VANCOUVER — A difficult start to the Major League Soccer season is beginning to weigh on the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Five games in, the 'Caps (0-4-1) are still winless after they dropped a 2-0 decision to the L.A. Galaxy on Friday.
"This is a difficult time that we're in. You don't want to say early on that it's all about points but we've got to start getting points and we all know that. We've got to start scoring goals, get clean sheets," said midfielder Russell Teibert.
Despite another loss, Teibert said there are positives to be taken from the first 45 minutes of the match.
"We played an outstanding first half. We created a lot of chances, we were the better side," he said.
"You've got to capitalize on your chances because if you don't, it comes back to bite you. And that's what happened tonight."
The squad was able to contain Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the rest of the Galaxy's stars for much of the first half on Friday, but struggled coming out of halftime.
Ultimately, Ibrahimovic notched both a goal and an assist. Defender Daniel Steres also scored for the Galaxy (4-1-0).
Goalie Maxime Crepeau stopped one shot for the Whitecaps while his teammates blocked four others.
David Bingham had five saves for L.A., earning his first clean sheet of the year.
"I think we came out a little slow (in the second half) and we lost a bit of the momentum of the game. This can't happen. We just need to keep going," said 'Caps midfielder Felipe Martins.
The change in momentum was evident to L.A.'s star striker, too.
"In the first half, we were doing bad," Ibrahimovic said. "I think they gave 200 per cent in the first half because they looked tired in the second half. We took over more and more and we let them run more and more."
The Galaxy capitalized in the 63rd minute when Ibrahimovic sailed a ball to Steres in front of the Vancouver net and the 28-year-old headed the ball in to open the scoring.
L.A. added another goal in the 71st minute after defender Rolf Feltscher sent a high ball into the box from the right corner.
The six-foot-five Ibrahimovic leapt from a tangle in front of the net, knocked down the pass with his body, then fired the ball in past Crepeau.
"I think the only player in MLS that scores this goal is Ibrah," said Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos. "I think the way he comes up and chests that ball, I don't see another player scoring that goal."
Vancouver's best chance of the night came early after winger Lass Bangoura was hauled down in the box by Jorgen Skjelvik in the first minute.
Ali Adnan lined up for the penalty kick and tried to beat the Galaxy 'keeper with a low ball but Bingham gobbled up the attempt.
Missing the chance was tough on the team's confidence, Dos Santos said.
"It feels like it puts ourself down because we're thinking 'Can we get a break?' " he said.
Vancouver has struggled to find goals this year, scoring just four over their first five contests.
The group is getting chances but needs to find a way to capitalize, the coach said.
"We need to focus on our quality in the last third because in the first half (on Friday), we have enough chances to be up," Dos Santos said. "And then you can be up one or two and you're not. And then the game turns."
One fan left Friday's game with a unique memento. Wearing a Swedish Ibrahimovic jersey, the man ran onto the turf in the 85th minute and up to his apparent idol.
"He came in, he wanted an autograph. I signed for him and I said 'Go out before they run after you.' So I think he went out. I didn't follow up. But at least he got my autograph," Ibrahimovic said.
The man was escorted off the field by security.
Next week, the Whitecaps will head to Chicago where they'll play the fire on April 12.
NOTES: L.A.'s Jonathan dos Santos and Romain Alessandrini were each handed yellow cards for taking down Vancouver midfielder Hwang Inbeom in the first half. Whitecaps Fredy Montero and Felipe Martins each received the caution for unsporting behaviour in the final minutes of the game. ... Bingham's last clean sheet came against Vancouver on Sept. 28 last year. ... Attendance at the game was 22,120, marking the 'Caps third soldout game of the year.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press