VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps are returning home and looking to put their road trip woes behind them.
The Whitecaps have not won away from B.C. Place in Major League Soccer regular-season play this year and have taken 14 of their 17 points at home.
"I think we should be getting more points than what we've got," said midfielder and captain Ryan Gauld.
Vancouver (4-5-5) is tied for fourth in goals in the Western Conference but has failed to turn that offence into consistent wins.
"We've dropped points when we shouldn't have, but if you look at the table there's a lot of teams close together," Gauld said.
The Whitecaps haven't picked up a win in eight straight league road matches and are tied for second in the division for the most draws, trailing the Colorado Rapids who have six.
The B.C. team also has just one more point after 14 games compared to this time last year, with players admitting their frustration at not making a bigger improvement.
"I think we need to look at our ability this year and how we've jelled compared to last year, we would want more points, 100 per cent," said defender Tristan Blackmon.
Head coach Vanni Sartini was outspoken in his criticism of the referee in the 3-1 loss to St. Louis City SC on Saturday, saying the Missouri club had 12 players on its team and called the officials' performance "shameful."
He followed that by adding he was expecting a letter from the league apologizing for the refereeing performance.
"It looked like the referee was a player for them," he said following the loss.
The league announced Tuesday evening it was fining Sartini an undisclosed amount for violating its public criticism policy for his comments following the match.
It's not the first time Sartini has critiqued the league's officiating. He previously criticized the referee's performance in Vancouver's match against FC Dallas in March.
Sartini said Tuesday that he was aware of and understood his players' frustration.
"We need to be better. It's not easy to channel the frustration in a positive way. It's easy to channel the thing we do, which is trust in the process," he said. "Everyone can see we're underachieving, I would say, and not because we're not playing well."
He also refused to say his team had been unlucky with its results.
"Luck is like religion, it's a senseless concept … we have to be better at finishing our chances," he said.
Major League Soccer announced Tuesday the Whitecaps violated the league's mass confrontation policy during Saturday's match and would be issued an official warning.
Blackmon, Ranko Veselinovic, Luis Martins, Andres Cubas, Deiber Caicedo and Levonte Johnson have all been issued an undisclosed fine for their role in the incident.
The Whitecaps have a four-game homestand, including the Canadian Championship final against Montreal CF, with an 11-day break before their next road match.
"We have to get as many points as we can," said Blackmon. "We've shown how good we've been at home."
Vancouver plays the Houston Dynamo (5-3-5) on Wednesday, with the Texas club sitting one point ahead of the Whitecaps in the Western standings.
It's the first meeting of the season for the two sides.
Houston are one of the most solid teams at the back, conceding 12 goals, second least in the conference.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (4-5-5) VS HOUSTON DYNAMO (5-3-5)
HOME HAPPINESS: The Whitecaps are unbeaten in their last six MLS home matches (4-0-2), scoring 12 goals and keeping four clean sheets during that span.
ROAD WOES FOR HOUSTON: The Dynamo have only won one of their last 13 away matches in MLS play, a record dating back to last season.
MILESTONE APPEARANCES: Goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka reached 200 professional appearances at the club level in the win over Pacific FC on May 24 while Gauld reached 300 professional appearances at the club level during Saturday's loss to St. Louis.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2023.
Nick Wells, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly stated the Whitecaps have the same number of points through 14 games as they did last year. In fact, they have one more point.