The Vancouver Whitecaps continue their American MLS adventure on Wednesday, as they travel to San Jose to take on the Earthquakes. Here is our preview ahead of that one, as the ‘Caps look to avenge 1.5 seasons of domination laid on them by the ‘Quakes in previous matchups.
All of a sudden, the wild ride is slowly starting to reach its conclusion.
While there is still a fair bit of the metaphorical rollercoaster left to ride, there’s no doubt that with only 8 games left in their regular season schedule, the Vancouver Whitecaps are on the business end of this ride that has been called the 2020 season.
But at the same time, things only feel like they’ve just started ramping up, as the ‘Caps find themselves in the midst of a stretch that will have seen them have played 18 games in 82 days dating back to August 18th, when they took on Toronto FC to kickstart phase 1 of MLS’s return, leading up to the finale on November 8th against the LA Galaxy.
That’s a game every 4.5 days on average, and with exactly one month left, things get even tighter, with games coming every 4 days on average.
For a player, that’s a dream, as there’s nothing they enjoy more than playing games, but for a coaching staff looking to build on ideas, and avoid injuries, it’s a nightmare, as training time comes at a premium, as a result.
Take this upcoming game, for example. After taking on the Seattle Sounders on Saturday, the ‘Caps were only able to train with the players who didn’t play on Sunday, before doing a light session on Monday. They technically could’ve had a heavy session on Tuesday, but with a game coming on Wednesday, they have to be careful, hence another light session.
So inside the things they can work on in that unfavourable training situation, head coach Marc Dos Santos is pleased, even though it’s far from ideal for him.
“Inside the things we could’ve done, it was good,” Dos Santos said on Monday when asked of his limited training sessions. “But again, we had a group training very hard yesterday (Sunday), the group that didn’t play in our last game against Seattle, and then the other group was still in a recovery process, so inside everything that we were able to do, it was good.”
But while it’s not favourable for him, it’s just the reality of the situation he and his team are facing, all part of a unique 2020 season in which the ‘Caps have found themselves based out of Portland for the rest of the year due to current border travel restrictions due to COVID-19.
All he can do is just take things game-by-game, and see if he and his squad can scrap their way into the playoff picture, which as of writing, they only sit 3 points outside of.
“No, it’s not going to get any easier, it’s going to be tough because it’s difficult,” Dos Santos said. “How many games do we play this year? 23. Of those 23 games, half of them, half of those 23 games are against Toronto FC (x3), Seattle Sounders (x3), Portland Timbers (x2), and LAFC (x2). One of those games only was played at home, at BC Place, and we won against Toronto, 3-2.”
“So I think the schedule and what we’ve been living all of this year, makes it very, very hard on us. So the mountain is big to climb, it’s not easy, but at the end of the day, we’re just 3 points away from the 8th place. Now, if people expect more, it’s hard for me to control that, I can’t control that, so I’ll tell you that me and my staff, we’re at peace, total peace in our heart, that we’re doing everything that we can to get the best results possible.”
So speaking of their next game, a clash with the San Jose Earthquakes, there’s a lot on Dos Santos’s plate ahead of that one.
While they only sit 2 points apart in the standings, with the ‘Quakes finding themselves 2 points ahead on the strength of recent back-to-back victories, this has been a one-sided battle in favour of San Jose these past 2 seasons.
In the 3 games that Dos Santos’s ‘Caps have taken on Matias Almeyda’s ‘Quakes, San Jose has taken all 9 points, winning by a combined score of 10-5. Not only that, they’ve absolutely blitzed the ‘Caps, setting records such as the most shots in a game (43) and most corner kicks in a game (22), while also helping Maxime Crepeau set the MLS record for most saves in a game (16).
Over the course of those 270 minutes, the ‘Caps have only averaged 32% of possession, and have had 5 shots on target, making for long nights of fending off wave-after-wave of pressure sent their way by San Jose, while not mustering much of their own.
Therefore, with all of those stats to ponder, it’s fair to say that this matchup has been a fruitful one for the ‘Quakes, something the ‘Caps will look to change on Wednesday.
“We have to be very good in 1v1 situations,” Dos Santos said. “The game has a lot of that against them, we have to make sure that when the space is in front of us, that we attack the space very well, we get out of 1v1 situations very well to create, we close down in an aggressive way, because it’s a team that can be dangerous if they have too much time on the ball.”
“And we have to turn the game hectic to them, because that’s the type of game that they play, and we have to make sure that we respond to that. It becomes very physical against them, it becomes 1v1 situations against them, so we want to make sure that in those situations, we’re ready to answer, those are the key points when you play a team like San Jose.”
At the same time, while the ‘Caps have an uphill battle in terms of keeping San Jose away from their goal, if they can get closer to the Earthquakes goal, good things may happen.
If you’ve got a keen eye, you may have noticed that the ‘Caps have only had 5 shots on target total against San Jose in three games, yet have had 5 goals, so clearly this San Jose team is ripe for the picking defensively.
Considering that San Jose leads the league in goals-against with 40, a full 6 goals ahead of the next team, the ‘Caps, who themselves sit 4 ahead of the next team, LAFC, and it feels like this game has goals in it.
“Well, we’re obviously up against a team that we’ve played before in San Jose, and they’re an unorthodox style of play,” Veteran ‘Caps striker, Tosaint Ricketts, said on Monday. “It’ll give us opportunities to expose them at times, so we just got to keep doing what we’re doing, stick to our plans and with each other, and just really go after them.”
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Cristian Dajome
So with the hunt for goals so crucial for Vancouver, keep an eye on Cristian Dajome in this one. In the ‘Caps 4-3 loss to the ‘Quakes at MLS is Back, Dajome scored his first MLS goal, and was very heavily involved in one of the other two goals, showing that he can give this ‘Quakes defence headaches, provided that he gets the ball.
Surely, the ‘Caps will realize the threat that Dajome can cause in transition against this ‘Quakes defence, making him one of the focal points of their attack in a game where they’re missing their DP striker, Lucas Cavallini, due to caution accumulation.
Shots, Shots, Shots: This one’s pretty straightforward, but for the ‘Caps, it’ll be all about keeping San Jose from setting any more shot records, while getting a bit few more of their own.
On the other side, it’ll be all about doing what they did in the last 3 games for San Jose, who haven’t been shy about pounding shots towards the Vancouver goal whenever they’ve played these past 2 years.
No Cavallini, no problem? While the loss of Lucas Cavallini hurts from a pure talent perspective, with the tough run of form that the Canadian striker finds himself in, this could be a blessing in disguise for both he and the team.
With him in the lineup, the ‘Caps have 3 wins and 8 losses, scoring 10 goals and conceding 26 for a goal difference of -16, while without him they have 2 wins and 2 losses in 4 games, scoring 8 goals and conceding 8 for a goal difference of 0.
For whatever reason, the ‘Caps have fared well without their most expensive signing, and while that’s down to the unique circumstances that this rare season has offered up, that does bode well heading into this matchup, in which they’ll be without him.
Ultimately, you have to imagine he’s in their best lineup, but for now, as he continues to find his feet, his loss doesn’t seem like it’ll quite hurt as much as you’d expect it to.
Bush time? Lastly, the big question remains in goal for the ‘Caps, as Evan Bush seems likely to make his debut on Wednesday, after being acquired by Vancouver a week and a half prior.
It’s unfortunate for Bryan Meredith, who has seemed to find his feet in the last 2 games, but Bush does have pedigree in this league, and considering that Vancouver sought him out as a piece to add when Maxime Crepeau and Thomas Hasal were both confirmed as unlikely to play again this season, you’d expect Bush to get most of the minutes going forward.
For a goalkeeper trying to keep his career alive after things didn’t end the way he would’ve hoped in Montreal, look for a motivated Bush to take the field on Wednesday, trying to help the ‘Caps break their slump against the ‘Quakes.
Not much to share here, as we dumped most of our stats out earlier, but there is one interesting thing to keep an eye on.
In this matchup, we’ll see the two of the worst teams in MLS in terms of leaking Expected Goals (xG) against, as San Jose sits in 4th-last with 1.80 xG against per game, while Vancouver sits in last with a staggering 2.04.
While neither team generates chances at a particular threatening rate, with the ‘Caps sitting 4th last with 1.11 xG per game, while the ‘Quakes sit with a middling 1.41, that could suggest that this ends up being a tight-scoring affair, but considering they combined for a 4-3 thriller earlier this year, a track meet seems the safer bet.
At the same time, considering the ‘Quakes are fresh off back-to-back losses where they kept LAFC and the LA Galaxy, who sit in 2nd and 5th in terms of xG per game, respectively, to a combined 3.07 xG, San Jose has tightened things up these past few games.
Therefore, while a track meet seems like the easy prognostic, don’t be surprised if this one ends up being a lot tighter than one would’ve expected.
Head Coach: Marc Dos Santos
2020 Regular Season Record: 5W-10L-0D (15 PTS)
San Jose Earthquakes:
Head Coach: Matias Almeyda
2020 Regular Season Record: 4W-6-L-5D (17 PTS)
San Jose Earthquakes 4-3 Vancouver Whitecaps
So all-in-all, this game promises to be an exciting one to follow, no matter what the result is.
For the ‘Quakes, it’ll be a chance for them to build on the recent dominance that they’ve held over the ‘Caps, showing that they have the upper edge in this ‘third-wheel’ rivalry of sorts.
On the other side, it’s a chance for the ‘Caps to bust 2 3-game losing streaks, both the one that they have in MLS right now, and the one they have against the ‘Quakes, so if they were to pick up any sort of positive result, that would be intriguing for a multitude of reasons.
At the very least, chaos seems to be on the menu, as Dos Santos said earlier, so look out for that, as these teams engage in a pivotal battle in the hunt for a playoff spot in a tight Western Conference playoff race.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs San Jose Earthquakes, Wednesday, October 7th, 2020, 19:30 PST (Avaya Stadium, San Jose)
Cover Photo via: Matthew Stith and Jared Martinez/MLS