Quakes Quest: Vancouver Whitecaps preparing for ‘important’ 6-point clash with San Jose Earthquakes in journey to make the playoffs

The Vancouver Whitecaps are getting set to take on the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday at BC Place in MLS action. Here’s our preview ahead of that one. 

The show continues to roll on. 

As they get set to play their 3rd game in 7 days on Saturday, the Vancouver Whitecaps are just trying to stay optimistic despite a long week, one that’s really ground them down. 

After beating FC Dallas last Saturday, the ‘Caps had to fly 4.5 hours down to Houston in the middle of the week to take on the Houston Dynamo, before flying back to Vancouver where they’re getting set to take on the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday. 

But that’s just par for the course in MLS, a league notorious for its brutal travel, and the ‘Caps got a taste of that this week, whether they liked to or not. 

In a situation like that, all you can do is either take it personally, or just take it on the chin and move on, and the ‘Caps are choosing to move forward by doing the latter, trying to make the most of the situation. 

“The mood was very good, I expected the guys to be less energetic than I found it,” Whitecaps interim head coach, Vanni Sartini, said on Friday. “It was very hard, the travel back, we had a long odyssey, with the customs it was a bit long, but today was very good.”

“We have to be completely honest, we didn’t have time to prepare for the game, so that’s pure and simple (facts), but considering the circumstances, I’m satisfied.”

But despite that, the ‘Caps managed to keep their strong run of form going in the middle of the week, picking up a 0-0 draw against Houston, helping them remain undefeated in 15 of their last 17 games in MLS play. 

It might not have been the win that they desired, but considering the circumstances, they’ll take it, as you can never frown at a road point in MLS, especially not one in those conditions. 

Because of that, though, it only ramps up the pressure on their next game, that clash with San Jose, which is basically a must-win game for the ‘Caps. 

Sitting 3 points behind the 7th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and just 1 point ahead of the ‘Quakes, a win could not only push them towards that vaunted playoff line, but put a bit of distance between them and San Jose, especially considering that they hold a game in hand on their Californian rivals. 

“It’s a big 3 points at home,” ‘Caps striker, Brian White, noted: ‘It’s coming down to the end here, we need as many points as we can get to make the playoffs, especially with the way the table is falling into place right now, so it’s going to be a very important 3 points for us.”

Plus, seeing that San Jose had to also deal with playing in midweek, where they suffered a tough 3-1 defeat to Western Conference leaders, the Seattle Sounders, in San Jose, there’s no reason why the ‘Caps can’t inflict some more misery on them in this one, especially at home. 

So considering all of that, the ‘Caps are well aware of what’s at stake for them in this game, and are looking to prepare for it accordingly. 

“It’s difficult, but to be completely honest, they are in the same situation as us,” Sartini said of his upcoming opponents. “They played on Wednesday too, so they didn’t have much time to focus on this game, because now it’s game-after-game-after-game, so the simple thing for us to keep it simple for the players, not make too many changes, and keep the same structure that we’ve been working on the last few games and try to get better consistency.”

But while a lot of focus will be on what the ‘Caps bring to the table in this game, and rightfully so, what can they reasonably expect from the Earthquakes in this one? 

And to answer simply, using just one word – chaos. 

Historically one of the most chaotic teams in MLS since head coach Matias Almeyda has come in charge, they’re not shy with high-scoring games, which haven’t exactly been the ‘Caps MO in recent years. 

Because of that, they’ve had their fair share of struggles against San Jose, winning 1 of their last 6 games against the ‘Quakes, and they’re well aware of that history, something they’ll look to change as soon as Saturday. 

“My pregame speech will be all about staying in the game,” Sartini explained. “If we score a goal or if they score a goal, because they’re a team that can be down 3-1, and then they’ll win 4-3, or the other way around.”

