The Vancouver Whitecaps take on the Houston Dynamo in MLS action on Tuesday. Here is our preview ahead of that one.
After having gotten a taste of glory, the quest is now to avoid complacency.
Having snapped an 8-game winless run this past weekend, the Vancouver Whitecaps will have had every reason to want to revel in their recent victory, a 2-1 triumph over the LA Galaxy, as it was their first win in over 2-and-a-half months.
Despite that, though, with a game awaiting them 3 days later, they’ll have to find a way to move past the thrill of victory and focus up ahead of their next challenge, as a clash with a tough Houston Dynamo awaits them on Tuesday.
With a bit of wind finally back underneath their sails, one certainly wouldn’t blame the ‘Caps for feeling up in the clouds ahead of this game, but good teams find a way to stay level-headed in the face of success, so no better way to prove that they’re taking a step forward than winning back-to-back games for the first time since October of last year.
“Yeah, obviously it’s a quick turnaround,” ‘Caps goalkeeper Thomas Hasal said on Monday. “So recovery for us is important to focus on. The 3 points last game were important, it’s been a rough patch for the team, but now getting this win was important for us in the standings, and more importantly, I believe our performance, especially in the 2nd half, was the main takeaway from the game.”
But at the same time, while the Whitecaps will look to avoid getting too caught up in the thrill of their most recent victory, at the same time, that doesn’t mean that they can’t use it as a good point of reference to build off of heading into this match.
After having gone down a goal early, the ‘Caps bounced back nicely with a resilient second-half effort, picking up 2 clutch goals and snatching all 3 points away from LA.
They’ll want to avoid carrying over the bad start habit, one they’ve had trouble ditching so far this season, but if they can manage to do what they did in the last 45 minutes on Saturday through the rest of the game, they’ll be in a good position to win.
It’s something they’re well aware of, and they’ll try to correct that, as they’ll attempt to give Houston a good run for their money right from the opening whistle.
“Everything we spoke about not long ago, it was reinforced upon watching the game again and looking at the things that needed to be better for this next game,” ‘Caps head coach Marc Dos Santos said. “So what we spoke about a lot, and what we wanted to address in the day-and-a-half that we had, was the pressure from the front, how it was done in the 2nd half versus the 1st half, and also trying to unblock moments where we played against some lower blocks.”
But despite all of the optimism they might have heading into this game, the ‘Caps will have to be careful about how they manage their squad, having only had 2 days of rest between games.
For a squad already stretched thin by injury and international absences, the last thing they’d need right now is to lose a player to an overuse injury, further adding to their woes.
Rotation at times has been limited for the ‘Caps this year, but with a compressed schedule ahead, especially with the return of the Canadian Championship later next month, Dos Santos will have to start planning ahead, doing his best to avoid any further problems.
“When we have a run like this, it’s a little bit of everything,” Dos Santos said. “It’s planning subs that come in a little bit earlier in the game, it’s the mentality of the guys that want a game and you have to be fair with them, it’s the need for rotation on some players.”
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Leonard Owusu
Because of that, we’ll be keeping an eye on one of those depth pieces in this section, Leonard Owusu, who has just made 6 appearances through 13 games this season, none as a starter.
After having played in 20 out of 23 games for the ‘Caps in 2020, including 14 as a starter, he’s struggled to find his way back into the squad in 2021, featuring for a grand total of 82 minutes so far this year.
He did deal with an injury to start the year, so it’s not as if his absence from the starting eleven is completely without explanation, but at the same time, he’s been healthy for a while, and was one of the team’s best performers in preseason.
So hopefully this congested schedule allows him to finally get on the field, showing the skills that made him such a tantalizing signing out of Israel for the ‘Caps, who could certainly use his offensive ability in midfield.
Elsewhere, here are some other stories to keep an eye on ahead of this one.
One last rodeo?
To start, it’s worth noting that this game will likely be the Whitecaps’ last at their 2021 ‘home-away-from-home’, Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, where they’ve been stationed for most of the year due to the pandemic.
With Canadian teams now allowed to return home, this is the last official game they committed to a few months back, which should now allow them to return back to train and play in Vancouver.
So hopefully they can end their chapter in Utah with a bang, setting themselves up nicely for a return to the West Coast.
Through 6 games as the ‘home’ team in Utah, they’ve won 3 out of their 6 games, so no better way to send themselves off by picking up a 4th win, finishing over .500 in their temporary abode.
Those slow starts:
To do that, though, the ‘Caps will have to find a way to shrug off their slow starts problem, one that has been plaguing them all year.
Through 13 games, they’ve been outscored 10-2 in the first half, as they’ve almost always been second best through the first 45 minutes of most games they’ve played.
Plus, they’ve only scored the first goal in a game twice, coincidentally coming in 2 of the 3 games that they’ve won, showing that it is making it much harder for them to grab results.
Because of that, they need to really start to make this slow start habit a problem of the past, and no better time to start doing that than now, especially with their impending return to BC.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that Ranko Veselinovic started on Saturday for the 7th time this season, but first time in 6 games, helping the ‘Caps pick up their 3rd win of the year.
After having spent some time on the sidelines, it was a good chance for him to get back into the fold, and he made the most of it, helping his team for just the 4th time this season, and the first time in 7 games.
Because of that, the ‘Caps have now picked up 10 of their 12 points when he starts, only conceding 8 times in that time span, while also picking up their only 2 clean sheets of the season.
So expect him to stick in the lineup on Tuesday, looking to give more evidence that he’s the good luck charm that the ‘Caps need at the back, continuing what has been an improved 2021 season after a rocky first MLS season last year in 2020.
Elsewhere, when diving into the numbers ahead of this game, it projects to be quite the cagey affair, as both teams aren’t exactly what one might term to be ‘offence friendly.
The ‘Caps sit 6th-last in MLS in Expected Goals (xG) for per game with 1.15, which is just marginally better than the Dynamo’s 4th-worst 1.10, showing that both teams are quite low-event with the ball.
Despite that, both sides leak chances, as the Dynamo give up a league 3rd-worst 1.68 xG per game, with the ‘Caps not sitting much better in 5th-worst with 1.65 xG against per game.
Interesting to note, however? The xG battle was a lot more eventful when these two teams met in May, as the ‘Caps won that duel 1.48 to 1.32 despite losing 2-1, meaning that goals could be on the cards based on their current defensive predicaments.
With how their offences have been playing, though, they’ll need to find a bit of magic from an unlikely source to turn those chances into goals, because if not, a 1-1 or 2-1 will be on the cards.
Record: 3W-7L-3D (12 PTS)
Head Coach: Marc Dos Santos
Record: 3W-4L-6D (15 PTS)
Head Coach: Tab Ramos
Houston Dynamo 2-1 Vancouver Whitecaps
Now, it’ll be interesting to see how these two sides actually match up when they take the field on Tuesday.
With just 3 points separating these teams in the Western Conference standings, a win for the ‘Caps could throw themselves right back into the playoff mix, while a win for the Dynamo could give them a bit of separation between the basement.
Because of that, both teams should have every reason to go out on the field and combine for a spirited tilt, as there will be plenty at stake.
So for the Whitecaps, they’ll want to manage that and end their time in Utah on a high note, giving them a bit of momentum for their eventual return back to BC.
After having spent so much time away from home, no better way to mark the fact that they’re nearing the end of that journey on a high note, giving them some momentum ahead of what they’ll hope is a strong end to the year.
Against a Dynamo side ripe for the taking, they can do just that, and will look to do so at ‘home’ on Tuesday.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Houston Dynamo, Tuesday, July 20th, 2021, 19:00 PDT, 22:00 EDT (Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy)