Calm and Composed: Vancouver Whitecaps looking to channel ’emotion’ in Impact rematch(Preview #11)

Mere days after an entertaining clash between the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Montreal Impact at BC Place, in which the Impact beat the ‘Caps by a score of 4-2, they get set to do battle again. Here is our preview for that one, as the Whitecaps look to bounce back after a tough loss on their home turf. 

After a tough loss, can they avoid getting caught in another rut? 

A week after beating Toronto FC in an important victory at BC Place in the 1st of 3 consecutive games at home, the Vancouver Whitecaps returned down to earth on Sunday, as they were beaten by the Montreal Impact in the 2nd of those 3 home games, with the last one coming up on Wednesday against that same Impact side. 

In what will very likely be their last competitive game at BC Place until 2021, barring something completely unforeseen, the ‘Caps will have revenge on their minds, especially after losing so handily to their old rivals, in a match where their famed derby from the 2000s was rekindled. 

But while getting direct revenge on the Impact will surely be at the front of their minds, you know that the ‘Caps will want to start building some consistency, as they’ve struggled to build up a string of good matches all year long. 

With only 3 wins in 10 games, all coming quite far apart from each other, this has been an up and down season mostly spent on the wrong side of that ledger, and the ‘Caps know that, but as full back Jake Nerwinski said on Tuesday, they want to start pushing towards the other side of the equation.

“I think right now, obviously it’s been a difficult season for many different reasons,” Nerwinski said. “I think it’s easy for a lot of guys to kind of get lost and to not be together, but the one thing that we have done, I think, is to have a good locker room. To keep kind of pushing forward, we’re not, as I said before, dwelling in the past results.”

“We’re not giving up on the season, we came out today with great energy in training, and that kind of shows that we do have this togetherness, and if we can put that together on the field then we can be very successful going forward.”

At the same time, while Nerwinski cites a good locker room at the moment, the ‘Caps were a little less composed on the pitch on Sunday, as discipline got the better of them at times in a feisty game. 

With Lucas Cavallini receiving his marching orders in the 57th minute of the game, all part of a game in which the ‘Caps highest-paid player seemed to be at his ends wits with frustration, Vancouver certainly has to find a way to channel their emotions in another way. 

As they found out against the Impact, who were mostly in control emotionally aside from an unnecessary sending off of their own in the 73rd minute, if you don’t channel your emotions properly, other teams will goad you into things you don’t want to do. 

“I want to see the same type of emotion in the play,” head coach Marc Dos Santos said Tuesday. “That same type of emotion on the ball, bringing that emotion in the right way, bring that emotion on the field on how we defend, on how we want to create, bring that emotion to the game, not that emotion regarding individual players and allowing some of the experienced players that Montreal has to get in your head and to try to influence the game in those type of ways. So we have to play with emotion, but on the ball and in how we want to win the game.”

But while he felt his team struggled at times to keep his emotions in check, he doesn’t think his side was particularly undisciplined, aside from the Cavallini red card, which he notes that his striker apologized for, so he thinks more of case of just turning emotions into improved play. 

“I just think that the one undisciplined moment was with one player that already apologized for it, so I don’t think that we were undisciplined as a group,” Dos Santos said. “I think there was one action with one player that he learned from it and he already apologized from it.”

At the same time, you wouldn’t blame the ‘Caps for being frustrated, as they find themselves in the midst of a frustrating season for so many reasons, on and off the pitch. 

You have to wonder how that’s effecting Dos Santos, in particular, because as a coach, a lot of the burden of fixing all of this has sat on his shoulders, and rightly so, but at the same time, it’s not an easy job to do. 

After a tough year 1 as he put together a team, now that he’s got most of his team intact, there’s always been little things that have set themselves up as roadblocks, and that has to be frustrating. 

Despite all of that, Dos Santos isn’t pointing fingers, as he notes that all he can do is just take his lumps, move onto the next game, and try and help his players get out of the rut that they currently find themselves in. 

“I have to take it all on me in the sense that I have to protect my players,” he said. “I have to be the one that takes the bullets, and be the one also that says how much I believe in them and how much I believe we can win the game tomorrow, and then asked to put the right pieces together to make that happen. And that’s what I have to do as a coach. Because frustration doesn’t help you win the next game. Frustration doesn’t help you move forward.”

As they head into a pivotal rematch with the Impact, in which they’ll have the chance to deny their rivals a spot in the Canadian Championship final with a victory or a draw, they still have a lot to play for in this one, and that’s without mentioning the very-open Western Conference playoff race, of which they’re very much still in as their regular season nears the halfway point. 

So while the small picture hasn’t looked good for the ‘Caps, and the big picture hasn’t been much better, either, there is some promise on the horizon, the ‘Caps just need to get there, instead of getting caught chasing mirages. 

It won’t be easy, and Dos Santos knows that, but he’s done it before at other clubs, he just needs to get that puzzle together in Vancouver. 

“It has to, yes, the big picture is on me and the big picture is on the coach,” he finished. “And at the end of the day, two players take responsibility for it, yes, because we’re always in the locker room together. We always embrace everything together. But at the end of the day, the coach has to have the courage, the personality to take it on him. And at the end of the day, I have to make sure that this works with everybody that we have here.”

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Theo Bair

Bair walks off the pitch after the ‘Caps defeat on Sunday (Keveren Guillou)

After a solid rookie campaign, Bair has taken a step forward in his second season, even if the stats aren’t quite reflecting it yet. When he plays, he makes a difference for the ‘Caps, which is why he’s earned back-to-back starts, and is likely to make it a hat trick of consecutive starts on Wednesday.  

And when you see his goal Sunday, you can see why. 

He’s doing all of the little things well, such as moving off the ball, holding up play and creating space for others, but he was yet to find twine, so to see him open the score with such a well-taken goal on Sunday is huge, as it should give a big shot to his confidence. 

So keep an eye on him in this one, as he looks to build off of yet another solid outing in the white and blue ‘Caps kit for him. 

Storylines:

Is the rivalry reborn? While the answer is probably yes to this question, as games between Canadian teams are always special, you do have to wonder if they’ll be any more of what we saw on Sunday, in which both teams saw a player sent off in a feisty affair. 

With the Impact fighting for a spot in the Canadian Championship final, and the ‘Caps fighting to stay out of the MLS basement, there will be a lot of fighting spirit, which could lead to an emotional spillover at times. 

So maybe don’t expect any other red cards, but expect the passion to be at a high, as two familiar foes get set to do battle for the third time in 3 weeks. 

In defence of the defence: If you’re a defender, you would’ve probably had a bit of a headache when watching the game on Sunday, as 6 goals were conceded between the two teams. 

While the ‘Caps conceded 4 of them, and have a bigger overall problem of conceding goals in bunches, the Impact conceded 2 tough goals, as well, and probably should’ve conceded more, so it just wasn’t a banner night defensively for either side. 

So with that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see if either team puts on the clamps on Wednesday, as they try to avoid the high-flying game that stress coaches out, no matter how much fans may want to see it. 

Canadians making a mark: And while 4 of the 6 goals were scored by international players (one was so excited to get in on the action that he put one straight into his own goal), each team had a Canadian goalscorer, with the ‘Caps getting their opener through Theo Bair, while the Impact got a rare contribution from Samuel Piette on their third tally. 

That might not seem like much, but when we consider the strong play of Piette, along with Zachary Brault Guillard on the Impact’s side, as well as the play of Michael Baldisimo and Derek Cornelius on the ‘Caps side, and there was certainly some good play from the local players. 

In a game between two Canadian teams, it might not be a hugely important detail, but it does feel nice to see some of the protagonists in the clash between these two teams come from above the 49th parallel. 

And with a combined 10 Canadians having seen the field on Sunday, with as many or more expected again Wednesday, that theme should continue once again in the rematch. 

Stats Splurge:

Not much to go over here in this section, considering we went a little more in-depth last time out, but there are a few statistical storylines to monitor, so the section remains in place for today. 

Once again, the possession battle is one to monitor, as the Impact, who had only kept more than 50% of possession in 4 of their 13 competitive games this season prior to this match, kept 53% of the ball at BC Place on Sunday. 

That’s not good news for the ‘Caps, who have said that they want to hold more of the ball, yet failed to have more than 50% possession for the 9th time in 11 regular season matches. 

And while possession hovering around the 50% mark can be irrelevant, it’s worth noting that the ‘Caps gave away a lot of dangerous chances, as they gave up 3.42 xG, and only generated 0.85 xG of their own, which for how even the possession was, is an especially huge gap between the two stats. 

So for the ‘Caps, look to see if they can be more efficient in how they play. No matter if they hold more possession or not, they need to limit the dangerous chances that they give up, while also finding a way to push the needle forward offensively a bit more. 

Projected XIs: 

Vancouver Whitecaps:

Head Coach: Marc Dos Santos

Regular Season Record: 3W-7L-0D (9 Pts)

Montreal Impact: 

Head Coach: Thierry Henry

Regular Season Record: 5W-4L-1D (16 Pts)

2020 Matchups:

Montreal Impact 2-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

Vancouver Whitecaps 2-4 Montreal Impact

Looking Forward:

So with all of that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see what Wednesday’s game holds, especially after what we saw on Sunday. 

Certainly, you’d expect a response from the ‘Caps, who won’t want to get swept out of their stadium by Montreal, but with so much on the line for the Impact, it seems hard to bet against them picking up another result. 

But at the very least, you’d have to think that this game is closer than it was on Sunday, with the ‘Caps expected to be a lot better over the course of 90 minutes than they were last game. 

Alas, that’s the beauty of MLS, as predicting games is often as futile as an exercise as you’ll come across among sports leagues in the world, so we’ll just enjoy the game and see what happens. 

At the very least, if there’s anything to take away from Sunday, is that these teams don’t lack for entertainment, so there’ll be that to watch out for, as well. 

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs Montreal Impact, Wednesday, September 16th, 2020, 18h30 PST, 21h30 EST (BC Place, Vancouver)

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