The Vancouver Whitecaps have a mountain to climb.

No, they aren’t climbing Mount Everest but it feels like they are. The Whitecaps’ CONCACAF Champions League hopes look grim. They are down 3-0 in their quarterfinal tie against defending MLS Cup Champions LAFC.

They lost the first leg at home and need a 2017 Barcelona vs PSG like come back to advance to the semi-finals. The toughest part is that they will play at BMO Stadium (formerly Banc of California Stadium) in Los Angeles, a ground that is a tough place to play. The Whitecaps also have never won there since LAFC came into MLS in 2018.

Midfielder Ryan Gauld says he and his team need to put last week’s drubbing at BC Place in the rearview mirror.

“They deflated us a little bit with that result,” said Gauld to the media on Monday morning. “We have to believe we are good enough to get a result down there and we’ll do what it takes to get a result.”

The Whitecaps have won back-to-back games in MLS play and that includes two clean sheets. They beat CF Montreal on April 1 and the Portland Timbers 1-0.

“We need to be at our best and we have shown flashes over the last two or three games,” said Gauld.

“We prepared for the game like any normal game. We’re looking to be the best version of ourselves. We’ve got the players, we’ve got the quality but when we get the chances we need to put them away.”

Defender Tristan Blackmon played four seasons with LAFC from 2018 to 2021. He believes going down to LA is an opportunity to prove people wrong.

“Personally, I’ve been up against things like this before and have come out on both sides,” said Blackmon on being down 3-0 on aggregate. “It’s definitely a better feeling coming out on top and it’s something you want to be part of as a team going against big teams like this in an environment like this where you can show what you are made of and I think this is a great opportunity.”

“It’s very difficult of course,” said Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini on Tuesday evening’s match. “Not only because we are down 3-0, but because they are a very strong team. But I think we are playing very well now so why not believe in it?”

Sartini echoed Gauld and Blackmon’s statements in seeing the game in LA as an opportunity.

“I think it is a very good opportunity for us to change the picture of the Whitecaps of around the league,” said Sartini. ” I think we are a team now that should be kind of respected because we are playing a very high-quality game. Of course, we need to earn the respect by doing these performances not only at BC Place but in tough places like LAFC. Last week we were the best team for 60 minutes. Tomorrow we need to be the best team for 90 minutes. It’s the only way we can get away from there with a smile and a smile means winning the game.”

Sartini isn’t wrong about the Whitecaps need to be respected a bit more. The underlying numbers show Vancouver is one of the best teams in MLS. Of course, we are less than two months into the season but what the numbers show is impressive.

According to the official MLS website, the Whitecaps are first in MLS in total shots with 112, in a four-way tie for second in shots on target, first in corners taken with 56 and first in key passes with 59.

According to FotMob, the Whitecaps lead MLS in big chances created with 15. They are second behind the Seattle Sounders in expected goals with 13 and seventh in goals per match at 1.6.

Sartini expects to see an offensive Whitecaps team in LA.

“I’ll be honest, with how offensive we are going to play and with the offensive power LAFC has, we’re going to need to score more than three goals,” he said per Last Word on Sport’s Felipe Vallejo. “We’ll need to score four to five because they’ll probably get one.”

Denis Bouanga put on a show at BC Place in the first leg last week with two goals and an assist. He didn’t stop last weekend as he scored a hat trick for a 3-0 LAFC win over Austin FC. Bouanga was named to the MLS Team of the Week. Julian Gressel also was on there thanks to his performance and assist on Brian White’s goal against the Timbers.

Sartini and the Whitecaps know stopping Bouanga is key. But the Whitecaps head coach doesn’t his team to focus only on Bouanga.

“I really think if you prepare to try to stop one player, that player will do something to you regardless of that plan,” said Sartini per Vallejo. “The best way to stop the threat is to stop the service to them.”

The Whitecaps are going to need a Herculean effort in the second leg on Tuesday. Kickoff is at 7:15 PM Pacific and you can watch the game on OneSoccer.