Sporting Spirit: Vancouver Whitecaps ready to take on SKC at BC Place in must-win match for playoff hopes

The Vancouver Whitecaps are getting set to take on Sporting Kansas City at BC Place in a crucial MLS clash on Sunday. Here is our preview ahead of that one.

It’s getting closer and closer to crunch time.

With just 6 games remaining in their 2021 MLS season, things are really going right down to the wire for Vancouver Whitecaps, who continue their quest to push for a playoff spot this weekend, as they get set to take on Sporting Kansas City at BC Place on Sunday.

Sitting just 4 points behind Minnesota United for the 7th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, with a game in hand over the Loons, that puts a lot of onus on the ‘Caps to come up big against SKC in this one, knowing that they can give a massive boost to their playoff hopes with a victory.

It won’t be easy, as there’s a reason why SKC sit 2nd in the West, but the ‘Caps need to ignore that and find a way to get a result on Sunday, or else they might just find themselves all but out of the playoff race with 5 games to go.

But the good news for the ‘Caps? They’ve been hard to beat at BC Place this year, winning 5 out of 6 of their games at the stadium since returning home, so that should provide them with some sort of home-field advantage.

Plus, they’ll be welcoming back some key faces, as usual starters, Maxime Crepeau and Javain Brown, are back after representing their countries during the international break, while Lucas Cavallini, Cristian Gutierrez, Ranko Veselinovic and Erik Godoy have all appeared to have recovered from injuries that kept them out of action for a while.

Because of that, the ‘Caps will finally have about as close to a full allotment of players as they’ve had in a while, which considering how depleted their roster has been at times, is exciting.

Despite being short-handed for much of the last few months, the ‘Caps have found a way to just keep picking up results, undefeated in 16 of their last 19 games, so they’ll be more than happy to welcome back some fresh bodies ahead of this one.

And that’s exciting, as this ‘Caps team has quietly moulded itself into one of the more entertaining teams in MLS as of late, which has allowed them to dream of being able to make the playoffs, which seemed like a pipe dream just a few months ago.

Led by Crepeau, who has been one of the best goalkeepers in MLS recently, along with the play of DP #10 Ryan Gauld, who has completely revitalized the ‘Caps offence, and striker Brian White, who has been scoring goals for fun lately, this ‘Caps team has completely turned around their fortunes after a tough start, paving the way for this late playoff push.

So while there’s no guarantee that their push will be successful, that they’re even here at this stage of the campaign is exciting, and they’re well aware of that, making this SKC game such an intriguing one.

They’ve got a good team now, and should be one to watch next season, but they’ve got dreams for this season that are yet to become a reality, and they’ll try and take a big step towards making them happen with a big performance on Sunday, putting them in a good position ahead of a frantic last 5 games in their schedule.

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Cristian Gutierrez

Gutierrez in action for the ‘Caps in 2020 (Keveren Guillou)

So with that in mind, it’s important to keep an eye on the players that will look to come up big for the ‘Caps in that quest, and while there are a lot of good names to single in on, there might be none more important than Gutierrez, who could be expected to feature in this one for the first time since July after dealing with some injury problems.

And that’s exciting news for the ‘Caps, as they’ve sorely missed Gutierrez’s presence down the left-hand side, finding themselves forced to deploy out-of-position players to try and fill the hole that he left behind.

To be fair, some of those replacements have impressed, no doubt, but there’s also no doubt that having Gutierrez back will give a big boost to the squad, and he’ll look to mark his return with a bang on Sunday.

Storylines:

Otherwise, here are some storylines that we’re keeping an eye on ahead of Sunday.

SKC looking to continue BC Place dominance:

To start, make sure to keep an eye on SKC’s performance in this one, as they head into this game looking to win their 4th straight game at BC Place, having last dropped points away to the ‘Caps in 2017.

Since then, the ‘Caps are on their 3rd coach, and have just 2 players remaining from that roster, yet SKC has kept its status as a bogey team for Vancouver, especially in the friendly confines of BC Place.

So for the ‘Caps, needing a win on Sunday, they’ll have to try and find a way to put that behind them, because if not, they’ll A) tank their playoff hopes and B) lose some of their credentials of being a team you don’t want to play at home, which are 2 things this team does not want to lose right now. 

Scotland vs Scotland:

Elsewhere, keep an eye on SKC’s #7, Johnny Russell, and the ‘Caps #25, Ryan Gauld, on Sunday, as the pair of Scottish players are getting set to meet in MLS for the first time in this game.

Both good friends, they’re among the best players that MLS has to offer, and they’ll want to prove that in this game, making this a duel to monitor.

Plus, they’re also fighting to get back on Scotland’s National Team radar as they continue their quest to try and qualify for the 2022 World Cup, so there’s added incentive due to that, as well.

Because of all that, this first clash between the pair should be quite interesting, as they’ve both got so much to prove, and will look to propel that towards potential success for their team.

Cava’s return:

Lastly, it’ll be interesting to see what the ‘Caps DP striker, Lucas Cavallini, can do in this one, as he returns to the squad after dealing with a knee injury the past few games.

The ‘Caps haven’t missed him, as the emergence of Brian White has quickly made people forget about what Cavallini can do, but make no mistake, the ‘Caps will be happy to have their star striker return to this lineup.

It won’t be easy to find a way to deploy him, as they can choose between playing him in a 2-striker formation with White, or use him as a super-sub, but either way, having Cavallini available in some capacity will be key for the ‘Caps, as they’ll need all hands on deck to topple this solid SKC side.

Projected XIs:

Vancouver Whitecaps:

Record: 9W-9L-10D (37 PTS)

Head Coach: Vanni Sartini

Sporting Kansas City:

Record: 15W-6L-7D (52 PTS)

Head Coach: Peter Vermes

2021 Matchup:

Sporting Kansas City 3-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

Looking Forward:

So with all that in mind, there’s going to be a lot at stake at both teams in this one, but especially so for the ‘Caps, who will be fighting for their season on Sunday.

And that’s exciting. Would it be better if the ‘Caps were already in the playoffs? Yes, but there’s some intriguing surrounding the drama of a late playoff push, which can make these games so interesting.

Because of that, it’ll make this game such an intriguing one to watch, as you know both teams will be fighting tooth and nail to etch out a result, and that always makes for entertaining soccer.

As the ‘Caps quest to make the playoffs continues, this is a key battle, and they’ll look to mark it as such with a performance to remember on Sunday.

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Sporting Kansas City, Sunday, October 17th, 2021, 19:00 PDT, 22:00 EDT (BC Place, Vancouver)

Leave a Reply