The Vancouver Whitecaps take on the LA Galaxy in MLS action on Saturday. Here is our preview ahead of that one.
After a short break, they’re ready to try and break their slump.
In the midst of an 8-game winless run, not a whole lot has gone right as of late for the Vancouver Whitecaps, who have picked up just 2 points out of a possible 24 in their last 8 games, with their last win coming over 2 wins ago on May 8th, when they beat CF Montreal.
Over that span, they’ve been outscored 19-7, have dropped 6 points from winning or tying positions, and just have overall not been up to the standard required to be a playoff team in MLS.
Hit with a depleted roster, as a mix of injuries and international absences have often kept out half of what some might consider regular starters from game action, it has been a rough few months for these ‘Caps, who are just 1 point off of last place in all of MLS.
Despite that, however, the ‘Caps have come out of this short 10-day break with a bit of optimism, as they get set to take on an LA Galaxy side they narrowly lost to a few weeks ago, doing their best to remain positive through the dark clouds that have descended upon them.
“It’s going well,” Whitecaps head coach, Marc Dos Santos, said on Wednesday. “The two days were important for the team after the stretch we had with those three games in a row, there was some travel involved, to Seattle and to Dallas, so it was important to recharge.”
“The guys arrived with a good energy yesterday, and they were good, so the training was good today. We’ve not only been on the field, but also a lot in the video room, just preparing every detail for the LA Galaxy game.”
But while the ‘Caps have been hit hard with a rash of absences, as mentioned, with his team continuing to struggle, might Dos Santos feel like changes are in order soon?
Having recently switched to a 4-3-3 formation, the Whitecaps have mostly looked a lot better than they did in the 4-4-2 set-up that they started the year with, making it hard to pinpoint it as a source of the team’s problems.
So while a few roster changes here and there might be in order for this game, especially with the return of midfielder Michael Baldisimo from injury, Dos Santos doesn’t want to play around with his set-up too much, instead electing to make key adjustments to his system.
“When you start making too many changes, you also bring doubt into the team, especially on the tactical side,” Dos Santos said. “This is not a chessboard game, where you’re always changing things around.”
Despite Baldisimo’s recovery, though, the ‘Caps absence list remains filled with key names missing for Saturday, as goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau and striker Lucas Cavallini remain with Canada for the duration of the Gold Cup, while right back Bruno Gaspar remains out with an ankle injury.
Otherwise, there are a few players that aren’t fully fit yet, either meaning that the ‘Caps will once again look to some new faces to bring a lift to this team.
Against a Galaxy team that has been rolling to start the year, sitting tied for 3rd in MLS with 24 points, a big test awaits these ‘Caps on Saturday, and they’ll hope that their intel on their opponents can allow them to grab a result.
“Their team has a lot of speed wing, both wingers are players that are vertical and dangerous attacking the space,” Dos Santos said of the Galaxy. “They don’t press very high, it’s not a team that has this profile of pressing very high. They have a midfield that has quality, especially when they find the pockets between lines, and then in the pockets look for those players wide that are fast.”
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Caio Alexandre
So with that in mind, the ‘Caps will need a big performance from their midfield in order to have a chance against the Galaxy, as they learned in their clash a few weeks ago.
Because of that, we’ve got Alexandre as our player to watch for Saturday, as his offensive ability in midfield is going to be crucial if the ‘Caps are to have any chance at overcoming this solid LA side.
There’s a reason why Caio Alexandre is among one of the best progressive midfielders in MLS when it comes to his passing, as he is supremely talented on and off the ball, and the Whitecaps will need him to bring the best version of himself to this clash against their fellow Western Conference foes.
Elsewhere, here are some other storylines to keep an eye out for in this game.
First, it’s important to note how strange this scheduling is for both teams, as for the second time in less than a month, the Whitecaps are hosting the Galaxy in a ‘home’ game.
Even more frustrating for the ‘Caps?
That this game isn’t at ‘home’, as it is actually in Utah, where they remained stationed down in the US, which is also where their other home game against the Galaxy (and all other home games this year to date) was played.
Doubly the more frustrating for Vancouver?
They could’ve probably played this game in Vancouver, too, especially considering that fellow Canadian sides Toronto FC and CF Montreal are making their grand returns to Canada this weekend, playing at their home stadiums in front of fans for the first time all year.
But because the Whitecaps sold tickets for this game and their next ‘home’ game on Tuesday, July 20th against the Houston Dynamo, they remain stuck in Utah for at least these two matches, before hopefully finally returning home on Wednesday, July 28th, when they play Austin at a TBD venue.
Imagine all 3 Canadian teams returning to their home markets the same weekend, though, marking a big step in a return to normal? It would’ve been magical, but unfortunately for Vancouver, they’re left to watch their other 2 Canadian sides revel in the opportunity from afar.
No pressure, kid:
Lastly, it’s hoped that 22-year-old ‘Caps goalkeeper, Thomas Hasal, can have a more triumphant performance on Saturday, as he was hung out to dry in his first start of the season against Real Salt Lake 10 days ago, conceding 4 in a 4-0 rout that could’ve been a lot worse had it not been for his own efforts.
Having not played since September of 2020 due to an injury and the return of Crepeau this year, it was a tough way for Hasal to return to action, especially after having done so well in his rookie season last year.
So hopefully for his sake, his team can rally around him and make his life a bit easier on Saturday, helping him get back into the win column once again, erasing the burn of what had to be a pretty tough RSL game to have to stew over.
Otherwise, it’ll be interesting to see how these two teams match up statistically on Saturday, as on paper, this matchup actually promises to be quite the high-octane one.
That’s reflected in terms of Expected Goals (xG), as the ‘Caps are currently averaging 1.16 xG for per game, compared to the Galaxy’s 1.40, but are conceding 1.74 xG per game, compared to Galaxy’s 1.65, showing that both teams tend to give up a lot of chances, with the Galaxy offering more of a threat offensively.
There’s a reason why the Galaxy average 50.2% possession, compared to the Whitecaps measly 47.7%, because while LA tends to play a run-and-gun style that means chances at both ends, the ‘Caps tend to play a lot more ‘gun’ than they do ‘run’.
Naturally, considering those stats, the Whitecaps won the xG battle 1.31 to 0.66 when these two teams met a few weeks ago, while the possession was 51-49 in favour of the Galaxy, but it’s to be seen if that’s more of an indicator of the ‘Caps finally improving, or the Galaxy having an off-night.
Record: 2W-7L-3D (9 PTS)
Head Coach: Marc Dos Santos
Record: 8W-4L-0D (24 PTS)
Head Coach: Greg Vanney
Vancouver Whitecaps 1-2 LA Galaxy
So now, it’ll be curious to see what sort of matchup these two longtime foes put up, but if there’s one thing to sure, it shouldn’t be short on entertainment.
On one side, you’ve got a team hungry to maintain the success they’ve started the year with, as they’ve done well to forget the stink of a tough 2020 season. On the other, you’ve got a team whose campaign is quickly swirling down the toilet, meaning that they will want to fight tooth and nail to stop that from happening.
Can the underdogs rescue a bit of pride and change that? Or will the Galaxy cruise to an eventual result, as they did a few weeks ago?
We’ll find out Saturday, as the MLS season continues to hit midseason form here.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs LA Galaxy, Saturday, July 17th, 2021, 19:00 PDT, 22:00 EDT (Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy)