After a heartbreaking result down in Seattle last Saturday spoiled their six game unbeaten run, the Vancouver Whitecaps look to bounce back on the road, as they fly down to LA to take on league leaders LAFC. It promises to be an entertaining rematch between two sides that duked things out back in mid-April, when a floundering Whitecaps squad got their season on track with a surprising 1-0 victory at home, handing LAFC their first loss of what has been a special campaign for them. Despite the recent Caps hot streak, the teams come into this one far apart from each other, with LA running away with the Western Conference, 6 points ahead of the Galaxy with a game in hand, while Vancouver remains well below the playoff cutoff line, 6 points off of Real Salt Lake, who themselves hold a game in hand on Vancouver. Either way, it will be a great match, and with the Caps being inspired by the completion of Ali Adnan’s contract signing today, they will look to kick things off for their newest DP with a win.
International Absences: Lass Bangoura (Guinea, Africa Cup of Nations).
Injuries: Jhesser Khemiri (Day-To-Day, Knee) David Norman Jr (Week-To-Week, Foot)
Record: 4W-7L-8D (20 Points)
Manager: Marc Dos Santos
No shortage of options for Vancouver, at least defensively and in the midfield, as their Canadian quartet of Russell Teibert, Max Crepeau, Derek Cornelius and Doneil Henry return from their tour of duty with the National Team. While the end of their Gold Cup tournament sure left a lot to be desired, the Caps will sure be thankful that they are back and ready for selection, as their depth was massively tested last week, as they had to handle the stress of 3 matches in 8 days. While it is unclear what will be Marc Dos Santos’s exact plan in terms of player deployment vs LA, the return of both Canadian defenders will probably ensure the return of a 3-5-2 formation. In goal, Crepeau will likely slot back into what he had made his starting spot before the break, as he has put together a dominant campaign to date. While Zac MacMath looked good last week against Seattle, Crepeau is fresh after not featuring in the 4 matches Canada played during the Gold Cup, so he will be tipped to start in LA, with MacMath likely picking up Canadian Championship duty next Wednesday against Cavalry FC. At the back, we will see the return of the Cornelius, Henry and Erik Godoy trio, as all 3 have been immense this season for the Caps. While the impact Andy Rose has had in this position the last few weeks cannot be understated, he may end up shifting back up into the midfield for this one, with the return of the Canadian’s allowing for a return to his more natural position. In the middle, the trio of Jon Erice, Hwang InBeom and Teibert will be reunited, after putting in some good shifts before the afformented break. While Rose and Felipe will most certainly be strong candidates for selection, MDS will want to go with the trio that has shown great pressing and defensive ability against LA, as their offence is deadly, making the midfield battle key for a chance at survival. Up top, Yordy Reyna and Fredy Montero have a chance to continue the chemistry they have developed of late, with Joaquin Ardaiz making his return to the bench after a month away from action, making him and Lucas Venuto dangerous options for MDS to turn to if goals are lacking from the starting bunch. While this team may need some help in the midfield, and maybe another striker in the future, this lineup has shown the ability to make some noise against good sides, which they will try to again here against LA.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Max Crepeau
After a couple weeks spent training with the Canadian national team, he will be itching to play again after watching Milan Borjan tend goal for Les Rouges. After having a strong season to date for the Caps, he will certainly be ready to continue his strong form, with LAFC’s lethal offence being a pretty darn good test for the Canadian International.
Ali Ali Ali! The Iraqi international officially put pen to paper today on a 3 year deal, keeping the popular left back in Vancouver. While it was certainly not cheap, with him costing what appears to be a record fee for a left back in MLS, he has shown to be 100 percent worth it for Vancouver. At his best, he has shown to terrorize defences, while putting in a strong shift defensively, making the left side one to fear for Vancouver, a far cry from where they were at before the arrival of Adnan. His signing will certainly signal the continuation of a 3-5-2 for the Caps, getting Ali forward as much as possible. While the pieces around him are a work-in-progress, his signing was a huge first step of what hopefully can be a big summer for the Caps.
Revenge of the Goats? LA was upset by Vancouver last time around, as the Caps picked up their first victory of the season while handing LA their first loss, a huge upset for Vancouver. With LA running over teams all season, their extra motivation for this one may prove deadly as they avenge the early-season loss. Vancouver will have to be up to the task defensively, so goals may be at a premium for them tomorrow, as they ensure they do not meet the same fate as Sporting Kansas City did midweek, as they fell 5-1 to LA.
Can anyone stop Carlos? Another thing to worry about for Vancouver is the dangerous Mexican International Carlos Vela, who is in the midst of a record-breaking campaign for the “Goats”. After a good campaign last year, he has come out flying this season, banging in goals and racking up assists, leading the league with 17 goals, while currently being second in the league with 7 assists (18 matches). With Vancouver’s big attacking threat being Adnan at left back, Vela’s presence at right wing will certainly prove to be an interesting battle.
Manager: Bob Bradley
Record: 12W-2L-4D (40 Points)
LA has a deep collection of talent, headlined by Vela, the tricky Diego Rossi, Canadian international Mark-Anthony Kaye, the versatile Latif Blessing and the solid Christian Ramirez. While their backline looks to be a bit of a question mark for the moment, with goalie Tyler Miller and Walker Zimmerman away with the US for the Gold Cup, they have solid pieces to fill in, and have the former Caps at either full back as well, with Steven Beitashour and Jordan Harvey filling in nicely. Despite that, their depth should be more than enough to prevail, with their squad being among one of the deepest in MLS. They have the league-leading offence and league-leading defence, making them one of the most feared units in MLS. Manager Bob Bradley has done an amazing job with this team, and they have a chance to once again shatter some of the records set by Atlanta United last season, when they were a second-year expansion franchise doing much of the same last season in MLS. LAFC has been another great example of expansion done right in MLS, as them and Atlanta have paved the way in terms of acquiring and nurturing talent, with other sides like Cincinnati and Minnesota United FC being cautious examples that LAFC has managed to avoid.
The match kicks off tomorrow at 7:30 PST, and will definitely be another one not to miss for Caps fans. It promises to be an entertaining affair, and will kick things off for what will be a great soccer Sunday, with the Women’s World Cup final, Copa America Final and Gold Cup final all being played in an entertaining 12 hour period.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs LAFC, Saturday July 5th, 2019, Banc of California Stadium (19:30 PST)