The Vancouver Whitecaps take on the San Jose Earthquakes in MLS action on Friday. Here’s our preview ahead of that one.
It’s almost like the start of a new season.
For the Vancouver Whitecaps, it won’t feel that way quite yet, but having breached the halfway point of their 2021 campaign, they’re ready to now focus on the back half of what has already been a very interesting campaign so far.
17 games into this 2021 campaign, they certainly haven’t been bad, picking up points in 10 of those 17 games, but they haven’t been great, either, sitting with just 3 wins and 16 points at the halfway mark.
Because of that, they sit last place in MLS’s Western Conference heading into this game, 7 points off of a playoff spot, having slowly tumbled down the ranks as the year has gone along.
With just 1 win in their last 13 games, they’ve been mired in a rut that has seemed almost impossible to get out of at times, especially as of late.
So entering their first clash of the 2nd half of this season, a late Friday night battle with the San Jose Earthquakes, these ‘Caps are looking to complete the slow turnaround that they’ve been through as of late, as they’ve picked up points in 7 of their last 8 games, with a whopping 6 of them being draws.
Had they been able to turn even half of those draws into wins, they’d have been a point or 2 off the playoff spot, but instead, they head into this game with San Jose desperate for points, knowing what that could do for their fortunes right now.
And they’ll be in tough to change that against this Earthquakes team. Riding a 7-game unbeaten streak, the ‘Quakes are in a similar position to the ‘Caps, having drawn 5 of those games, but at the same time, they’ve also got statement victories against the Seattle Sounders and LAFC among those games.
As a result, the ‘Caps are going to have to bring their A-game to this one. Sitting just 5 points behind the ‘Quakes, they could help tighten the gap in an already congested Western Conference picture, just adding to the drama that is slowly building as we head into the back end of this campaign.
It won’t be easy, down in the San Jose heat on a Friday night, but this ‘Caps team has proven to be full of surprises as of late, and they’ll look to show that again in this one.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Florian Jungwirth
And helping their cause in this game will be their new secret weapon, Jungwirth, who the ‘Caps acquired from the Earthquakes just last week, which should give head coach Marc Dos Santos’s side some secret intel on one of the most intriguing tactical sides in MLS.
Having been brought in as injury insurance, it’s yet unsure if Jungwirth will play against his former team, but with usual ‘Caps starting CB Erik Godoy doubtful for this game with a calf strain, the door is open for Jungwirth to slot in and bring his experience to the table.
So although he’s already proven to be a big help for this game according to Dos Santos, who admitted Jungwirth’s intel has been a big boost for he and his staff, he could also still play a big role on the field yet, too.
Elsewhere, here are some other storylines that are standing out to us ahead of this one.
Last year a fluke?
And to start, it’s worth noting that Dos Santos and the ‘Caps have had a rough go against these ‘Quakes under manager Matias Almeyda, having lost 4 of 5 meetings against San Jose since he was hired as Vancouver manager.
Plus, it’s not as if those games were particularly close, either, as the ‘Caps lost those games by a combined 13-5, which to be fair to Vancouver, is a pretty flattering aggregate scoreline considering how much the Earthquakes dominated them.
But while this has been a 1-way matchup these past 2 years, it’s worth noting that the ‘Caps did pick up a win in the last matchup between the 2 sides, beating the ‘Quakes 2-1 towards the end of last season.
So because of that, one can only wonder if that win was a fluke from the ‘Caps, or if they’ve finally turned a corner against their Californian counterparts.
No more trouble?
Otherwise, the ‘Caps enter this game finally having gone through a rash of suspensions that has seen them lose three regulars due to yellow card accumulation, as Michael Baldisimo, Caio Alexandre and Lucas Cavallini all served suspensions over the last few games.
But despite having gotten to the other end of that crisis, Vancouver still remains without its full roster, as they’re still dealing with a few absences for this game, as Cavallini is currently out for 6 weeks with a knee injury, while new signing Pedro Vite (visa) is yet to rejoin the team, either.
Along with the uncertain statuses of Godoy, Cristian Dajome (knee) and Cristian Gutierrez (calf), the ‘Caps will likely be short regulars once again on Friday.
That’s been the theme all year long, so it’s hardly anything new for them, but you can’t help but wonder what they could look like with their full lineup, especially with all of their new signings finally sorted, including their most important one, their DP #10, Ryan Gauld, who looked good in his debut last week.
So for the ‘Caps, they’ll hope that they can see the day where all of their best players can share the field at the same time, but that day won’t be today, although it does finally appear to be quite close on the horizon.
Moving on, it’s also pretty interesting to note that both teams might look to hand debuts to their big summer signings in this game, which could add a layer of intrigue to this match.
On the ‘Caps side, one can wonder if they’ll be ready to hand a 1st start to Gauld, who looked promising in a short cameo off of the bench in their last clash against the Galaxy, especially considering some of their absences offensively.
On the other side, new San Jose striker Jeremy Ebobisse could also be in line for his 1st start in his new colours, as he too made his debut off of the bench last weekend after his trade to California from the Portland Timbers for a healthy amount of allocation money last week.
So while it’s probably unlikely that we see debuts for both, as Gauld seems likely to stick to a super-sub role as he works up to full fitness, they’re still both key players that both sides will be expecting a lot out of, making them players to watch regardless if they get that start or not.
Lastly, it’s always intriguing to see what the numbers are saying ahead of this game, and based on what they’re looking like, this game should have plenty of action in it.
Offensively, the ‘Quakes have the edge, as they’re averaging 1.32 Expected Goals (xG) per game, which is much better than the ‘Caps 1.12 xG per game, but it’s worth noting that the ‘Caps haven crested that number in their last 2 games, so it’s at least trending in the right direction.
Defensively, the ‘Caps have the edge, though, as San Jose is giving up a horrendous 1.82 xG per game, compared to the ‘Caps 1.50 xG, which much like with their xG for, is improving, having held their opponents to under 1.5 xG in 4 of their last 5 games.
Because of that, this game feels like it could be wide-open, as that San Jose defence is less than inspiring, and it’s not as if the ‘Caps is much better, because despite their recent improvement, they’re still 7th-last in xG against, compared to the ‘Quakes in 2nd-last.
So although the ‘Caps are trending in the right direction, considering their past struggles against this San Jose game, one can only wonder if another 4-3 game is in the cards, as they famously combined for at the MLS is Back tournament last year.
Record: 3W-7L-7D (16 PTS)
Head Coach: Marc Dos Santos
San Jose Earthquakes:
Record: 5W-7L-6D (21 PTS)
Head Coach: Matias Almeyda
Vancouver Whitecaps 3-4 San Jose Earthquakes
San Jose Earthquakes 3-0 Vancouver Whitecaps
Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes
So overall, although San Jose has held the edge in this matchup over the past few years, considering the ‘Caps win last year, and their recent form, Dos Santos’s side could have a slight edge in this matchup.
Again, based on San Jose’s recent undefeated run, that’s a bold proclamation, but considering their defensive numbers, it’s hard to bet against them, as they’ve given up a concerning number of chances despite their good form.
But at the very least, both teams should combine for an entertaining game, as a lot is at stake for both sides, especially heading into a busy 2nd half of the season.
Because of that, it should hopefully make for a memorable Friday night matchup, the lone on MLS’s slate this week, giving it the eyeballs it deserves.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs San Jose Earthquakes, Friday, August 13th, 2021, 19:30 PDT, 22:30 EDT (PayPal Park, San Jose)
Cover Photo via: Matthew Stith/Jared Martinez/MLS