Lessons Learned: Vancouver Whitecaps aiming to stay ‘together’ ahead of derby with Sounders (MiB Preview #2)

The Vancouver Whitecaps take on the Seattle Sounders on Sunday, marking their 2nd game at the MLS is Back tournament. Here is our comprehensive preview ahead of that game. 

After a tough loss, sometimes all you want to do is get right back out there, giving yourself a chance to prove that what happened was all just a fluke. 

While the Vancouver Whitecaps won’t get a chance to directly avenge their tough opening match loss to the San Jose Earthquakes at MLS is Back, at least not right away, they do get a chance to get back at things quite quickly, as they get set to take on the Seattle Sounders Sunday. 

With the sting of losing to the Earthquakes surely still very fresh in the minds of Marc Dos Santos and his players, getting a chance to avenge that loss by playing the current MLS Champions and their fierce rivals, the Sounders, is a pretty good way to get their mind off that defeat. 

Having thrown away a hard-earned 3-1 lead in the 2nd half on Wednesday, the ‘Caps are more than eager to get back on the pitch, don their kits and chase 3 points for 90 minutes on Sunday. 

For a shorthanded side, one who seems to rack up the absences by the day, they’ll want to prove that they can still be a team to keep an eye on at MLS is Back, and there’s no better way to do that than eliminating the current champions, who would be sent home with a loss or a draw. 

“Yeah, we know how important this game is,” full back Jake Nerwinski told the media on Friday. “We know that we ultimately need 3 points to stay alive. We don’t want to dwell on the game, we want to learn from our mistakes, but we don’t want to look back and be upset or be mad at ourselves, to learn from those mistakes that we made, and also look at all of the good things that we did.”

“The pressure that we had on the 3rd goal was great, on the 2nd goal, the counter-attack, it’s all these things that we did throughout training the week before that got us to that point, so we just need to make sure that we look at the positives and learn from the mistakes.”

At the same time, it won’t be an easy task for the shorthanded ‘Caps, whose lack of depth will certainly be a concern after seeing their lead evaporate at the hands of the pesky Earthquakes, who seemingly just willed themselves back into the game, thanks to 5 second-half subs. 

With a young roster, one whose average age barely cracks the 22-year-old mark, many are wondering how Vancouver can pull off the improbable, which beating the Sounders and later the upstart Chicago Fire certainly would be classified as. 

Given the short turnaround between the games, it’s not going to come from a tactical transformation akin to reinventing the wheel, nor is it going to come from some surprise signing, but instead it will have to come from the 20 or so guys that will be up for selection on Sunday, who will be looking to avenge their shortcomings earlier this week. 

It’s not an easy task for head coach Marc Dos Santos, who has certainly had a lot to ponder since arriving in Orlando, especially considering that he is without some of his key starters. 

At the same time, he did learn a lot from the opener, so he’ll look to take that, along with the limited training time they do have, and try and maximize the guys he has at his disposal. 

“It’s a struggle,” Dos Santos admitted Friday. “But what I have to do right now is to really maximize the guys that are here, and make them play to the best of their ability, and find a way that tactically is really simple of what’s required, because we don’t have time to work. I’ll give you an example. We played the game, and the next day it was full recovery, it was very hard to go through those 100 minutes of game. Today, they’re still recovering, so we’re training, but still we’re very careful with training, so we can activate them tomorrow in training, to be as fresh as possible, and then we’re going to repeat that.”

“So tactically, it’s very hard to work and to improve on things in training, you have to use a lot of video, so how we go about it with the lack of depth is really recovering the players to the best of their ability, to make sure that we go through tactical stuff using video, and that we try to maximize the guys that we have here.”

For the time being, his options won’t include Janio Bikel and Erik Godoy (day-to-day), who join Lucas Cavallini (personal), Tosaint Ricketts (health concern), Fredy Montero (personal), Andy Rose (personal), Georges Mukumbilwa (visa issues) and Bryan Meredith (personal) on the ‘Caps absentee list, but at least for Bikel and Godoy, there is hope they can still play at some point in Florida. 

There was also concern that midfielder standout Leonard Owusu would join them on that list, as he left the opener with some sort of hamstring concern, but apparently he should be good to at least be an option on Sunday, with the hope being he could make some sort of run in the side. 

Despite that, Dos Santos still has a solid stable of options, giving him some key players to lean on. Led by the likes of Hwang In Beom, Russell Teibert and Yordy Reyna, who will want to impress after quiet opening matches, along with David Milinkovic, Cristian Dajome, Ranko Veselinovic, Ali Adnan and Maxime Crepeau, who were among the standouts against the ‘Quakes, there are several names to keep a close eye out for. 

Along with a solid complement of youngsters, who may be pressed into action Sunday, especially if Dos Santos wants to avoid running some of his starters into the ground, and there are some things to follow with interest. 

Yes, there is the concern that some of these youngsters, at least the ones not named Theo Bair, Ryan Raposo or Patrick Metcalfe, aren’t yet ready for action, but from what we’ve seen in matches against their peers, the likes of Damiano Pecile, Simon Colyn and Michael Baldisimo do have talent, they just need to find the guile required to make an impact at the pro level. 

Dos Santos feels that they are on the right track, they just need to keep showing in training that they’re ready to make that next step, much like Bair and Metcalfe have done over the past year, as an example. 

“What it looks like that in games that are a little more in control, and what I’m saying by that is that tactically, the approach of the game you’re able to do moves that you feel they can be in, and succeed in their actions,” Dos Santos said of getting the youth more minutes. “This last game was incredibly chaotic, by what was happening tactically in the game, and look at a kid like Patrick Metcalfe, if you guys see in training, he tackles, he fouls, he’s aggressive, he does things that are very intentional, in a good way, but I think in this play with Salinas (on the winner), he could’ve fouled Salinas, before he made the run to get to our box, so little things like that, that they have to learn, and grow, to become better and impact the game.”

