Spoil the Party: Vancouver Whitecaps putting full ‘focus’ on pivotal FC Dallas 4th of July clash

The Vancouver Whitecaps are looking to win their first game in nearly 2 months on Sunday, as they take on FC Dallas. Here is our preview ahead of that one. 

8 days after a big result, they finally get a chance to build off of it. 

For the Vancouver Whitecaps, they would’ve preferred to get right back onto the field not long after they picked up a big 2-2 draw with their rivals and current league leaders, the Seattle Sounders, last Saturday, but instead, they had to wait a bit longer than usual for their next match, a clash with FC Dallas this Sunday. 

After travelling to the Pacific Northwest for their clash with their Cascadia rivals, another trip into the heart of Texas now awaits them, as they look to avenge their last trip to Texas, where they lost 2-1 to the Houston Dynamo back at the end of May, in what was their last game before a lengthy international break in June. 

But unlike that Houston game, which came as the ‘Caps were in the midst of a 2 game losing streak, this game is much more important to the prospective fortunes of this Vancouver team, as they enter this clash with Dallas firmly at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, having lost 5 of their last 6 games. 

The good news, however? Dallas happens to be the team currently sitting closest to them in the West standings, sitting just 2 points ahead of them, with both sides level on 10 games played. 

As a result, a win for Dallas could create a bit of daylight between them and the ‘Caps, while a ‘Caps win could open things back up at the bottom, paving a potential path back towards the playoffs. 

With only 5 points separating 7th place and 12th place, the 13th placed Whitecaps understand the value of a potential win over 12th-placed Dallas could bring to them, and they’re preparing for this game accordingly. 

“What we have to focus on is the little details that allow you to get the points away,” ‘Caps head coach, Marc Dos Santos, told reporters this week. “We know the problems that Dallas gives are very different than the ones of Seattle.”

So because of that, expect a motivated ‘Caps side, as they’ll look to pick up a huge morale-boosting win ahead of what’s expected to be a tough month of July, where they’ll lose some key players due to the start of the Gold Cup this week. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Lucas Cavallini

And one of those players? DP striker Lucas Cavallini, who as of writing, is now the only official DP left on the ‘Caps after fellow DP Ali Adnan’s contract was terminated Saturday morning. 

Technically, that changes nothing, as Adnan was yet to play this year due to an ongoing visa issue that led to the termination, and was technically under the TAM threshold, but despite that, it’s a bit more jarring to realize that Cavallini is now officially the only ‘Caps DP. 

Unfortunately for the ‘Caps, their striker hasn’t been able to find his feet so far this year, either, only scoring 2 goals through 10 games, enduring an 8 game scoring drought between two goals. 

The good news for Vancouver, however? Cavallini broke that aforementioned drought against Seattle, scoring for the ‘Caps for the first time since April, meaning that he comes into this game in form. Considering that he’s typically been a streaky scorer in his career, that’s double good news for the ‘Caps, who will need him to be in-form away from home against Dallas. 

As he gets set to leave the team for upwards of 3 games due to the Gold Cup, the ‘Caps will hope he can find a way to depart on a high note, and based on his goal against Seattle, it’ll feel that he’s in the mood to make that happen. 

Storylines: 

Elsewhere, here are some storylines to monitor ahead of this game. 

So close… yet so far…

Interestingly, when the ‘Caps and Dallas kick off on Sunday, it’ll be the first time they’ve taken the field together in over 2 years, as they last met on June 26th of 2019, when they combined for an entertaining 2-2 draw, one where the ‘Caps came down 2-0 on the road to rescue a point. 

Since then, however, they’ve avoided each other, as the pandemic saw them unable to play one another in 2020, as despite being in the same conference, the regional-based schedule that was made to limit travel made this potential matchup impossible. 

So with this game, this will be the ‘Caps 11th different Western Conference opponent over the last calendar year, with only 2021 MLS debutants Austin FC remaining to complete the ‘12 in 12’ for Vancouver. 

For reference, the ‘Caps have only played 3 Eastern Conference teams over that timespan – Toronto FC, CF Montreal and the Chicago Fire, but that’s not surprising due to the pandemic. 

Not playing Dallas in over 2 years, though? That’s quite surprising, and hopefully both teams can bring the fireworks on July 4th to compensate for that. 

