After another tough performance on Wednesday, as Vancouver was overrun by the New England Revolution on the other side of the continent, the Whitecaps get back to action against the San Jose Earthquakes, a team with a fitting name as the Caps themselves try to avoid another aftershock after the earthquake that was the 6-1 defeat by LAFC 3 weeks ago.
The last 4 MLS games for Vancouver have certainly been ones to forget, as they lost all 4, outscored to the tune of 14-1, with their lone goal coming as the result of a shambolic mistake by league-leaders LAFC. Besides that, it’s been mostly doom-and-gloom, as this run of form has pushed Vancouver down the MLS standings, leaving them ahead of only a pair of porous Ohio teams, Columbus and Cincinnati. 9 points out of the playoff race, with every team around them holding games in hand, Vancouver’s postseason dreams already seem like a distant memory, as it would take a miracle to get there.
While playoffs would have always been tough given the state of the rebuild they have embarked on, it would have definitely been a nice treat, especially if they had been playing nice football to qualify. Instead, they have lost their identity as of late, playing poorly on both ends of the pitch, much to the discontent of the fans. This makes this a huge game for them, as not only are they trying to salvage any desperate hope at a playoff push, but they will try to play some nice football in doing so, at least to attract back some fans even if they are not successful in terms of accumulating results.
Injuries: Jhesser Khemiri (Knee), David Norman Jr. (Foot)
Record: 4W-10L-8D (20 Points)
Manager: Marc Dos Santos
The Whitecaps have pretty much everyone back for this one, with Jhesser Khemiri the lone remaining absence. They will revert back to the 4-3-3, with Marc Dos Santos championing its use, citing that the 3-5-2 was “out of necessity”. The lineup will be hard to project, however, with the long week of travel meaning that many players will be gameday decisions based on how they recover from both playing and flying. There are a couple of shoo-ins, however, with a few players being rested in New England. Doneil Henry, who got the night off, will slot in at the back, but who will play alongside him remains to be seen. Derek Cornelius and Erik Godoy both played, so whoever recovers the best out of both of them likely slides in, unless Brendan McDonaugh gets a surprise start. In goal, Max Crepeau looks to be the favourite, but do not count out Zac MacMath, as Crepeau will also get the Voyageurs Cup nod next week. Ali Adnan slides back in at left-back after serving a one-game ban, and on the other side, Jake Nerwinski slides in at right-back, given that he is the preferred option at home for MDS. Jon Erice returns after resting midweek, with Felipe likely getting the nod beside him, with the third man probably being Hwang In Beom. Up front, Lass Bangoura may end up starting, after a decent cameo off the bench on Wednesday, with Reyna returning to the middle and Venuto going to the right after a man of the match performance against the Revolution. All in all, it should be a pretty decent outfit, provided that Dos Santos does not get too experimental, as he has tended to do at times.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Doneil Henry
The big Canadian will be looking to bounce back after a couple of rough outings for him and the rest of his defensive crew. He hates losing, as evidenced by his visible frustration last week when asked about the defensive woes as of late, so you know he’ll give it his all, as he tries to return to the early-season form that had him pencilled in as an early favourite for team MVP.
Backline Woes? The backline has gone through a bit of a rough patch as of late, with goals getting pumped in left, right and centre. While much of it can be attributed to lackadaisical midfield defending and mental lapses off wide deliveries, the defence will take it upon themselves to lead the charge back to a good defensive record, much as they did at the beginning of the season. Expect Doneil Henry to lead the way on that front.
Can you Stop an Earthquake? The Earthquakes are rolling, thanks to coach Matias Almeyda and company, with 4 wins in their last 5 MLS matches, to go along with being undefeated in 8 of their last 9. Despite finishing in last place in 2018, with a historically poor points total, Almeyda has turned around the ship, making them play the positionless, swarm and man-mark system that he employs to a tee, making them look like his CONCACAF Champions League winning Chivas.
Fan experience? With fans being quite visibly frustrated as of late, a lot will be made of the attendance figures on Saturday, with turnout not expected to be as high as one would expect for a mid-summer affair on a Saturday. If the Caps put up another stinker, the boo-birds and the vocal minorities may start to really pile up like a bad smell, so the Caps know that they will at least have to entertain to keep spirits from sinking too low.
San Jose Earthquakes:
Record: 9W-7L-4D (31 Points)
Manager: Matias Almeyda
San Jose have a couple of difference makers in attacking positions, with their attacking midfield trident of Vako, Magnus Eriksson and Cristian Espinoza all being difference makers in the final third, doing well to get the ball to the all-time MLS leading goal scorer, Chris Wondolowski. Judson has been a quality signing for them in the midfield, showing Almeyda’s eye for talent (considering he was the only noteworthy offseason signing), and Florian Jungwirth and Guram Kashia have established solid rapport as the first two centre backs. Tommy Thompson and Marcos Lopez have been good at full back, but interestingly enough, Almeyda has shown to not be scared to sub them out often, as the position can be vital for success in his system. In goal, Daniel Vega has had a solid MLS debut season at the age of 35, after jumping around the USL and NASL system for a couple years. All in all, its a balanced lineup, and it has that “good coach”, “next man up” and “capable of beating everyone” veteran MLS feel to them, much like New England did Wednesday.
Things kick off at 19:00 tomorrow, with a pre-match party at Plaza of Nations at 14:00, for those who are looking for something to do before the match. While it will be tough to imagine much in terms of changes from the Caps tactically, with a long week of travel meaning that there was less practice time, a good fight by them will certainly be positive to see from the players. After a dire couple of performances, they will need any sort of inspiration that they can find for this one, to at least give the paying fan something to go home happy about.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs San Jose Earthquakes, July 20th, 2019, 19:00 PST (BC Place, Vancouver)