Turn it Around:  Vancouver Whitecaps looking to avoid Houston Dynamo sweep in must-win game for playoff hopes

The Vancouver Whitecaps take on the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday in MLS action. Here is our preview ahead of that one. 

They’re riding a high, but the job is far from over. 

After picking up a massive win over FC Dallas on the weekend, the Vancouver Whitecaps are certainly feeling good about themselves right now, as they climbed within 3 points of the 7th and final playoff spot in MLS’s Western Conference thanks to that result. 

Sitting with a game in hand on most of the teams around them in the conference, they’ve also got a bit of a buffer to help them reach that playoff line, of which they’re desperately looking to be above when their season ends in 9 games, only improving the optimism in their ranks. 

But now, as they get set to travel to Houston to take on the Houston Dynamo in midweek, they need to put that optimism behind them for a game, and put full focus on this encounter, because it’s a big one for them. 

Faced off against a struggling Houston team, one that sits near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, this is absolutely a game that the ‘Caps need to win, as it’d go a long way towards helping their playoff hopes. 

It won’t be easy, though, as they must travel a good distance just to get there, and once they arrive, they’ll have to contend with some tough weather conditions, as there is a reason why playing in Texas is seen as one of the hardest away days in MLS.

But for a team that has won 5 of their last 7 games in MLS, and is undefeated in 14 of their last 16 games, that sort of stuff hasn’t fazed the ‘Caps as of late, and they’ll need to keep it that way in this one. 

In their quest to try and do this, however, they’ve been handed a tough card, as they’re currently in the midst of an injury crisis at the back, as they will be without the services of usual starting centre backs, Erik Godoy and Ranko Veselinovic, who are listed as out for this game. 

Along with the unknown status of Florian Jungwirth, who is doubtful, that leaves the ‘Caps with one fully healthy centre back on the roster, Andy Rose, who only started playing centre back 2 years ago. 

After a good run of health that saw the ‘Caps welcome the return of some key attackers who were missing, they’ve now been suffering from an inability to keep their defenders healthy as of late, and that will be truer than ever in this game, giving them something to worry about. 

Despite all that, though, that shouldn’t derail these ‘Caps, as they’ve proven to be remarkably resilient this year, but it will certainly make life hard for them, and it’ll be interesting to see how they respond to the task that now awaits them. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Andy Rose

Rose looks on before the Whitecaps take on FC Dallas (Keveren Guillou)

So because of that, it makes Rose the player to watch in this game, as he’ll have to play a big role in marshalling the defence against Houston. 

Even if Jungwirth makes it back in time to start this game, there is the chance that he might not be fully fit, so either way, Rose has to step up big, and help lead this backline. 

Considering that he’s coming off a man-of-the-match performance against Dallas, it’s not that unrealistic to ask from him, so for a ‘Caps team needing to win this game, they’ll look for Rose to come up big again on Wednesday. 

Storylines: 

Elsewhere, here are some storylines to watch ahead of this one. 

Can the defence be alright?

First, it’ll be interesting to see if the defence can hold up despite the absences, because as mentioned, these aren’t new, even though the crisis might be at its worst. 

Despite dealing with this all summer, the ‘Caps have actually been one of the best defensive teams in the league as of late, helping them climb to the top 5 in the Western Conference in terms of goals conceded all year. 

So while their defence is depleted, it has been for a while, and that hasn’t stopped them from defending tightly, so they’ll need to see much of the same in this one. 

Can Cavallini bust his slump?

But while the defence has been good, the offence has been all over the place, as they’ll sometimes come out with all sorts of firepower, before whimpering off in the next game. 

And a big part of that inconsistent play? The struggles of Lucas Cavallini, who hasn’t scored since July, which for a player of his calibre, isn’t what you’d like to see from him. 

Obviously, him missing over a month in there with a combination of injury and international absences doesn’t help, either, but at the same time, he needs a goal some way or another. 

Seeing that his fellow ‘Caps striker, Brian White, is scoring for fun right now, up to 6 goals on the season (compared to Cavallini’s 4), it’s in Cavallini’s best interest to start scoring soon, or else he might be relegated to a super-sub role for a few games. 

Gauld Standard: 

But while the ‘Caps strikers are competing for both minutes and goals, they won’t be able to do that without service, and thankfully, they’ve got it in the form of Ryan Gauld. 

He might have slowed down a bit in terms of raw numbers, but coming off a game where he had an astonishing 8 key passes, he’s still creating chances by the boatload for his teammates, which has been good to see. 

Seeing that this is a must-win game for the ‘Caps, though, it’d be a pretty good night for him to get back into the goal or assist column, but at the very least, even if he doesn’t, continuing to show what he did against Dallas isn’t the worst thing for him to keep doing, either. 

Projected XIs: 

Vancouver Whitecaps: 

Record: 8W-8L-9D (33 PTS)

Head Coach: Vanni Sartini

Houston Dynamo:

Record: 5W-11L-11D (26 PTS)

Head Coach: Tab Ramos

2021 Matchups: 

Houston Dynamo 2-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

Vancouver Whitecaps 0-0 Houston Dynamo

Looking Forward: 

Now, the ‘Caps have already travelled down to Houston ahead of this game, one that they know is very important for their playoff hopes. 

Having done so well to even be in this position at this stage of the season, the last thing that they’d want to do now is to throw all of that hard work away, especially in a game that they could very well win. 

It won’t be easy against this Dynamo team, especially not in Houston, but they’ll need to find a way to make it happen, as these are the sorts of games that playoff teams find a way to win. 

So look for the ‘Caps to come out strong in this one, and find a way to etch one out, helping put them in a position to make some noise heading into the last stretch of this 2021 MLS season. 

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Houston Dynamo, Wednesday, September 29th, 2021, 18:00 PDT, 21:00 EDT

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