It was the one question being asked over and over at Whitecaps training this past week. A question that was repeatedly posed last season, and the season before that and in the 2011 campaign before that.
"Why do the Whitecaps struggle so badly on the road?"
I've asked many players and team officials and fellow pundits that same question over the last three years, yet no one can really give a definitive answer. Searing heat, humidity and altitude are often mentioned.
You'd think crossing time zones would be really hard on players, except that the Whitecaps managed three wins and a draw from five eastern trips last year alone. They've actually exhibited more road futility in the West.
Playing surfaces can be unique in makeup and dimension but not drastic. Penalty areas are the same size, as are the goals, and yet the visiting team always seems to start the game with a statistical disadvantage. Some Las Vegas oddsmakers give MLS home teams a half goal advantage which represents a 10% edge, higher than any other Major North American Sport.
Coach Carl Robinson pointed out this week that teams who are great at home, usually get into the playoffs. But teams that collect points away are usually comfortably in the playoffs by the time autumn rolls around.
Nigel Reo Coker suggested that team spirit and camaraderie are the keys to success no matter where you play, and that this 2014 squad is capable of replicating its thrilling 4-1 win over New York away from BC Place.
Whitecaps supporters, who are showing up to more and more away games, just want a team that looks and plays similarly no matter the venue; something Martin Rennie couldn't come to grips with over his 2 seasons.
No venue has been a bigger obstacle for the Whitecaps than the one they visit on Sunday, when they play Chivas USA; co-tenants of the Stub Hub Centre with the LA Galaxy. In nine contests there, the Whitecaps have but one win, and two draws. They've scored just five times in Carson, while allowing 15 goals. With four games in SoCal this season (representing 11.7% of their entire schedule) taking more of those available 12 points might help reverse a trend that has seen the club win just seven out of 52 games away from Vancouver.