On the Road Again: Vancouver Whitecaps looking to boost playoff hopes by surprising surging Colorado Rapids on the road

The Vancouver Whitecaps are getting set to take on the Colorado Rapids in MLS action on Sunday. Here’s our preview ahead of that one. 

It’s a chance to get back on a roll again. 

Having snapped a 4 game winning streak and 10 game unbeaten run in one quick swoop last weekend, all thanks to a 1-0 loss to the Portland Timbers last Friday, the Vancouver Whitecaps are looking to get back on track versus the Colorado Rapids this weekend, as they head into the stretch run of this 2021 MLS season. 

With just 11 games remaining on the schedule, every game from here on in has just become massive for these Whitecaps, who sit just 4 points back of the playoff line in the Western Conference as of writing, holding a game on hand on most of their opponents. 

Because of that, a win on Sunday versus Colorado could go a long way if they’re to make the playoffs, helping them keep ground in a constantly moving race, one that they’ve done so well to even be in at this stage of this season. 

Mired to the bottom of the standings for most of the season, they’ve only really come alive in the past 2 months, going on a run of games that saw them lose just once in 13 games, putting them right back into the playoff picture. 

So although they’ve lost some ground after that Portland game, especially considering it was to one of their direct threats for a playoff spot at the moment, things are still looking good for the Whitecaps, and they can make them look even better with a win against Colorado. 

But while the ‘Caps will certainly hope that they’ll be able to just walk into Colorado and pick up a win on Sunday, it won’t be that easy, as a stiff test awaits them in the Rapids. 

Sitting 3rd in the Western Conference and 4th in the league, the Rapids have been one of the hottest teams in MLS this summer, and are an early favourite to lift MLS Cup. Thanks to some shrewd acquisitions over the past 2 years, some great coaching from Robin Fraser and a nice natural home advantage due to the altitude that they play at, these Rapids are a tough nut to crack at the moment, making it a stiff test for the Whitecaps. 

At the same time, though, the ‘Caps are also in good form, so it’s not as if they can’t have a bit of confidence about themselves, either. Over their 10-game unbeaten run, they were the 2nd-best team in MLS behind the New England Revolution over that time period, which does show that they’ll have a bit of bite to them heading into this one. 

Plus, with the ongoing return of DP striker Lucas Cavallini from injury, the ‘Caps could still get even better, as they’ve yet to really see their partnership of Cavallini and their new DP #10, Ryan Gauld, who has been lighting MLS on fire recently. 

So with all of that in mind, this should be a good test for both teams, as the Rapids will want to continue their push towards the top of the Western Conference with a win, while the ‘Caps will be looking to give a big boost to their playoff hopes with a win of their own. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Deiber Caicedo

Caicedo in action versus Austin FC earlier this month (Keveren Guillou)

And for the ‘Caps, a key actor to watch in that regard is Deiber Caicedo, who looks ready to go for this one after looking like a threat to miss out as he dealt with a bit of a cold in the midweek.

He rejoined training by the end of it, though, and that’s good news for the ‘Caps, as he’s quietly been one of their best players as of late. 

Either as a starter, or a dangerous super-sub, he can cause problems to defences in so many ways, and the ‘Caps will need that against a very stingy Colorado side. 

Along with the return of Cavallini, having Caicedo start after starting on the bench the last few games is a nice prospect, one that interim head coach, Vanni Sartini, might be eager to consider heading into this one. 

Storylines: 

Otherwise, here are some things we’re keeping an eye on ahead of this one. 

Gone streaking:

On Colorado’s side, it might not be talked as much, but it’s worth noting that the Rapids are on a 9-game unbeaten run of their own heading into this one, something that a lot of people around the league don’t seem to know. 

5 of those 9 games have been draws, but with 4 key wins along the way, including 3 of them on the road, that’s how the Rapids have been able to get to where they are in the standings, as they’ve been on fire as of late. 

So as the ‘Caps look to get their streak back, they’ll have to snap a very good one on the other side, which will be no easy task. 

Get the tank rolling: 

Returning to the ‘Caps side, though, we’ve mentioned it briefly, but it needs to be said – Lucas Cavallini needs to come up huge for the ‘Caps here. 

He made his return from a knee injury last weekend versus Portland, where he came off the bench, so this won’t be his official ‘welcome back’ moment, but seeing that he hasn’t scored since the beginning of July, this would be a nice way for him to say that he’s back. 

There are a lot of reasons why he hasn’t scored since July, as he’s spent a lot of time representing Canada at the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifiers, and had the knee injury, but despite that, with just 3 goals for the ‘Caps on the season, he’ll want to improve that total. 

Because of that, the ‘Caps will hope that he can find a bit of hunger for goal in this one, allowing him to take advantage of what Gauld can bring to the table, which is consistent and quality chance-creation. 

Road Warriors: 

Lastly, it’s worth noting that this is the first ‘Caps road game in MLS play since August 18th, as they’ve had a nice homestand to welcome themselves back to BC Place after having to be stationed in the US for most of the season due to the pandemic. 

In that game versus Austin, they did something that they haven’t done a lot of this year, and will need to do in this game – win on the road, so it’ll be interesting to see if the ‘Caps can build off of what they showed in that game, even though it was a month ago. 

Before that game, though, in the 10 previous road games that they played before that, they didn’t win any, drawing 6 and losing 4, giving an idea of how much of a struggle it’s been to pick up wins away from home. 

So while those road draws are nothing to scoff at, especially in MLS, if the ‘Caps are to cement themselves in a playoff position, them finding a way to grind a few wins on the road would be colossal, and no better place to start than with this game. 

Projected XIs: 

Vancouver Whitecaps: 

Head Coach: Vanni Sartini

Record: 7W-8L-8D (29 PTS)

Colorado Rapids: 

Head Coach: Robin Fraser

Record: 12W-4L-7D (43 PTS)

2021 Matchup:

Vancouver Whitecaps 0-1 Colorado Rapids

Looking Forward: 

So now, the ‘Caps will be looking to find a way to steal a point or 3 out of this one, as they’ll be well aware of what that could do for them in the overall context of their playoff push. 

With some crucial home games coming up, as well as some other key 6-point games both at home and on the road, the ‘Caps will still have plenty of opportunities to make themselves a playoff team, but stealing some points here could be valuable. 

It won’t be easy against this Colorado team, not at all, but they’re aware of that, and they’ll look to bring a good mindset into the game. 

As they look to get back on track after a slight setback, it’s all they can do, and they’ll look to bring that to the ‘Mile-High City’ on Sunday night. 

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Colorado Rapids, Sunday, September 19th, 2021, 18:00 PDT, 21:00 EDT (DSG, Commerce City)

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