The Vancouver Whitecaps take on the LA Galaxy on Wednesday, as they look to snap a 4 game losing streak. Here’s our preview ahead of that one.
Make no mistake, this could prove to be huge.
For the Vancouver Whitecaps, it feels early to suggest that their midweek clash with the LA Galaxy is a ‘must-win’ game in the context of their season, which is only 8 games old, but having lost 4 games in a row heading into Wednesday, a win couldn’t come at a better time for the ‘Caps.
A loss on Wednesday likely won’t be the difference between them making or missing out on the playoffs, but it would be a huge gut punch for a team quickly sliding down the Western Conference standings, where they sit tied for last as of writing.
Having started so brightly, it’s been a return to a normal that the ‘Caps had gotten all too used to in the past few years, and they’re looking to get out of that feeling as soon as possible.
“The first thing is the mindset (that) we want to go next.,” Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos said of the skid on Monday. “We are going through the game against ourselves, but we have to turn the page right away because there’s this game Wednesday, so the mindset is important in how we deal with adversity, and soccer.”
The good news for the Whitecaps heading into this game?
That they’ll officially be at ‘home’, as all 4 of their consecutive losses came in away games, as they continued their struggles in those matches. Dating back to last year, they only have 1 win in their last 14 away games, yet have 8 wins in 12 of their ‘home’ games over that same time span, despite playing 9 of those home games in Portland and Salt Lake due to the pandemic.
So clearly, a return ‘home’ comes at a pretty good time for these ‘Caps, as they’ll look to avoid matching their longest losing run since the summer of 2019, where they lost 5 games in a row in June and July of that year.
“This is a (tough) league, the league is hard,” Dos Santos said. “In the league, you have runs that are difficult, we just had four away games that were hard for us, and we have to look at the positive things of these four away games and the things we need to be better at to get results, and that’s what they did today.”
But while returning home will certainly give the ‘Caps a boost, a tough Galaxy side sits in front of them in this game, as LA head into this game 4th in the West with 5 wins and 3 losses through 8 games, as they’ve quickly emerged as a contender in the Western Conference.
After missing out on the playoffs last year, the Galaxy made some big changes this offseason, bringing in a new head coach in Greg Vanney, which along with some new additions on the field, has quickly made the Galaxy a team to fear again.
Led by veteran Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez up front, the Galaxy are playing with swagger again, headlined by some quality players across the lineup, including Efrain Alvarez, Jonathan Dos Santos and Sebastian Lletget in the midfield, Sega Coulibaly and Julian Araujo at the back, and their new goalkeeper and standout Jonathan Bond in goal.
And despite their obvious talent, they’re playing like a team, employing an unselfish offence that focuses on getting the ball to their talisman in Chicharito, something they didn’t do last year. As a result, their star striker has 7 goals and 1 assist in 8 games, which is a far cry from the 2 goals and 0 assists he had in 12 games last year.
For a ‘Caps team that has struggled to defend these past few games, it’s going to be a stiff test in that department, which is just one among many areas that Dos Santos and his staff are keeping an eye on ahead of Wednesday.
“If you look at the Galaxy in the last two years I felt that they weren’t as strong in every line,” Dos Santos said. “And the defence (now) got better, the options they got in the back improved their backline, the options they brought in the midfield and in the wings improved that, and then the sum of the parts improved.”
“When you build a team, it’s like that, when you have one player in every line, improving the line, it affects the next one, and I think the sum of their parts have improved.”
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Erik Godoy
So because of that, our player to watch in this one is Whitecaps centre back Erik Godoy, who is going to have his hands full with Chicharito, who is known for his creative runs inside the box.
Normally, that’s a battle where you’d expect Godoy to do well in, but he has a few question marks swirling around him right now, as he continues to work back from an injury that has limited him to 2 starts in 8 games so far.
Because of that, this game will be a good barometer of where Godoy is at in his recovery, as he appears to be fully healthy, but putting up a strong performance while dealing with Chicharito would be a pretty good example of him being fully recovered.