“So it’s a team that’s very intense, and how you match up with a very intense team is to not try to do the same thing that they do, so don’t go man-to-man, keep the space very compact, let them make all of the rotation, and then try to win the ball back and exploit the space that they’re going to give us. Because we all know that they’re going to attack us with a lot of men, and when we have the ball, we need to be patient, make a lot of movement without the ball, but if the opening is not there, to be patient, the ball back and play.”

“They’re a tough side, very physical,” ‘Caps midfielder, Ryan Gauld, added. “They’ve got a lot of good players going forward, so we know that they pose a threat because they’re capable of scoring a lot of goals, but we have to worry about what we can do first, and we know that if we can produce a similar level of performance against Dallas it gives us a good chance to come away with a few points.”

And at the same time, while this might be a matchup that has troubled the ‘Caps in recent years, things are changing. 

In their last 2 matchups with the ‘Quakes, they’ve won 1 and drawn 1, and both of those came under old head coach, Marc Dos Santos, who was fired earlier this summer. 

Considering that the ‘Caps have looked like a new team under Sartini, that bodes well for them in this matchup, giving them a bit of an edge. 

So while the ‘Quakes are a bit of a reinvented team as well, finding a bit more defensive structure as of late, something we aren’t used to seeing from them, the ‘Caps are confident in their ability to break them down, and will be relying on using that to their advantage on Saturday. 

“They’re more positional than they were last year,” Sartini admitted. “When they were man-to-man all over the place, so we need to work on the thing that we are doing well, and that’s a lot of movement without the ball, and a lot of structured movements in order to give options for the players with the ball, but again, I think the key is patience.”

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Brian White

White celebrates a goal against RSL at BC Place earlier this season (Keveren Guillou)

But while a lot of focus will be on the tactical matchup between these 2 sides, games like this can tend to be decided by the individual, and one such player that the ‘Caps will be hoping for a big game from in this one is White, who has been in good form as of late. 

With 4 goals in his last 8 MLS games, he’s been the ‘Caps most consistent scoring threat the past few games, and they’ll need him to keep that form heading into this game. 

Considering that DP striker Lucas Cavallini is a doubt for this game with a knee injury, White will get a chance to lead the line once again on Saturday, but seeing how good his form has been as of late, that’s not a bad thing at all for the ‘Caps. 

‘Caps injury report: 

Lastly, though, it’s worth noting that the ‘Caps will be missing some key names for this clash, as Erik Godoy remains out, while Cavallini, Cristian Gutierrez and Ranko Veselinovic are all doubtful and unlikely to feature. 

It looks like the latter 3 are all in contention to return as of next week, and Godoy isn’t that far behind them, which is good news, as it looks like the ‘Caps are about as close to having a fully healthy roster as we’ve seen for a while now. 

They won’t have that luxury on Saturday, of course, but it’s nice to see that the prospect is now on the horizon, at least. 

Projected XIs: 

Vancouver Whitecaps: 

Record: 8W-8L-10D (34 PTS)

Head Coach: Vanni Sartini

San Jose Earthquakes: 

Record: 8W-10L-9D (33 PTS)

Head Coach: Matias Almeyda

2021 Matchup: 

San Jose Earthquakes 0-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

Looking Forward: 

So now, the ‘Caps will look to get the most out of this game, knowing how big it could be for their playoff hopes. 

If they can pick up a win, they’ll be sitting pretty, but if they don’t, things might get interesting for them, and not in a good way, as they head into their remaining 7 games that await them after this one. 

Because of that, look for them to come out strongly in this one, showing their credentials of being a potential playoff team, of which they’ve mostly shown over the last few weeks, but need to do so to the best of their ability in this one. 

This won’t be an easy game to navigate, but seeing the ‘Caps recent success at home, you have to fancy their chances versus San Jose here, and they’re aiming to back that confidence up with a good performance on Saturday. 

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs San Jose Earthquakes, Saturday, October 2nd, 2021, 19:00 PDT, 22:00 EDT (BC Place, Vancouver)

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