The Vancouver Whitecaps take on the San Jose Earthquakes in Portland on Saturday. Here is our preview ahead of that one, as the ‘Caps look to get one back over a ‘Quakes side that beat them 3-0 a few weeks back.
After a short rest, it’s time for them to dive right back in.
For the first time in 3 weeks, the Vancouver Whitecaps didn’t have a midweek game, giving them a few extra days of rest ahead of their next matchup, a clash with the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.
And while a break can be a double-edged sword, there’s no doubt that it came at a good time for Vancouver, who lost to the LA Galaxy on a 90th-minute goal this past Sunday. In a game where they ran out of gas after the 60th minute, getting a few days off was surely a welcome sight for these ‘Caps, who now head into the last 4 games of their MLS season.
Fresh off back-to-back wins ahead of that Galaxy clash, the ‘Caps are looking to prove that defeat was just a blip on the radar, not the start of a trend, as they look to push for a playoff spot here.
“I don’t see it just in one game, I see what we’re trying to do in the last few games, where it’s been consistent what we want to do, and consistent in the way we want to play, so we just want to improve that,” ‘Caps head coach Marc Dos Santos said Thursday, when asked about the Galaxy loss. “What we saw against the Galaxy, though, I saw after it being the 3rd game in 9 days, I saw some fatigue from some of the players, but now that’s not a concern.”
“We had a lot of recovery, we’re going to be recovered for this game. Unfortunately, the game against the Galaxy, we forced too many things, we had the majority of possession, but we still forced play, then when we were in the final third, we were kind of passive, so we weren’t aggressive against the Galaxy in the final third, we got there a lot, without bringing danger, so we hope that we’re going to change that against San Jose.”
But while they’ll hope to bounce back after the loss to the Galaxy, it won’t be easy against the ‘Quakes, who have won 4 of their last 6 games, having most recently drawn against the Western Conference leaders, the Seattle Sounders, in their last match out.
And even though the surging ‘Quakes recent form certainly leaves reason for worry, it also has to be remembered that San Jose has won all 4 games they’ve played against Marc Dos Santos and the ‘Caps these past 2 years, as Matias Almeyda’s team have seemed to find a formula that works against Vancouver.
On the other hand, having seen San Jose that many times does give the ‘Caps some valuable intel, but at the same time, considering that the ‘Quakes have won those 3 of those 4 games by 2 or more goals, they haven’t been really all that close, either.
So for Vancouver, it’ll be about finding a way to neutralize the ‘Quakes defensively, and seeing what they can do from there.
“Well, you have to close them down, you have to press them, you can’t allow them to think too much, and allow them too much space,” Dos Santos said. “We know exactly what the game’s going to be about, we have to make sure that when we don’t have the ball, we’re not passive defending, because that’s where I think they throw a lot of numbers at you, so we have to make sure that we’re high on the field, we press them in the right way, we’re in their face when we have to, and then, with the ball, we have to make sure that we get out of all the 1v1 situations.”
“To beat San Jose, you need to have players that are good in 1v1 situations, players that are in a good day, coming out of that running with the ball into space, creating these 1v1s and have the ability to beat their opponent, that’s what the game against San Jose brings.”
Against a San Jose team that will be filled with energy, this recent break has to bode well for Vancouver, as well.
Having had a chance to recharge the batteries, before diving back into training this past week, they have every reason to at least be competitive in this match.
“Those days are key for me,” forward Lucas Cavallini said of the recent break. “Not only for me, I get to see my family, spend time with them, but also to rest the legs a bit, get my heart rate back, so it’s been good, but I enjoyed my time, but now it’s back to work.”
And with the Western Conference playoff picture looking as tight as it is, that should add extra incentive for the ‘Caps, who already shouldn’t have any issues being motivated for this one.
These Earthquakes currently sit 3 points ahead of the 8th-placed Vancouver in 7th, with both sides having played 19 games.
With the top 8 teams in the West making it in this year, that makes this battle for 7th huge, especially considering the uncertain future of the Colorado Rapids, who have only played 13 games due to a COVID outbreak in their squad.
As the Rapids get set to finally return to action this weekend, their playoff standing might be decided on points per game, which could see them leap up from 11th into a playoff spot.
So for the ‘Caps, it’ll be huge to make sure they’re in 7th by the time the season is over, giving them some leeway in case anything like that happens.
“Our focus right now is to finish above that line, and at the same time, win the most games possible that we can, and then, if we can fight until the end and we can be in that top 8, that’s what we want,” Dos Santos said. “Right now, it’s a little bit out of our control, the decision regarding that, you even had the league (Supporter Shield Foundation) decide a little bit later that there would not be a Supporter’s Shield, and it’s just a season where we’re kind of putting band-aids into situations and moments, and it’s been very challenging,”
“But the important (thing) is that there is an MLS season, and we’re carrying on with everything that is happening, and us, our job is to try and win as much games as we can and be in a position that at the end we can be above that line.”
In their quest to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017, a win in this game could go a long way, especially how tight the West standings sit for now, with only 6 points between 4th and 11th in the conference.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Erik Godoy
Considering that the ‘Caps have been outscored 13-5 in their last 4 matchups with San Jose, they’re going to need a big defensive performance to dream of getting all 3 points, which is where Erik Godoy is going to have to come up big.
While the ‘Caps haven’t kept a clean sheet in 15 games, the return of Godoy in September gave a big boost to their defence, as they definitely missed the presence of their Argentine marshall when he was out with an injury.
As they look to return to winning ways after a setback against the Galaxy last week, a good defensive performance would go a long way in this one, especially considering their struggles in that area against San Jose in the past.
Shots on the menu? After only getting 5 shots on target in their first 3 games versus San Jose under Marc Dos Santos, the ‘Caps matched that total throughout 90 minutes in the 4th game, which was good to see.
Against a San Jose team that truly kicked their teeth in statistically during those first 3 games, the ‘Caps did a lot better in that match a few weeks back, but ultimately, their lack of finishing and some struggles defensively undid them.
Fresh off being shut out by the Galaxy, they’ll want to show that they can score goals, as they look to avoid their 3rd lengthy goalless drought of this campaign.
Home Field Advantage? Helping the ‘Caps is that this game will be at Providence Park, a stadium they’ve had success in so far this season, as they’ve wasted no time in getting comfortable at their new home away from home.
With a win over LAFC a week and a half ago, their record against non-Portland sides in Portland improved to 4W-0L-0D (preseason and regular season), as they’ve continued to do well in these unique circumstances.
Considering how important a win in this one could be, they’ll be hoping that magic continues on Saturday.
Cavallini time? One big change for the ‘Caps in this meeting with San Jose compared to the other 2 this season? The return of Lucas Cavallini, who missed out on the first clash at MLS is Back due to personal reasons, before missing out on the second clash due to yellow card accumulation.
Having scored his first brace of the season against LAFC, Cavallini was quiet against the Galaxy, so he’ll want to make amends for that against San Jose in this one.
Considering that Cavallini now has 6 goals in 6 games this year in Portland (preseason and regular season), you do feel like he’s got a goal in himself this game, so he’s definitely someone to keep an eye on in this one.
When looking at the stats, one thing is clear: if you like wide-open soccer, this is the game for you.
Considering that the ‘Caps and the ‘Quakes are worst and 6th-worst in MLS in terms of Expected Goals (xG) against, respectively, you do feel like chances to score are going to be aplenty for both teams.
It’s worth noting that the ‘Quakes are also a solid 10th in xG for, while the ‘Caps sit 3rd-last, which could suggest that this game is going to be more tilted towards San Jose, but on the other hand, the ‘Caps have been really inconsistent, tilting their results.
At the same time, the ‘Quakes did also win the xG duel 2.02-0.40 when these 2 teams last met, so it does feel like the ‘Caps are fighting an uphill battle heading into this one.
Regular Season Record: 7W-12L-0D
Head Coach: Marc Dos Santos
San Jose Earthquakes
Regular Season Record: 6W-7L-6D
Head Coach: Matias Almeyda
San Jose Earthquakes 4-3 Vancouver Whitecaps
San Jose Earthquakes 3-0 Vancouver Whitecaps
So now, it’ll be very intriguing to see which version of the Whitecaps shows up in this one.
Will it be the ‘Caps who outplayed LAFC en route to a memorable victory last week? Or will it be the team that lost 1-0 to a struggling Galaxy side in a game they had every chance to win?
Given the short rest they just had, you’d have to imagine that they look more like the former than the latter, but given their struggles versus San Jose, it could easily be another tough result.
But at the very least, given how important this game is in the scheme of things, this promises to be a very entertaining match, and that’s without factoring how fun the games tend to be whenever these teams match up.
Up next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs San Jose Earthquakes, Saturday, October 24th, 2020, 19:00 PST (Providence Park, Portland)
Cover Photo via: Matthew Stith and Jared Martinez/MLS