Saturday night at BC Place, the Vancouver Whitecaps will kick-off against CF Montreal at 7:30PM Pacific time.
The Vancouver Whitecaps are still in search of their first win in this young MLS season, and while Montreal does have a single win to their name, pretty much everything else has gone wrong for the Quebec team, as they currently sit dead-last in the East with just three points from four matches thus far.
After three straight goalless losses to start the season, Montreal roared back from a 2-1 deficit against the Philadelphia Union with two extra-time goals to secure a 3-2 victory on March 18th. It probably helped that the Union went down a man in the 69th minute, but at that point, Montreal needed whatever luck they could get to kick start their season.
The underlying numbers for CF Montreal don’t paint a very flattering picture either. They are 2nd to last in both xGF and xGA in the East so far this season, so their poor start does not appear to be down to bad luck alone. Other than Romell Quioto, not a single player for CF Montreal has eclipsed 1.0 xG or xA, so chance creation has definitely been a problem for this team.
After some rough goalkeeping last season, their duo between the sticks has been much better so far this year, as young Canadians James Pantemis and Johnathan Sirois have put in solid showings. At the moment, the 21-year-old CPL graduate Sirois has been thrust into the starting spot after an injury to Pantemis in the opener. With the departure of Alistair Johnston to Celtic, the top choice back three for Montreal so far has been Joel Waterman and Kamal Miller in the wide spots, with Rudy Camacho positioned centrally. In the midfield, Victor Wanyama has been a constant, but otherwise they have struggled to find a core group, especially as Samuel Piette and Aaron Herrera have struggled for fitness (although both could be back this weekend). Up front, Romell Quioto, as mentioned, has been the most consistent performer. After the departure of Kei Kamara and Bjørn Johnsen, no forward other than Quioto is over the age of 24, so I think there’s going to be some early season growing pains there. In total, CF Montreal is a really young team, even by MLS standards, with an average squad age of just 23.9.
Looking at Vancouver, as mentioned, they are still seeking their first three-point result at home. Although they dominated the possession and chances in Minnesota, they still needed late-game heroics to eke out a single point which is concerning given how depleted the Loons were. That being said, I was encouraged by Vancouver’s confidence and command in possession, something we have not seen from Vancouver teams in a really long time. It will also help that Vancouver will once more have the services of DP midfielder Andres Cubas, who is back from international duty. Ryan Gauld did pick up a hamstring issue on the road, so we’ll see how his status progresses over the course of the week.
Overall, I would not expect too many changes to the starting XI for Vancouver. Beyond Cubas, perhaps Javain Brown is re-introduced depending on his fitness levels after his time with Jamaica. Another consideration for Vancouver going forward is their upcoming midweek matchup with LAFC in the Champions League on April 5th. Will Vanni rest any players strategically this weekend with that match in mind? It remains to be seen.
#VWFC training on a lovely sunny March morning at UBC.
Injury updates for Saturday night.
Alessandro Schöpf out
Sergio Cordova out
— Har Journalist (@HarJournalist) March 28, 2023
I think this is a very winnable match for Vancouver, but I said the same about last weekend in Minnesota. If Vancouver wants to match their aspirations this season then this is a match they have to win, it’s that simple. Perhaps I’m blindly optimistic, but I believe this team’s MLS fortunes are bound to turn around at some point. However, I also think this Montreal team is dangerous with more of their key starters in the lineup, so I’m going with a surprise 2-1 result for the visitors in this one.