For the Whitecaps sake, they’ll hope he is, because if not, they could be in for a long night.
Elsewhere, here are some storylines that stand out ahead of this clash.
As mentioned earlier, the ‘Caps are back ‘home’ in Utah for this game, as they’ll be the official home team for the first time in 5 games.
With their strong record in games where they’re listed as the home team, that’s huge, especially as they look to stop their losing skid.
And even more importantly, their ‘away’ game on the weekend was in Utah at Rio Tinto Stadium against Real Salt Lake, which is the stadium they’re currently using for home games, so they didn’t have to travel, either, giving them another advantage.
Because of all that, it’ll be interesting to see if that helps the ‘Caps reverse their fortunes, returning to winning ways for the first time since the beginning of May.
And a good way for them to do that would be to start strong, as they’ve struggled in first halves this season, and that’s burned them on this recent losing skid.
Through 8 games, they’ve yet to score a first-half goal, and have been outscored 6-0 in the first 45 minutes of games this season, which isn’t good.
So for the ‘Caps, starting strong shouldn’t be something to consider doing, it’s a must, as it’d go a long way towards them reversing their fortunes.
Snap the skid:
Lastly, it’s important that the ‘Caps find a way to break their losing skid in this game, because if not, things aren’t looking good for them in the long term.
With their next two games coming on the road, first against the lone undefeated team remaining in MLS, the current Supporters Shield leaders, the Seattle Sounders, before then heading on a jaunt to Texas to take on FC Dallas in the muggy Texas heat, wins will be hard to come by in those games.
If they win this Galaxy game, though, they can head into those games with a bit of confidence, possibly allowing them to snatch a win or two.
If they don’t, however, heading to those games having lost 5 games in a row is a recipe for disaster, making it hard to imagine a scenario where they end those games with anything other than 7 consecutive losses in their back pocket.
But if the ‘Caps are to win, they’re going to have to buck what the numbers say, as the Galaxy come into this game as clear favourites in terms of numbers.
First looking at the advanced stats, the Galaxy are generating an average of 1.43 Expected Goals (xG) per game, and are averaging 51.6% of possession, which shows that they’re keeping the ball, and doing good things with it.
Compared to the ‘Caps, who are only averaging 47% possession and 1.17 xG per game, it’ll mean that they’ll be in tough to keep the Galaxy off the board.
Where Vancouver will have the advantage, however, is that the Galaxy are defensively porous, giving up 1.85 xG per game, 3rd-worst in MLS, which is significantly worse than the ‘Caps 1.63 xG that they’re giving up per game at the moment.
So while the Galaxy will be expected to control the game and generate chances, don’t discount the ‘Caps getting a few of their own, making this a potential 3-2 game.
For which side, though?
We’ll find out on Wednesday.
Record: 2W-5L-1D (7 PTS)
Head Coach: Marc Dos Santos
Record: 5W-3L-0D (15 PTS)
Head Coach: Greg Vanney
LA Galaxy 0-1 Vancouver Whitecaps
LA Galaxy 1-0 Vancouver Whitecaps
Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 LA Galaxy
But despite all of that, the goal is clear for the Whitecaps in this game – win at all costs.
Obviously, that’s the goal in every game, but now especially more than ever, especially with what lies ahead.
With their season slowly but surely slipping away from them, they need to grab back control of their destiny, and a win against the Galaxy would do that.
So with that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see how they come out on Wednesday, as they’ll need to prove that this skid isn’t fully reflective of what this team can do.
Based on what they’ve shown during this streak, it hasn’t been pretty, but they still got a good squad, but they just need to show that on the field.
No better time to do that against this solid Galaxy side, one where winning would certainly show that the ‘Caps aren’t as bad as they’ve made themselves out to be on this losing streak, capturing a bit of momentum in the process.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs LA Galaxy, Wednesday, June 24th, 2021, 19:30 PDT, 22:30 EDT (Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy)