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Whitecaps FC-Union Preview

By MATT BECKER

STATS Senior Writer

(AP) -- The Vancouver Whitecaps are off to a strong start, but realize they can get better.

The Philadelphia Union also have plenty of room for improvement, something clearly evident from their record.

After being shut out last weekend, the Whitecaps hope to generate some offense when they visit the winless Union in their lone meeting of the season Saturday.

Vancouver (2-0-1) has opened with three consecutive shutouts and is the league's only team yet to surrender a goal.

In a scoreless draw with D.C. last Saturday, Joe Cannon looked sharp in making three saves after leaving a 1-0 road win over Chivas USA on March 17 with a quadriceps injury. Cannon has 11 saves on the season while backup Brad Knighton has two.

The Whitecaps are two shutouts shy of their total from their inaugural season of 2011. Vancouver still has a way to go to break New York's record for consecutive scoreless minutes to open a season of 421, set in 2007.

"We've almost matched last year's total. It's a good start for us, and it's good for our confidence," Cannon told the official MLS website after tying United. "But at the same time, it would have been good for a win."

That would have required the Whitecaps to score. To do so, they would have needed to record a shot on goal - something they failed to do for the second time in team history.

Vancouver, which had a league-low 35 goals in 34 games last season, appeared to strengthen its offense in the offseason by acquiring Sebastien Le Toux from the Union.

Le Toux, who'll be making his return to Philadelphia, led the Union in scoring each of their first two seasons and has one of Vancouver's three goals this year.

"There's lots of room for improvement," coach Martin Rennie said. "But when you're not connecting in all those areas, you want to make sure you're hard to beat."

That hasn't been the case at all for the Union (0-3-0). Philadelphia has been outscored 6-2 in opening with three losses for the first time in its three-year history and is one of two teams without a point.

The Union, who have dropped a team-record six straight, are coming off a 1-0 loss to Chicago last Saturday.

"It's never easy to look at the standings after the game," coach Peter Nowak said. "They are pushing very hard. I can't say one bad thing about the effort.

"What we need to do now is believe it. We are a very good team, young but very good. We have the quality to win the games. That's my job right now to inject the confidence."

Playing captain Danny Califf could give his team a boost. Nowak has held Califf out of the last two games after he played all 90 minutes in the season opener.

The coach felt Califf wasn't 100 percent after undergoing offseason knee surgery, which upset the star defender. Califf is uncertain to be in the lineup for this game.

"I'm hopeful and I'm anxious," he said.

The Union and Whitecaps split two meetings last season with each winning 1-0 at home.

Updated March 30, 2012

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