They say stats don’t often tell the whole story. In the Whitecaps’ case, they are teetering on the edge of the playoff line, a position they are all too familiar with in recent history. But, as luck has it, the situation is not as dire as it seems. With a game in hand (and for some teams, two) if the Whitecaps pick up three points against Kansas City on Saturday night, they climb up to fourth in the West. For better or for worse, it seems the rest of the league hasn’t caught on to just how good Vancouver can be. Maybe this is due to no players with league wide attention, or the fact that they hadn’t won on the road until last week, but Vancouver is still not a name with a lot of buzz at the moment league-wide.
The Whitecaps need to use this to their advantage. They’ve taken down the defending Champs and CCL finalists, and won a Canadian Championship, so heads are going to start to turning towards Sartini’s team. While other teams adjust to dealing with them, the Whitecaps have to establish dominance and secure their playoff positioning while they can. Key to this is taking care of business against all of the other teams within the hotly contested middle of the table in the West. The Whitecaps have already tied SKC this season at home, but now they have to take their skills to Kansas and finish the job at Children’s Mercy Park. A late Gauld penalty tied the game up for Vancouver last time these two met, so they’ll need to finish more of their chances if they want three points in this one.
The Whitecaps have been playing well, but maximizing results on the road has been a huge problem until last weekend. With Julian Gressel, Javain Brown, and Ali Ahmed unavailable, the Whitecaps will have to lean heavily on Ryan Gauld, Brian White and Pedro Vite to find the goals they need to push the team over the line. Equally, with Tristan Blackmon’s status in doubt, the Whitecaps’ back-line will have their hands full against June’s MLS Player of the Month Alan Pulido, who has been on a goal scoring tear as of late.
Overall though, this Sporting KC team hasn’t changed much since they came to Vancouver at the beginning of June, picking up just one win since then, and with some pretty serious limitations in the midfield (and defensively) which they have not been able to fix. If Vancouver can keep the winning mentality they harnessed last week in LA, I’m optimistic. I’ll predict a 1-0 Win for Vancouver.