Whitecaps set to host Tigres in Champs League

VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps often find themselves practising in torrential rain.

There was a soggy training camp in Wales to start this season, and the weather hasn’t been much better on the West Coast as winter turned to spring.

But set to play the biggest match in club history, the Whitecaps won’t mind if things get a little wet against Mexican champions Tigres UANL on Wednesday as they look to turn around a 2-0 deficit in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal.

While the retractable roof at B.C. Place Stadium would normally be closed with showers in the forecast and temperatures expected to be around 10 C at kickoff, it will instead remain open in hopes of giving the home side a chilly advantage.

“We know we can make this an uncomfortable environment,” Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson said Tuesday. ”We’ll try and make it as cold as we can — that might be pretty helpful — but it comes down to 90 minutes of football.

“Snow, wind, hail (the roof will be) open.”

While the weather and the artificial playing surface could give the Whitecaps a slight edge, they face a monumental task, needing to score twice without conceding to at least force extra time in the aggregate series.

Even one away goal from Tigres would force the Whitecaps to put four past the visitors to advance.

“You’re always going to play on the edge of that danger zone,” said striker Fredy Montero, who scored in Vancouver’s first league win of 2017 on Saturday, a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy. ”Even if we’re winning 2-0, we know one (Tigres) goal will make it tough to come back.

“But this is soccer. That’s that beauty of the game. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Vancouver defended well for the first hour against in Monterrey on March 14 at the intimidating Estadio Universitario — a venue nicknamed “The Volcano” — before a Kendall Waston own goal in the 66th minute and an Eduardo Vargas strike in the 87th.

Tigres dominated possession, keeping the ball for more than 80 per cent of the match, but the Whitecaps had a couple of clear-cut chances where they failed to capitalize.

“We’re going to have to take some risks — sensible risks — at the right times, but we’ve got to keep the back door shut,” said Robinson. “(Against the Galaxy) we scored two goals in a minute.

“It shows the dynamic of a game can change within 60 seconds.”

No MLS team has ever won the CONCACAF Champions League, a competition that features clubs from North America, Central America and the Caribbean.

The Galaxy won the tournament in 2000 when it was known as the Champions Cup, but the last 11 combined winners have come from Mexico.

Vancouver is the third Canadian team to make the semis after Toronto FC in 2011-12 and the Montreal Impact, who reached the final, in 2014-15.

“It’s an unbelievably big game for this football club,” said Robinson. ”It’s a chance for us to create a next bit of history.”

Tigres’ star-studded roster boasts the likes of Andre-Pierre Gignac, a striker who made six appearances for France at Euro 2016, midfielder Guido Pizarro and Vargas, a forward with the Chilean national team.

Despite the high-priced talent on the other side, Robinson said he wants the Whitecaps embrace the moment.

“Some of these players will never, ever get opportunity to play against this level of quality of players again,” he said. ”Leave your stamp on the game.

“When you cross that while line, reputations go out through the window.”

Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted added he expects his team to press early in search of an opener that might sew a seed of doubt in the Mexican side.

“We need to get after them regardless of how good they are and the guys they have up front,” he said. ”We need to go and make them feel uncomfortable in cold, cold Canada.”

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