowski has eight goals as he continues to prove he's one of the best strikers in MLS. Wondolowski has been impressed by the Earthquakes, but expected the team to play well.
"Even though it took a bit of time, [once] we started gelling, I knew we have something special," Wondolowski said after the Seattle game. "We had a talk at the beginning of the year, and we have high expectations of ourselves.
"This win doesn't make me any more of a believer or any less. I believed in our team from the get-go."
Vancouver has also been a different team, but after opening with wins over the Impact and Chivas USA, the Whitecaps have settled for scoreless draw against D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union.
"Four clean sheets in a row, those are all positive things, but to build the kind of team we want to build," Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie said, "we've got to have higher expectations than that."
Vancouver had the fewest goals scored in league play last season and even with Sebastien Le Toux on board this season, the club's scoring woes have continued so far.
"Obviously we're working on it in terms of going forward and creating chances. At the end of the day, I've built two or three teams in the past and I've always found this is the part that takes a little bit longer to get clicking," Rennie said.
"The most important thing is that you're competing and organized and hard to play against, picking up points and picking up wins. We're not clicking yet, but we're doing well."
Most disturbing for Rennie is that Vancouver has not even had a shot on goal in either of its last two matches, something that has to change for the team to turn shutouts into wins.
"I don't think we take enough chances," Vancouver midfielder John Thorrington said. "We play a more cautious pass rather than a more threatening pass, or try to make an extra pass rather than get a shot on target.
"Our shot attempts and shots on target aren't anywhere near they should be, and that's a function of many different things."