Carl Robinson walked into a number of intimidating venues as a player.
The head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps loved the atmosphere home fans created at the Millennium Stadium while he was a member of the Welsh national team.
He also loathed trips as an opponent to Liverpool’s Anfield â€” a cathedral of world soccer where it feels like supporters are breathing down your neck.
“They can put real pressure on you and make it real uncomfortable,” said Robinson.
While it won’t be Britain, the Whitecaps are expecting a similar experience on Tuesday night in Monterrey, Mexico, when they visit Tigres UANL in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semfinal.
The opening match of the two-game aggregate series is set for Estadio Universitario, a venue nicknamed “The Volcano.”
“It will be difficult, make no doubt about that,” Robinson said on a conference call Monday. “They’re going to have 40,000 (fans) and they are probably going to throw the kitchen sink at us in the first five, 10 minutes because I’m sure in their minds they would like to put the tie out of sight as soon as they can.”
Playing in Mexico has historically been a nightmare for Major League Soccer teams, who are a combined 2-42-8 in Champions League play. That’s two wins in 52 games.
“The scheduling has always probably favoured the Mexican teams from where they are in their season to where MLS teams are, but also the quality and the money and the salary cap details that we have to deal with that they don’t,” said Robinson. “It’s not rocket science. They probably do have better players than us across the board.”
The Whitecaps beat the New York Red Bulls 3-1 in the Champions League quarter-finals to move onto the last four of the competition that features teams from North America, Central America, and the Caribbean.
Vancouver is the third Canadian team to make the semis after Toronto FC in 2011-12 and the Montreal Impact in 2014-15.
“It’s something that a lot of players may never get again, so I want them to go out and enjoy it,” said Robinson. “I want them to go and relish it. I don’t want them to sit in the changing room after the game and think they’ve got any regret.
“It’s 90 minutes of football against a top Mexican team in a hostile environment.”
Robinson said it’s important the Whitecaps go on attack when they get the chance Tuesday.
“We don’t just want to sit deep and defend and try and soak up pressure minute after minute,” he said. “We want to try and be proactive in the middle third and the attacking third, but we also understand they’re probably going to have more of the ball than us.”
The Whitecaps possess talented youngsters like 16-year-old Alphonso Davies, but will lean the experience of Kendall Waston, Christian Bolanos and Fredy Montero, who has seven career goals in the competition, to help get them through the tough fixture.
“There will be a lot of nonsense going on,” said Robinson. “It’s important when things go against us, whether it’s a shocking call … we’ve got to be able to deal with that. Not get caught up in it, not feel like it’s us against the world and just keep our concentration and focus.”
The Whitecaps have a draw and a loss to open their MLS season, including Saturday’s 3-2 defeat in San Jose against the Earthquakes that saw Vancouver blow a 2-0 lead after goalkeeper David Ousted was sent off.
The rematch with Tigres goes April 5 at B.C. Place Stadium.
“It can’t be won over one leg, but it can certainly be lost,” said Robinson. “What we need to make sure is we’re very tight at the back, we’re very organized and disciplined, but that we set up as well because we feel they’re vulnerable in certain aspects of the game.
“If we set up correctly on the defensive side we believe we can catch them on the attacking side.”
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press