He later added that he felt he’ll know when his guys are ready based on how they train, and that it’s important to set those good habits in those conditions before throwing his youngsters to the wolves. 

But either way, kids or no kids, what’s clear is that these ‘Caps are underdogs, and that they’ll look to use advantage they can seek to try and snatch a victory. 

They feel overlooked, especially after the opening game, and feel ready to go out and avenge a loss they feel like they’ve could’ve avoided. 

In a short tournament format, that’s all they can do, pushed on by a strong self-belief, as they try to block out the noise and prove the doubters wrong. 

“Yeah, the mindset is that we have this mentality where we know that MLS, its analysts don’t necessarily think that we have a chance, but we need to believe in ourselves,” Nerwinski said. “We need to make sure that we’re together as a group, to prove to these people that their wrong, and we know how good we can be at certain times, as we showed at times in the first game.”

“I think we really need to stick together, obviously, we are missing a few key pieces, a few good leaders in the team, Tosaint (Ricketts), Andy (Rose), but we’ve had other guys that have stepped up so far, and we just need to keep stepping up.”

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Russell Teibert

Russell Teibert on the ball in preseason action this year (Keveren Guillou)

After a quiet opening game, it’s hoped Teibert can find some of the snarl and passion he channelled in an early-season victory over the LA Galaxy back in March, where he was arguably one of the best players on the pitch in a 1-0 victory. 

He was nowhere near that player on Wednesday, and it hurt the ‘Caps, who were lacking his presence in the midfield throughout the 90. 

With a freshly signed contract, one that will keep him in Vancouver until at least 2023, he’ll want to go out and prove that his opening game was just a small blip on the radar, as he continues to build his legacy as the original MLS-era Whitecap. 


Were the 3 goals a fluke? After fielding questions about their offensive depth all week, of course the ‘Caps went out and scored 3 goals on Wednesday, much to the surprise of analysts. 

While some of their tallies were aided by questionable San Jose errors, there’s no doubt that Vancouver earned their goals, as they showed that they can still make things happen without some of their bigger offensive pieces. 

But doing so only once could be a fluke. If they can go out and put a few past the Sounders, who have have had some questions at the back so far this tournament, the ‘Caps can continue to show that the concerns about their offence are a problem that they left back in 2019. 

Sounders hungry for revenge: At the same time, these Sounders are going to be vehemently chasing 3 points, as they look at avoid elimination at the hands of their rivals. After a slow start, their tournament comes down to this, and they’ll want to show that they’re the same team that lifted the MLS Cup in November of last year. 

They’ve struggled to put together a coherent 90 minutes so far, due to injuries, rust and a variety of other factors, but with 2 matches now under their belt, they’ll want to turn up the intensity and quell the seeds of doubt that have started to surround their team. 

Derby days… in new conditions: It’ll be interesting to see how intense this latest Cascadia derby will be, especially considering that there won’t be the presence of fans. 

Every time these 2 teams play, something spicy happens, and with so much at stake, that will surely be the case once again on Sunday. 

With a rise of red cards in the MLS is Back tournament lately, might we see some disciplinary action, combined with a flurry of goals and an all-around chaotic match?

Considering the high-flying nature of the Montreal vs Toronto game this past Thursday, fans of both Seattle and Vancouver will be hoping that their sides can conjure up something similar to that, as they reignite the Cascada rivalry once more, albeit in different conditions than usual. 

Stats Splurge:

With only 2.21 XG through 2 games, Seattle will be looking to score some goals on Sunday, as they’ve had a slow offensive start to this tournament. 

And while they’ve only allowed 1.99 XG against through 2 games, their defence seems prone to have one or two mistakes a game, as the new centre back partnership of Yeimer Gomez and Xavier Arreaga continues to figure itself out. 

For the ‘Caps, who gave up 67% possession and 2.72 XG to San Jose over 90 minutes, to see that Seattle averaged only 2.21 XG over 2 games is positive. 

At the same time, it’ll be interesting to see how much Vancouver gets to have the ball. Seattle suffered a similar fate to the ‘Caps against the ‘Quakes, as they only saw the ball for 37% of the game, but against Chicago, they had 60% possession, so clearly they can keep the ball. 

As a result, don’t be surprised if Seattle ends up having 55-60% possession against the ‘Caps, but expect the XG battle to be fairly even, with a slight advantage to the Sounders, who will generate good chances, but will also give up some to the high-pressing Whitecaps.

Projected Lineups: 

Vancouver Whitecaps:

Head Coach: Marc Dos Santos

MiB Record: 0W-1L-0D

Seattle Sounders:

Head coach: Brian Schmetzer

MiB Record: 0W-1L-1D

2019 Matchups:

Vancouver Whitecaps 0-0 Seattle Sounders

Seattle Sounders 1-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

Looking Forward

Either way, an interesting game awaits, for a multitude of reasons. This is a very important game for both teams, so when you look at that, along with the added value of a derby, you’d figure that a spirited display from both sides awaits us. 

After a tough opening day match, Vancouver will want to have revenge on their minds, while the Sounders will want to show that they’re the same team that stepped up when needed throughout 2019, leading to their MLS Cup triumph. 

At the very least, it should lead to a memorable match, and if we’re lucky, it’ll be yet another chapter to add to the storied book of Cascadia Cup’s past (even though this game won’t count towards that). 

Up next: Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs Seattle Sounders FC, Sunday, July 19th, 2020, 19h30 PST

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