Good luck Adnan:

Otherwise, it’ll also mark the ‘Caps first game without Adnan, as mentioned above, which is almost fitting as Adnan most famously scored his first MLS goal in a 2-1 win over Dallas in May of 2019. 

Obviously, with Adnan yet to suit up in any of his now-former club’s first 10 games to start 2021, the ‘Caps won’t be feeling like they’ll be missing him more than usual, but for the first time, they’ll have to play with the idea that he won’t be returning as many previously were hoping for now.

Again, that doesn’t change too much, but as a result of that, it’d be nice to see a big performance from Adnan’s replacement, Cristian Gutierrez, who has mostly done a pretty good job to make people forget Adnan’s absence all season. 

No better time to continue that form than in this game, showing that the ‘Caps are in good hands even without their former Iraqi lion. 

The return of the ‘Toilet Bowl’?

Lastly, it’s worth noting that this game is the return of the ‘Toilet Bowl’, which was what a May 2019 clash between the ‘Caps and Colorado Rapids was nicknamed with both teams being at the bottom of the Western Conference at the time. 

Much like in that game, the ‘Caps and Dallas find themselves in a similar position heading into this game, marking the return of the ‘Toilet Bowl’, or whatever reincarnation of that name that comes out. 

The good news for neutral observers? Despite that supposed lack of quality, the ‘Caps and Colorado’s ‘Toilet Bowl’ games were entertaining, as the teams combined for 5 and 4 goals in their two 2019 games, respectively, so hopefully both teams can deliver something similar on Sunday. 

Considering that both teams combined for 3 and 4 goals in their 2 clashes in 2019, all metrics are seeming to point towards an entertaining evening, so hopefully they can find a way to deliver on that promise now. 

Stats Splurge:

But diving into the numbers, do the advanced stats potentially point towards a goal-fest? 

The early answer? Maybe. 

Dallas enters this game as one of the better offensive teams in MLS, generating 1.41 Expected Goals (xG) per game, which is 12th in the league, and significantly better than the ‘Caps 1.20 xG per game, which is 20th in the league. 

At the other end, though, both teams aren’t exactly what you’d describe as low-event, as the ‘Caps sit 20th with 1.62 xG against per game, with Dallas not far behind them in 23rd with 1.69 xG against, which means goals could be on the cards. 

So although Dallas tends to hold much more of the ball, sitting 4th in MLS with an average of 53.1% possession (the ‘Caps sit 24th with 47.3%), they tend to give up a lot of chances, which may play into the hands of a ‘Caps team that is fresh off of scoring 2 open play goals against a Seattle team who hadn’t conceded any of those to start the year. 

Because of that, it’d be a surprise to see either team keep a clean sheet, which for the neutral observers, might be the best potential outcome. 

Projected XIs:

Vancouver Whitecaps:

Record: 2W-6L-2D (8 PTS)

Head Coach: Marc Dos Santos

FC Dallas:

Record: 2W-4L-4D (10 PTS)

Head Coach: Luchi Gonzalez

Last Matchup:

FC Dallas 2-2 Vancouver Whitecaps

Looking Forward:

So now, it’ll be intriguing to see if the early projections for this matchup actually match up with the delivered result. 

What’s most interesting about this matchup is that both teams enter this game coming off of big results, as Dallas beat the top team in the East last week, the New England Revolution, while the ‘Caps drew the top team in the West in Seattle, bucking the low expectations that their current positions in the table would’ve given them ahead of those games. 

Because of that, it makes it hard to project this game. As the home team, Dallas is the early favourites, especially against a ‘Caps team that has only picked up 5 of a possible 45 points in their last 15 road games, but at the same time, it’s MLS, and those trends can often be thrown on their head on any given night. 

For the ‘Caps, they’ll hope it’s on Sunday, as they’ll look to spoil the 4th of July party that is presumably planned in the Lone Star State, leaving some fireworks of their own out on the pitch. 

Having put up a surprising yet entertaining draw last week against their closest geographical rival, no reason why they can’t do so again now pitted up against their closest foe in the standings. 

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs FC Dallas, Sunday, July 4th, 2021, 17:30 PDT, 20:30 EDT (Toyota Stadium, Frisco)

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