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Vancouver Whitecaps hope to carry momentum into second half of MLS season

Vancouver Whitecaps' Jordan Harvey celebrates his goal against New York City FC during the second half of an MLS soccer game in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday July 5, 2017.

DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Vancouver Whitecaps head into the second half of the Major League Soccer season feeling happy about where they are and the direction the team is heading.

Defender Jordan Harvey believes they can get even better, starting with a win Wednesday night against the floundering L.A. Galaxy at the StubHub Center.

"At this point of the season we're content," said Harvey prior to the Whitecaps leaving for Southern California. "Are we happy with all the games? No.

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"We still have a lot of room for improvement but I think we are content with the place we are in right now knowing that there is room for improvement."

The Whitecaps hold down the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 24 points from a 7-7-3 record. They have played 17 games, two less then fifth place San Jose (26 points) and three less than fourth place Portland (27).

The Whitecaps are 2-1-2 in their last five games and are coming off an impressive 3-2 victory at home July 5 against New York City FC. Vancouver's roster has also been bolstered with players like striker Jordy Reyna returning from injury.

Head coach Carl Robinson likes the foundation the Whitecaps have laid so far this season but knows work needs to be done. His team has allowed three more goals than it has scored and has been guilty of making costly mistakes in its own end.

"We need to tighten up a little bit at the back," said Robinson. "We've conceded a few too many goals recently and (we need) to be a little bit more clinical in the final third.

"The areas we need to improve on are the general basics in football."

Harvey said the Whitecaps' play has turned ragged at times, especially in a 4-0 loss to Chicago and a 2-2 draw against expansion Minnesota in a game where Vancouver led 2-0 at half time.

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"We've given up some bad goals, we need to crack down on that as a team," he said. "There are times when we don't get enough quality chances in front of the goal.

"It's just cleaning up our game. I think at times we've been sloppy and that needs to change."

Besides their MLS schedule, the Whitecaps also played four CONCACAF Champions League games and two Canadian Championship matches this year. Being eliminated from both those competitions allows Vancouver to focus on league play.

"Now we have a chance to focus on every single game and go out and get three points," said goalkeeper David Ousted. "This is going to be such a tight conference we need all the points we can get."

The Galaxy are eighth in the West with 22 points from a 6-8-4 record. They lost 5-2 against Manchester United in a friendly Saturday and have not won at home since April 7.

In MLS play the Galaxy have one win in their last six games and were beaten 6-2 at home by Real Salt Lake in their final match before the recent Gold Cup break.

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The Whitecaps have struggled on the road against L.A., managing just one win and a draw in nine matches at the StubHub Center.

Robinson said his team can't head into the match thinking the Galaxy will be easy pickings.

"I think it's going to be a very difficult game for us," he said.

"They're a very dangerous team. They have attacking players, key players in key areas that can hurt any team in this league. We will not underestimate them. We know they will want to bounce back."

Harvey said L.A. has something to prove.

"It's still the L.A. Galaxy," he said. "They are a quality team. We're going to have to be at our best."

Galaxy coach Curt Onalfo got some good news on the weekend when midfielder Jermaine Jones and defender Daniel Steres returned from injury to play against Man United.

The Whitecaps will be without Sam Adekugbe, Alphonso Davies, Marcel de Jong and Russell Teibert, who are all playing for Canada at the Gold Cup. Defender Kendall Waston has been called up by Costa Rica.

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