VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps are one of just two teams to have beaten the top squad in Major League Soccer this season, and they know repeating the feat won't be easy.
Los Angeles FC (12-2-4) has been dominant, trouncing opponents across the league en route to collecting a table-topping 40 points.
The team also has yet to lose at home, a trend the 'Caps (4-7-8) will attempt to buck when they visit Banc of California Stadium on Saturday.
"The degree of difficulty to win in L.A. will take a perfect game. And we're all aware of that," Vancouver coach Marc Dos Santos said at training this week.
Dos Santos knows better than most, having spent last season as an assistant to L.A.'s coach, Bob Bradley.
Knowing that they handed the MLS leaders their first loss of the year back in April will help the Whitecaps confidence going into the match up, Dos Santos said.
"It gives you the belief that you can do it again," he said. "But I know (the stadium) well. It's going to take more than it did at home."
Vancouver learned from the previous meeting and they'll need to apply those lessons in California, said centre back Derek Cornelius.
"We have experience against them," he said. "We're confident in what their weaknesses are and we're aware of what their strengths are. So we've got to use that to our advantage and try to get a result."
Cornelius is one of four players who returned to the Whitecaps this week after spending more than a month playing for Team Canada at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Vancouver extended their unbeaten streak to seven games while the Canadian contingent was away, but were finally downed by the Seattle Sounders in stoppage time last weekend.
The squad had ample scoring opportunities in the game, Dos Santos said, but made the wrong decisions and couldn't finish.
While the team has been defensively sound for much of the year, the coach still wants more from his offence.
Vancouver continues to linger at the bottom of the Western Conference standings in goals with 21. Meanwhile, L.A. has 44 goals in 18 outings.
"We have to be better in the last third. We have to hold the ball better, we can't rush things," Dos Santos said, adding that they need to exercise patience and look for angles that they're likely to score from.
"So there's many little things that are going to improve and allow us to score more."
Now into the second half of the MLS season, every team in the league is feeling the pressure to post wins, said midfielder Andy Rose.
"Of course we understand that to get above the line we need to pick up three points in games and find a way to go up 1-0, go up 2-0, finish plays off in the final third and still stay solid at the back," he said.
"So we're well aware of the situation. I think there's a clear understanding in what we need to do but still a belief in what we've done."
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (4-7-8) AT LOS ANGELES F.C. (12-2-4)
Saturday, Banc of California Stadium
STAY OR GO?: Dos Santos has said Whitecaps fans will know before Saturday's game whether left back Ali Adnan is staying with the club. The 25-year-old Iraqi defender joined the team in March on loan from Udinese in Italy. The deal expired on Sunday, but Adnan continued training in Vancouver this week.
CONTROLLING CARLOS: The 'Caps will be looking to stop L.A.'s offensive dynamo Carlos Vela, who leads MLS in goals (17), shots (92) and shots on goal (36). The Mexican forward is also tied for the league's second-most assists with 11.
TIRED LEGS: Fatigue could be a factor for L.A., who'll be playing their third game in eight days. Most recently, the squad downed Kansas City S.C. 5-1 on Wednesday. The 'Caps last played on June 29, suffering a 1-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press