Match Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps host San Jose

Sunday night at BC Place, the Vancouver Whitecaps return to MLS action as they host the San Jose Earthquakes in a Western Conference showdown between two teams vying to improve their playoff positioning.

For the Whitecaps, the Leagues Cup break has brought with it plenty of positive news stories, as they performed well against two big Liga MX clubs, and added two very well regarded Canadian Internationals to the squad in Sam Adekugbe and Richie Laryea. For the Earthquakes, the break was a little more mixed, as they lost both of their Leagues Cup matches, to Portland and Tigres respectively, though they did make two nice additions on loan, acquiring the services of Matthew Hoppe from Middlesbrough and Ayo Akinola from TFC.

So far during the MLS season, San Jose has done quite well, sitting sixth in the West with one point more than Vancouver, although they do have one more match played. Digging a bit deeper, the Quakes are relying primarily on Argentine Cristian Espinoza to do their heavy lifting. He has already amassed eleven goals and five assists so far this season, and he’s scored those eleven goals on just 6.2 xG created.

Whether or not this is a sustainable way to play is dubious to say the least. While Espinoza has long been a top offensive producer in MLS, the Quakes will likely need some more offensive contributions outside Espinoza and his running mate Jeremy Ebobisse, who is second on the team in goals with seven, but does not have a single assist. Outside those two, no other player has more than four goals + assists in MLS play. Undoubtedly, the Quakes will be anticipating that Akinola and Hoppe can provide some support in this area, but how soon will those impact performances come?

With Luchi Gonzalez at the helm, I have no doubt that San Jose will figure things out, as they’ve done a nice job turning over their roster and fixing their long-running defensive issues. While there’s still work to do in that area, the Quakes are a lot less high-event presently than Whitecaps supporters are used to historically. Specifically, Brazilian centreback Rodrigues, a 25-year-old on loan from Grêmio, has stepped into the starting XI and played very well, providing some needed much needed consistency to the back-line.

Both of these teams come into the match without having played for a while, which can be rust or rest depending on your perspective. Interestingly, both of these clubs were eliminated from Leagues Cup by Tigres UANL, as the Quakes dropped a 1-0 result back on July 30th, while Vancouver fell on penalties 1-1 (5-3) August 4th. Something else of note is that San Jose has a very poor record (much like the Whitecaps) when they are away from home in MLS play, with just one win and seven points on the road so far this season. Vancouver will be looking to continue their impressive performances at home, especially considering they are staring down the barrel of an extended road trip which won’t see them play at home again for more than a month following this match.

In terms of Vancouver’s lineup, Vanni Sartini could go many different ways, especially given his habit of playing players out of position. That being said, with a full squad at his disposal including new additions, here’s how I see things potentially lining up:

Playing Laryea on the right wing and Adekugbe as a left centreback allows the Whitecaps to be tactically flexible and switch between three or four at the back in and out of possession, as well as adjusting to how their opponent sets up against them. It also allows Vancouver to keep another attack-minded player on the pitch, such as Vite, Ahmed, or even Cordova if the Whitecaps want to play two strikers and drop Ryan Gauld back into the midfield. With Laryea stepping in on the right side, I’m curious as to who will emerge on the left side of the midfield and how Vanni Sartini wants to handle those roles.

Overall, I think that Vancouver should be able to ride the wave of their quality home form, as well as the positivity of their recent signings, to a 2-1 win over the Earthquakes. It will be a tight match, but winning on the road in MLS is difficult when the margins are so small. It will be interesting to see how Vancouver plays with their new additions, specifically, if the play on the pitch matches all the excitement and hype that has surrounded the team these past couple of weeks. If it all comes together, it could be an entertaining run of matches to finish out the regular season.

How are you feeling about this matchup? Where do you think the newcomers will play? Let me know in the comments as always!

(Image Credit: VWFC / San Jose Earthquakes)

One thought on “Match Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps host San Jose

  1. on paper, this is the best whitecap team EVER– and we have a deeper bench with players that can adequately sub in-

    it might take time to integrate the 2 new players, but this line-up offers a lot of hope going into a demanding 7 game road trip- thats insane that MLS lets that happen- i wondering if the Caps complained or just accepted this schedule

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