Meet the New Guy: Vancouver Whitecaps ready for 1st visit to expansion newbies Austin in pivotal must-win match

The Vancouver Whitecaps take on Austin FC in MLS action on Wednesday. Here’s our match preview ahead of that one.

It’s a chance to meet the new guys on the block. 

For the Vancouver Whitecaps, a big game awaits them on Wednesday, when they take on expansion side Austin FC in a pivotal MLS Western Conference clash. 

Against the league’s newest expansion side, needing a win, the ‘Caps will be hopeful of their chances against the Verde, even though they’ll be in tough at Q2 Stadium, Austin’s boisterous home park. 

But against an Austin team currently sitting last in the Western Conference, with a league-high 10 losses, the ‘Caps will be in tough against this Austin side, especially considering their opponents have got a respectable record of 2W-3L-2D at home, compared to 2W-7L-2D away from home. 

With the ‘Caps missing a few key players heading into this game, including DP striker Lucas Cavallini and standout midfielder Caio Alexandre, and having yet to play at home this year, a lot is stacking up against them here, even though they should win this game on paper. 

Seeing that their long-awaited return home is finally just around the corner, set to come this Saturday when they take on LAFC at BC Place, they’ve got to be careful of not looking too far ahead to that one, and instead focusing on the task at hand, allowing them to grab a point in this game. 

Considering that they’re just 1 point ahead of Austin heading into this game, they know that a win would go a long way towards putting some distance between them and their expansion foes, while also giving a bit of life to their slowly dying playoff push. 

Because of all that, this game is a massive one for the ‘Caps, arguably their biggest must-win of the season, making it a huge one for them in the overall grand scheme of things. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Deiber Caicedo

So for this game, the ‘Caps are going to need some big performances, especially offensively, and one of those players who will need to come up big is their usual starting left winger, Deiber Caicedo, who to be fair to him, has been playing pretty good as of late. 

With 2 goals and 2 assists in his last 8 games, he’s quietly been one of the team’s better contributors as of late, as he and fellow Colombian winger Cristian Dajome have led the way offensively for this ‘Caps team this season. 

But even despite his solid numbers, Caicedo can be a bit wasteful at times, so one can only hope he can find a bit of that finishing edge in this game, giving the ‘Caps what they need to snatch a victory. 

Storylines:

Elsewhere, here are some storylines that we’re keeping an eye on ahead of this one. 

Goals on the table?

And to start, one can only wonder if this game will have goals, or if it’s destined for a 0-0 draw. 

On one end, you’ve got a ‘Caps team struggling offensively as of late, with two 0-0 draws in their last 5 games, as they’ve found themselves in the midst of a streak that has seen them draw 5 games in a row, and 7 of their last 9 games. 

On the other side, you’ve got an Austin side that has been shut out in 11 of their last 14 games, and has scored a measly 13 goals in 18 games this season, which is a league-low. 

Because of that, it makes it hard to imagine that goals might be on the cards in this one, because neither team has shown to be much of a proficient team offensively as of late, with 0-0 so far appearing to be the bettor’s favourite for a potential scoreline. 

Draw it out:

But while a draw is the easy result to predict, the ‘Caps will hope to avoid another one of those in this game, because as mentioned there, they’ve kind of made a habit of doing that as of late. 

If they were top in the West, a run like this wouldn’t be a problem, as draws certainly aren’t a bad result, especially considering that most of those draws have been away from home. 

But for a team at the bottom of the standings, you can’t afford many draws like this, as their total of 8 draws arguably represents 16 points they’ve probably missed out on. 

So with that in mind, the ‘Caps will look to bust that streak of draws, as they head into this game with just 1 win in their last 14 games. 

Expansion Curiosity: 

Lastly, a game like this is going to be a special one for the ‘Caps, as it’ll mark their first visit to Austin, and as the saying goes, you’ll always remember your first. 

Thanks to their brand-new Q2 Stadium, Austin has quickly made a name for themselves, too, as their fans have done a good job of creating a distinctly Latin American feel about their games, making it an electric atmosphere. 

So for the ‘Caps, it’ll be a fun venue to try and play spoilers in, as they’ll look to take down the hosts, which is always a fun challenge. 

Also, as an aside, it’s pretty interesting that the ‘Caps will play their first game in Austin before they’ve even played 2020 expansion sides Inter Miami or Nashville, which could be a fun bit of trivia to remember a few years down the line.

Stats Splurge:

But while Austin has had their fair share of struggles, the question remains – are their numbers as bad as they look?

And the answer is… surprisingly, no. 

Offensively, they’re actually generating more Expected Goals (xG) than the ‘Caps, as they’ve got 1.14 xG per game compared to Vancouver’s 1.09, but the ‘Caps have finished at a much better rate than their Texan counterparts. 

Defensively, they’re also quite similar to the ‘Caps, giving up 1.49 xG per game, compared to Vancouver’s 1.48, as they’ve both defended like middle-of-the-pack teams. 

So while Austin certainly isn’t undeserving of sitting at the bottom of the West, that doesn’t mean they necessarily deserve to be in last place, either, as they’ve been a bit unlucky at times. 

Against a ‘Caps team whose xG numbers have been improving as of late, though, they might be in tough in this game, but they’ve certainly got the credentials of a team that will be hard for the Whitecaps to break down across 90 minutes. 

Projected XIs:

Vancouver Whitecaps:

Record: 3W-7L-8D (17 PTS)

Head Coach: Marc Dos Santos

Austin FC:

Record: 4W-10L-4D (16 PTS)

Head Coach: Josh Wolff

2020 Matchup: N/A

Looking Forward:

Overall, this game promises to be an intriguing one from the storylines perspective, although as some of the numbers show, goals might be at a premium in this one. 

But for a ‘Caps team on the verge of finally returning to BC Place after nearly a full season of consecutive games in the US, maybe they’ll find a bit of pep in their step, allowing them to pick up a big victory before their return home this weekend. 

So although the ‘Caps find themselves in a bit of a rut now, they’ll look to use this as a game to break that slump, putting them in good form ahead of that return. 

While their fans will be just happy to see them play at this point, it’d be nice if they’d have a playoff push to fight for at the same time, and winning this game against Austin would go a long way towards keeping that as a possibility heading into this stretch of home games, as 9 of their last 15 MLS games will be at BC Place. 

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Austin FC, Wednesday, July 18th, 2021, 18:00 PDT, 21:00 EDT (Q2 Stadium, Austin)

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