It’s Gameday Number Ten! Despite a record shutout streak looming on the horizon, the Vancouver Whitecaps (2-5-2) are desperately seeking scoring and, more importantly, all three points as their mini-homestand comes to a close against and equally goal-barren Minnesota United (3-3-3).
Where: BC Place, Vancouver, BC
When: Saturday, May 6th at 7:30 pm PST
How: Apple TV, AM730 (Radio)
Shutout streaks are all well and good, but I’m not wrong when I say “3 > 1”, right?
To be fair, Vancouver has played well as of late and not giving up a lot of goals is nice, but at some point, the Whitecaps have to start notching wins instead of draws. The best way to do so? Put the ball in the ol’ onion bag!
Incidentally, the Minnesota United side we’ll be facing Saturday night is going through a goal drought of their own. We’re not the only ones who have scored one goal or less in eight of nine matches this season, so it remains to be seen whether this low-scoring affair will ultimately be a tense one or just plain tedious.
All-time, Vancouver has compiled a 3-4-5 record against Minnesota, where all three wins and three of the draws coming at BC Place (plus one more draw at Rio Tinto Stadium in 2021). In those twelve matches, the Whitecaps hold a -1 goal differential, but out of the 17 goals scored against MNUFC, 14 have been at home.
Maybe this won’t be a low-scoring affair after all!
What Happened Last Time?
Why, it was the birthplace of Bechermania! Well, maybe not exactly the birthplace, but it did kickstart Simon Becher’s hot stretch.
Back on March 25th, the Whitecaps dominated Minnesota at Allianz Field, but found themselves staring at a 1-0 deficit courtesy of a 40th minute goal from Ménder García:
IN THE 40th MINUTE!
Ménder García gives @MNUFC the lead! pic.twitter.com/7UCCuHtxmR
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 26, 2023
Remember when the Whitecaps kept getting beat in the air, on seemingly every cross or free kick? What a dark time in all our lives.
Anyways, the ‘Caps kept pelting Clint Irwin with shot after shot to no avail, until deep into stoppage time. And by “deep,” I mean they scored in the eighth minute of the six minutes originally added:
AN EQUALIZER AT THE LAST MINUTE!
Simon Becher comes through for @WhitecapsFC. 😤 pic.twitter.com/z6zbJiONKO
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 26, 2023
The Minnesota fans were not happy about it, but that’s what happens when twice after the 90th minute mark you have players willfully obstructing and delaying free kicks. It’s asinine to think the ref won’t add that time back on at the end, especially when he’s busy handing out yellow cards. Reap what you sow, and all that.
With that literal last-minute goal from Becher, the Whitecaps would earn a 1-1 draw in a match where it felt like they deserved three points for the effort, but with have to live with one point poached at the death.
Per the MLS Availability Report and Disciplinary Summary, only goalkeeper Max Anchor (shoulder) will be unavailable.
Potential Vancouver Lineup – Takaoka; Martins, Blackmon, Veselinovic, Brown; Ahmed, Cubas, Gressel; Gauld, Vite; White.
Three MNUFC players are listed as unavailable for Saturday night, with Bakaye Dibassy (thigh) and Mikael Marques (ankle) out due to injury and 2022 All-Star Emanuel Reynoso because of a prolonged sabbatical-cum-suspension.
The suspension itself is due to Reynoso failing to report to training camp back in February. He had intentions of finally flying to St. Paul last week to hash things out, but apparently bailed at the last second. Suffice to say, I doubt he’ll be playing this weekend.
And according to the Star Tribune, midfielder Kervin Arriaga has been nursing a hamstring injury and did not travel with the team to Vancouver. Coach Adrian Heath didn’t rule out a late arrival for Arriaga, but also noted he wasn’t about to risk the player’s health for an early return.
Potential Minnesota United Lineup – St. Clair; Lawrence, Tapias, Boxall, Taylor; Dotson, Trapp; Hlongwane, Jeong, Lod; Amarilla.
What’s Up With The Enemy?
The MNUFC preview of today’s match summarizes fairly accurately the Loons’ season thus far:
After their hot start to the season, the Loons have cooled down quite a bit. Goals are few and far between, but their defensive acumen has remained top-notch. They’re generating chances and finding themselves close to goal, but fine margins and a general streak of lackluster finishing have left them winless in their last four league fixtures.
They’re sound defensively, don’t give up a lot of goals, and are having trouble finishing. Gee, who does that sound like?
Who’s Worth Watching?
Hlongwane isn’t just tied for the team lead in scoring (PKs aren’t as impressive, Luis Amarilla), but he also leads the club in non-Penalty xG and in Progressive Carries.
In other words, he’s not only their best finisher this season, but he also loves having the ball at his feet. Hlongwane will most likely be fearless in taking players on with a dribble, particularly when his coach is yelling from the sideline to do it more often. Also worth noting is how Hlongwane has gone a full 90 in eight out of nine matches. He’s clearly someone Heath wants to keep on the pitch.
And the only match he’s missed? Why, it was the one against Vancouver, when he was with the South African national team for an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. Hlongwane being an unknown commodity for the Whitecaps can only add to the difficulty in defending against him.
Kind of Related & Kind of Hilarious
Going back to the Becher goal in the previous match against Minnesota, you can’t help but wonder what was going through the mind of Mikael Marques, having a grand ol’ time, juggling the ball without a care in the world while the match is still going on:
That’s a heck of a way to mark a debut with your new team. The MNUFC fanbase, meanwhile, have not forgotten.
Mikael Marques better not sniff the field or else Im having him get deported back to Sweden
— Kermit Wilts (@Maliks_kid) May 4, 2023
Who’s Going To Win?
As clichéd and patently obvious as this sounds, it’ll be whoever puts the ball in the net first.
In 2023, Vancouver and Minnesota are undeniably low-scoring teams: aside from the anomaly that was the Whitecaps’ 5-0 drubbing of Montreal, the clubs are respectively averaging a Goals-Per-Game rate of 0.75 and 0.89. It’s entirely possible that both sides will see a consecutive 0-0 draw; for Vancouver, that will be three in a row, but YIPPEE we’ll have a team record shutout streak!
Nevertheless, I get the feeling we’ll see at least one goal in this game.
The bad news? All of Minnesota’s wins in ‘23 have come on the road, against Dallas, Colorado, and the at-the-time perfect St. Louis City. The good news? Those wins all game before the one-point-in-four-match slump MNUFC currently find themselves in.
The combination of the Minnesota slump, how well Vancouver matched up against MNUFC in March, and the always arduous travel demands of MLS, gets me thinking that Vancouver will take this one, 1-0.
That’s all three points and the record shutout streak, provided Vancouver doesn’t go full somnambulist for five or six minutes in the second half, like they were prone to once in a while earlier this season.
Referee: Filip Dujic; AR1: Chris Elliott; AR2: Eduardo Jeff; 4th: Micheal Barwegen; VAR: Timothy Ford; AVAR: Jozef Batko.
(Image Credit: MNUFC)
One thought on “Match Preview: The Whitecaps Need Goals as the Loons Come to Town”
Dayne St. Clair is another one to watch. Seems to have the knack for timely key stops and is honing his overall skills as a keeper. Might be readybfor a European move very soon, especially if he emerges with the NT this summer.