The Vancouver Whitecaps take on Austin FC in MLS action on Saturday. Here’s our preview ahead of that one.
They’re looking to keep the good times rolling at home.
As they continue a 4-game homestand, the Vancouver Whitecaps are looking to keep up the positive roll that they’re on as of late, having won back-to-back home games at BC Place over the past 14 days.
In the midst of a 9-game unbeaten run, their best-ever run in MLS, and undefeated in 11 of their last 12 games, the Whitecaps have been tough to crack in league play as of late, and they’re looking to take that into their next clash against Austin.
Although they’re still reeling after firing head coach Marc Dos Santos in the midst of this run, as he suffered from the fallout after a tough loss to Canadian Premier League side Pacific FC in the Canadian Championship, they’ve managed to roll through that and not skip a beat, picking up a 4-1 win in their first gams sans Dos Santos versus Real Salt Lake last weekend.
But after finding that surprising bit of form in their last game, a stiff test awaits interim head coach Vanni Sartini and this Whitecaps team this weekend, as their squad has been hit hard by injuries and international absences, as they find themselves having to play through the international break.
Missing a handful of key players, it’s not an ideal scenario for a team who is battling for a playoff spot to have to deal with, especially as they probably shouldn’t even be playing these games, but alas, that’s the reality of playing in MLS sometimes, so they’ve soldiered on despite those absences, much to the pleasure of Sartini.
“The week was good,” he said on Friday. “I think we had a good preparation, of course, we had to adjust some things with the international call-ups and with a couple of players not 100%, but yeah, that’s football, so I think we’ve worked very well, and we’ll come prepared for the game.”
Make no mistake, though – this squad is going to see its depth tested in this clash versus Austin on Saturday.
Already without starting goalkeeper, Maxime Crepeau, their starting striker, Lucas Cavallini, and starting right back, Javain Brown, all because of international duty, that’s left that at an already less than optimal starting point.
And then when you factor in injuries to Jake Nerwinski, Cristian Gutierrez, Andy Rose and Ranko Veselinovic, that leaves the team without 7 players who have played a good chunk of minutes for the team in 2021.
The good news, though? The ‘Caps welcomed midfielder Michael Baldisimo and defender Erik Godoy back into full training this week, as the pair look primed to feature after a couple of weeks on the sidelines, which shows that all isn’t bad in ‘Caps land.
So now, sitting just 1 point behind a playoff spot, they’ll look to do what they can to topple expansion side Austin, who sit tied last in the Western Conference, having gone through a tough opening season in MLS.
Despite that, as the ‘Caps got to see first-hand in a narrow 2-1 victory a few weeks ago, they’ve been a tough outfit to topple, but if Sartini’s side finds anything close to the level they showed versus Salt Lake, they’ll be confident in their chances.
“They’re not quite what I would say is the common MLS team,” Sartini said of their upcoming opponents. “There may be less punch, punch, punch, and more organization, more structure, so they have a very clear philosophy, and that can go both ways, because when they’re on the right day, their way of building up is very beautiful to see, and when they’re not, you can press them and counter them very well.”
“They can create a lot of problems on the other way, so I think if we can press them in the same way, organized, as we did against Salt Lake, I think we can cause them problems.”
“I mean they’re a new team, but they’ve got some experience,” ‘Caps striker Brian White added. “Especially there in the back with (Matt) Besler, (Alexander) Ring. Yeah, they obviously haven’t had a great string of results this season, but they’ve got good players, so at any moment they can be dangerous and score goals, so we have to prepared for that across 90 minutes.”
Because of all that, the ‘Caps are confident that they’ve got what it takes to topple the ‘Verde’, as they’re known around MLS.
Having picked up 6 points out of a possible 6 in their first 2 games at BC Place after a long time away from home, they’ll look to conjure up a similar response in this one, continuing the good times at home.
After years where the stadium used to be a fortress for the team, that changed in recent seasons, but it feels like it’s starting to change again, and the team wants to prove that in this game.
“We are doing it, but we need to keep working on it,” Sartini said of his team’s effort to turn the stadium back into the fortress. “From what I know, it should be a great response by the fans this week, so we are really eager to see because last time was one of the first times that we played with fans, last year was always without fans, so it was beautiful. It was really beautiful, and having that push.”
“I actually think that the way that the team responded and the way that we were able to fight on every ball to be aggressive, was because we had the push from the stadiums, and we’ll need that push from the stadium tomorrow, as they key for us to go the playoffs is picking up points here at home, so we’re going to need the fans and everyone behind us.”
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Florian Jungwirth
And playing a big role in his team’s triumphant 4-1 victory last week was one of the ‘Caps new summer arrivals, Jungwirth, who looked excellent in his first start for the ‘Caps.
With a goal, some fantastic passing and some nice defensive interventions, he looked like everything the ‘Caps wanted from the veteran centre back when they acquired him last month.
So although his arrival was mostly for depth purposes, he all of a sudden seems like he’s primed for a starting role with his new team, which based on how he played versus RSL, isn’t the worst proposition for this ‘Caps team.
Record: 6W-7L-8D (26 PTS)
Head Coach: Vanni Sartini
Record: 5W-12L-4D (19 PTS)
Head Coach: Josh Wolff
Austin FC 1-2 Vancouver Whitecaps
Now, the ‘Caps will look to cement their strong start at home, helping continue what has already been a strong homestand for them so far.
Boosted by the strong start of their new DP #10 Ryan Gauld, who already has 2 goals and 1 assist at BC Place stadium, and 2 goals and 2 assists already in MLS play, along with a further 4 goals and 2 assists in all competitions, the ‘Caps have found their legs as of late, with wins in 3 straight games.
As they continue to mount a late playoff push, a victory in this game versus Austin would be massive now, helping them finally climb into the top 7 for the first time in a while, giving them the belief that they can stay there for the reason of the season.
So although it’s been a topsy turvy season, and a turbulent last couple of weeks, things are shaping up nicely for these ‘Caps to finish the season on a strong note, and they’ll look to show why at BC Place on Saturday.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Austin FC, Saturday, September 4th, 2021, 16:00 PDT, 19:00 EDT (BC Place, Vancouver)