For all the marbles: Vancouver Whitecaps get set to take on LA Galaxy in their 3rd and final matchup of the MLS season

The Vancouver Whitecaps take on the LA Galaxy on Sunday. Here is our preview ahead of that one. 

Having split the first 2, will the 3rd be the decider?

That’s the question that both the Vancouver Whitecaps and the LA Galaxy will be looking to answer on Sunday, as they get set to complete their 3rd and final meeting of this 2021 MLS season.

With this game also marking the halfway point of the Whitecaps season, it feels a bit strange that this will be the last time these 2 sides meet until 2022 (barring a surprise playoff matchup), but that’s the MLS schedule for you sometimes.

And having split the first 2 games between the 2, with both teams winning one of the games by a score of 2-1, in games that featured goals, comebacks and all sorts of drama, they’ll hope they can provide similar entertainment value on Sunday.

Plus, with this game being in LA for the first time, after playing the first 2 in Utah, one can only wonder if the magic of Hollywood can only add to the spectacle of this occasion.

For a ‘Caps team that is coming off of a busy transfer window, one in which they made some pretty important moves to help strengthen their team, they’ll look to use this game ahead of some bigger ones that are still to come, such as their long-awaited return to BC Place, as well as the Canadian Championship, among others.

Because of that, picking up any sort of result in LA would be a welcome surprise, one that they’re happy to try and chase as they reach the halfway mark of this strange season.

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Maxime Crepeau

And to start, we’ll highlight the player that might play the biggest role in their quest to try and pick up a victory, and that’s Crepeau, who is set to make his 1st start since his return from representing Canada this summer.

After a productive international break for his country, one in which he helped lead his team to the semi-finals of the Gold Cup for the first time in 14 years, he’s ready to now shift his attention back to his club, helping them crawl back up the Western Conference standings.

When he’s on, he’s one of the ‘Caps best players, so against a Galaxy side that knows how to score goals, the ‘Caps are going to need him to come up huge in this one.

Storylines:

Elsewhere, here are some other stories we’re keeping an eye out for in this one.

Gauld evening?

To start, it’d be impossible to not mention the ‘Caps newest DP, Ryan Gauld, who made his training debut this week after signing for his new club last weekend.

Brought in to help fix this side’s many offensive woes, he’s expected to bring a much-needed spark to Marc Dos Santos’s side, which is why many are impatiently awaiting his ‘Caps debut.

Barring anything unforeseen, that should come this weekend, actually, but with his fitness still being a question mark, a short cameo seems like what he’ll start with, instead of an appearance right from the beginning.

And considering the ‘Caps need him for the 17+ games that they have after this, that’s smart, as there is no reason to rush him into game action at this stage.

Despite that, though, minutes do seem in the cards for him in this one, which is quite an exciting prospect to imagine.

Absences remain:

But while Gauld’s arrival brings a big boost, there are going to be a few players missing in this game against the Galaxy, for various reasons.

So although the ‘Caps will be happy to welcome new acquisition Florian Jungwirth into the squad, along with the return of Crepeau, Caio Alexandre (suspension) and Lucas Cavallini (suspension/international duty), they’ve also got a few absences to deal with.

With minor injuries to Cristian Dajome (knee) and Cristian Gutierrez (quad), along with the absences of Michael Baldisimo (suspension) and the awaited arrival of new signing Pedro Vite, who still needs to sort out his visa situation, it’ll leave the ‘Caps slightly shorthanded despite some of their new signings.

Even though they’ve finally got their full squad in place and mostly healthy, they’re still aways away from that final frontier, which is getting them all out on the training pitch together, of which they’ll hope to take one step closer to doing in the coming weeks.

Road Warriors:

Lastly, it’ll be interesting to see if the ‘Caps can finally reverse some of their road (mis)fortunes that have dogged them in the past year, as they enter this game having won just 1 of their last 17 road games.

Against a Galaxy side with a whopping 7 wins in 9 games at home, it won’t be easy, but having finally started to train in Vancouver again, the ‘Caps will believe they have what it takes to win on Sunday.

Having picked up points in their last 3 road games, they feel like they’re close to a road breakthrough, even though they’ll be in tough against a Galaxy side currently 3rd in the West.

But the lone silver lining? The 2 times the Galaxy didn’t win at home this year, they lost, instead of picking up a draw, so it’s not as if they’ve been completely impenetrable at home, either, giving the ‘Caps a slim chance.

Stats Splurge:

Otherwise, shifting over to the advanced stats, it’s worth noting that despite the disparity between the two in the standings (16 points), they aren’t that far off each other in some statistical categories.

In the Expected Goals (xG) department, for example, the ‘Caps sit 4th-last with 1.11 xG for per game, and are over-performing in their actual goals per game by just 0.02. 

With the Galaxy, though, they sit 11th in xG with 1.39 xG per game, despite sitting top 5 with 1.59 actual goals per game, suggesting a massive over-performance.

Meanwhile, defensively, despite sitting in the bottom 5 for most of the year, the ‘Caps are now just 9th-last in xG against with 1.49 per game, which is actually better than the Galaxy, who sit 8th-last with 1.50.

So considering all of that, the ‘Caps actually might have the statistical advantage here, as they certainly do defensively, especially based on how they’ve played as of late, while the Galaxy don’t appear to be as good as they’re currently playing offensively.

And it’s important to note that in the 2 meetings between the teams this year, the ‘Caps won the xG battle both times, 1.05-0.65 and 1.31-0.66, respectively, which all bodes well for a Vancouver side who has slowly grown into a decent side as of late.

Projected XIs:

Vancouver Whitecaps:

Record: 3W-7L-6D (15 PTS)

Head Coach: Marc Dos Santos

LA Galaxy:

Record: 10W-6L-1D (31 PTS)

Head Coach: Greg Vanney

2021 Matchups:

Vancouver Whitecaps 1-2 LA Galaxy

Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 LA Galaxy

Looking Forward:

Overall, there appears to be everything needed to have a recipe for a potentially spicy affair between two Western Conference rivals.

Despite being 16 points apart in the standings, these are 2 teams that match up surprisingly well, which should make for a good game.

Based on the first 2 meetings, not an inch will be given by either side, as they look to come out with a massive 3 points, especially in a congested Western Conference playoff picture.

So for the ‘Caps, that should give them all of the inspiration that they’d ever need to go out and get a result, no matter how tough the environment might be.

It’s worth noting that in 2 of their last 3 meetings to LA under Dos Santos, they’ve actually won, so it isn’t as impossible as it might look, and they’ll look to prove that on Sunday.

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs LA Galaxy, Sunday, August 8th, 2021, 17:00 PDT, 20:00 EDT (Dignity Health Park, Carson)

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