The Vancouver Whitecaps travel down to LA to take on the Galaxy on Sunday, as they look to win 3 games in a row for the first time in nearly 3 years. Here is our preview ahead of that one.
Can they pull off the triple?
Fresh off back-to-back wins over Real Salt Lake and LAFC, the Vancouver Whitecaps are getting set to do something they’ve yet to do since Marc Dos Santos was hired as a head coach – win 3 games in a row.
Against an LA Galaxy team that they’ve beaten back-to-back times in their last 2 visits to Dignity Health Sports Park, they’re also chasing another triple by getting 3 straight road victories against the Galaxy.
Considering that the Galaxy are in the midst of a 6-game losing streak, and a 7-game winless run, the ‘Caps actually enter this game as favourites, as well, making the chance for the pair of triples a realistic possibility.
At the same time, if there is one thing Dos Santos wants to avoid doing after these recent victories, it’s getting too high, as he and his team did a great job at not getting too low when they got hit with a 4-game losing streak of their own recently.
While the Galaxy have lost their last 4 games at home, the ‘Caps have struggled with the new away day protocol brought about by COVID-19, in which teams must travel in and out on game day, so Dos Santos has every reason to want to temper excitement ahead of this one.
“Yeah we want to get nine points out of the last three games, we’re going there with the same intention,” Dos Santos said on Friday. “Now, the challenge is that we haven’t done well in the in-and-out, we haven’t done well in this (new) way of getting out of a plane and going straight to a game, so that’s continuing to be a challenge. Hopefully, we’re going to answer much better in this one, at least getting out of LA with points.”
“We think this is going to be a very difficult game, we’re not looking at standings, we’re not looking at the form of the opponent, we’re looking at what do we have to do and what do we want to be about as a club. I think even in some of the games we lost, like the first half against San Jose, or even the game we played against Portland in the 1-0 loss, there was already a lot of flashes of what we want it to be about. And then, we were able to confirm that more against LAFC and we want to continue that run going to LA.”
But while the ‘Caps won’t want to sound the victory cannons just yet, they do have to feel confident about themselves heading into Sunday.
Not only have they won consecutive games, but they’ve looked full value for their money in those victories, controlling the play offensively, looking mostly airtight defensively and finishing their chances in the final third.
Those are 3 things that they’ve struggled to do consistently all season long, so to see them start to finally find some success that way is encouraging, especially heading into the last 5 games of the season, with everything still to play for.
It’s been a tough season, but it’s still a year in which a lot is still on the line, despite their struggles, and the ‘Caps want to keep battling to the bitter end.
“I think we’ve addressed the little things,” ‘Caps captain, Russell Teibert, said on Friday. “We’ve magnified and addressed the small details, I think we’ve done those little jobs and small jobs well. I think you see a team that is playing with confidence right now, and that’s what happens when you win games.”
“And even in the defeat, we have been able to turn the page fairly quickly and been able to bounce back. And I think that goes to show the character of this team and the players, along with the staff, as well as the entire organization. It’s been a difficult year, but we keep going after it, we keep going out and then that shows the resilience of the squad.”
So with all of that in mind, look for the ‘Caps to try and keep on taking steps forward in those aforementioned departments against the Galaxy on Sunday.
They know that if they can keep their defensive lines sturdy, continue to control play in possession, and finish their chances, they can trouble teams, as they showed against LAFC on Wednesday.
Against a team that had recently battered them, they bounced back nicely, and now they’ll want to build off of that against the other LA team.
Considering that the Galaxy have allowed 10 goals in their last 2 games, the ‘Caps will want to do more of what they did against LAFC, which included 2 goals in which they put together some intricate build-up play to culminate with a solid goal.
“Great, because it’s so much of the things we’re doing in training, and going straight from the training ground into the field,” Dos Santos said of the goals. “The build up with three where Leo (Owusu) comes in between the center backs, Evan plays the ball between lines to Janio (Bikel), the ball from Janio to Cristian (Dajome) is very good. The way we’re asking Fredy to play underneath Dajome and Cava, he’s at that right spot, the last pass, the run from Cava, all of that is important and we spoke about what a team is. You always have egos in a team, you always have guys that think they’re better than the other, that’s part of sports. But what the players understand is that nothing happens with you alone.”
“The ball from Fredy to Dajome in that goal looks like a pure type of number 10 ball. But the ball from Janio before that is as good, or better, and that ball from Fredy doesn’t happen without the ball from Janio, so it’s all connected. And when you see a goal that is a team goal, you’re very pleased with that. But I’m also pleased with, especially in the first half, how aggressive the team was, our lines were high, we tried to punch back from the 6-0 loss, we didn’t have any type of complex of inferiority, and that it was important to set the tone.”
Heading into a game against a team that has struggled so hard as of late, the ‘Caps do have to be worried about the threat of a potential Galaxy bounceback, however.
Despite what their recent form suggests, any team with Cristian Pavon, Sebastian Lletget and Javier Hernandez is not to be taken lightly, even if the last name, Hernandez, has struggled massively in his debut campaign in MLS.
They’ve got names who can hurt you offensively, so against a ‘Caps team that has really been boom-or-bust defensively this season, they’ll have to be wary of not giving the Galaxy’s stars any space to work with.
At the same time, the ‘Caps will also want to focus on themselves. Part of the reason they’ve found some form is because they’ve seemed to really buy into Dos Santos’s system as of late, so no point in stopping that now, either.
It’ll be all about finding that balance on Sunday, and using it to push for a victory.
“Yeah, I mean I think that’s always the case, is kind of focusing on ourselves,” goalkeeper Evan Bush said Friday. “Obviously, being prepared for whoever the opponent is but at the same time, we train against ourselves every day, so you can only focus on yourself for that time period.”
“The staff is going to put together a game plan in terms of how we want to go forward against them, but like you said, they’ve been in a bit of a rough way, but if you look at their roster, I mean it’s loaded with talent, so to take this game lightly would be a huge mistake for us, and we’re in no position to be doing that.”
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Evan Bush
After the ‘Caps recent offensive burst, it would make sense to pick an attacker, but given the fact that the ‘Caps haven’t kept a clean sheet in 14 games, we’ll pick Bush as our player to watch.
Unluckily for him, he was denied the honours last game due to a late LAFC penalty, in which he actually saved the first attempt, but conceded on the retake, which was given due to encroachment.
In the last 2 games, he’s only allowed 2 goals, so against a Galaxy team that was just shut out by the Earthquakes, will this see him keep a first ‘blanchissage’ in a ‘Caps kit? It’ll definitely be something worth monitoring as the game progresses.
Cava time? After scoring his first brace in the season on Wednesday, might we see Lucas Cavallini continue his 2-game scoring streak with another goal on Sunday versus the Galaxy?
Considering that he’s always tended to be a streaky scorer wherever he’s been, it does feel like if he plays as he did on Wednesday, he has a few more goals in his locker, so he’ll definitely be one to watch Sunday.
In what has been a trying year for the ‘Caps record-signing, no better way to close out the season than with a goalscoring run, one that helps his side push back into the playoffs for the first time in 3 seasons.
Prove it was no fluke: As previously mentioned, the last 2 times the ‘Caps took on the Galaxy in LA, they won, so clearly they’ve liked playing there recently.
But you know what they say, one time can be luck, 2 times can be still a fluke, but it’s hard to dispute against doing something 3 times, so the ‘Caps will want to show that they’ve really taken to Dignity Health Park with another victory in this one.
And considering their quest to win 3 games in a row for the first time under Dos Santos, they can eliminate 2 birds with one stone in the quest to prove that these two mini-streaks are no fluke.
Which Galaxy side is going to show up? But while the ‘Caps will be focused on playing their A-game, you do have to wonder which Galaxy side shows up.
Will it be the Galaxy that beat Portland once and LAFC twice right after returning from MLS is Back? Or will the Galaxy continue their losing streak in which they’ve not only lost games, but looked like a shadow of the team they once were at their peak?
With things being so heated in and around the club right now, a victory could do them a world of good, so if they come out flat once again, you have to imagine that could very well be the end of some tenures at the club for some.
But while much has been made of the Galaxy’s struggles, their underlying numbers paint a surprising picture. They’re actually a middling team in terms of both Expected Goals for and Against (xG), but they’re third-last in terms of Goal difference-Expected Goals difference with -11.44, which means that their goal difference is over 11 goals worse than expected.
When analyzing that stat, it does suggest that their defence has not been very good, as it’s not unnormal for a team to have good xG numbers against them yet concede a lot of goals, but that number is quite high, so you do wonder a bit about luck.
You do also wonder about a potential talent disparity in the Galaxy squad, which could skew the numbers, as a number of really good players such as Pavon and Lletget could be making things look better than they should, but it’s still an interesting set of numbers to analyze.
Either way, for a boom-or-bust ‘Caps team that has only won the xG battle 6 out of 18 games they’ve played, either of those theories would be good news, as it suggests that if they control the ball as they have in their last 2 games, they should score goals.
For a ‘Caps team that has the same number of actual goals as expected goals, the more they generate against this Galaxy team, the better, and considering that the Galaxy allowed 1.83 and 2.4 xG in their last 2 games, respectively, it feels like Vancouver could score 2 or 3 goals if things go right.
Ultimately, it’s hard to know what’s going to happen, but when looking at the stats, there are definitely a few intriguing trends to keep an eye on in this one.
Head Coach: Marc Dos Santos
Regular Season Record: 7W-11L-0D (21 PTS)
Head Coach: Guillermo Barros Schelotto
Regular Season Record: 4W-9L-3D (15 PTS)
LA Galaxy 0-1 Vancouver Whitecaps
So now, it’ll be intriguing to see how this game ends up unfolding, especially given its importance in the Western Conference playoff race.
Can the ‘Caps continue their run and find a big victory in tough confines? Or can the Galaxy snap out of their funk and find their form?
We find out Sunday, in what at the very least should be a good back and forth affair.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs LA Galaxy, Sunday, October 18th, 2020, 19:30 PST (Dignity Health Park, Los Angeles)