The Vancouver Whitecaps are getting set to take on LAFC down in LA for a crucial MLS matchup this weekend. Here is our preview ahead of that one.
A trip to a familiar house of horrors awaits.
And considering that they’ve never won at LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium, you could hardly blame the Vancouver Whitecaps for feeling a bit worried as they head there to take on LAFC, who sit as MLS co-leaders through 3 games, for a week 4 MLS clash.
Already a tough team to play in any venue, playing LAFC is especially tough when you head into their fortress, one that has haunted the ‘Caps throughout the 4+ years that LA has been in MLS now. For whatever reason, LAFC just always tends to look that much better when they’ve got their supporters, the 3252, singing and pushing them on, and the ‘Caps have unfortunately been on the wrong side of that many times before.
So as they head there for their 4th game of this 2022 MLS season on Sunday, the ‘Caps are looking to avoid a similar fate this time around, as they try to pick up their first win of this campaign.
The good news, however? In their last 2 visits to the Banc, they managed to escape with draws, and plus, they now have someone who is very familiar with the stadium in the form of Tristan Blackmon, the new ‘Caps defender who spent 4 seasons in LA before heading to Vancouver (via Charlotte).
“It’s an incredible atmosphere to go into at the Banc,” Blackmon said of returning to the stadium he once called home. “So I’m really looking forward to it, and it should be exciting.”
Plus, while the ‘Caps are yet to win, they’ve gotten better each and every game, recovering from a tough opening day loss to the Columbus Crew, to rally for a hard-fought 0-0 draw with NYCFC and then a 2-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo, where despite the score, the game was relatively even.
So although this LAFC side presents a whole different challenge now, the ‘Caps are confident on the path that they’ve taken, and are looking to continue that here.
They might be without a win, and have been hit hard by injuries, with Brian White (calf), Caio Alexandre (fitness), Erik Godoy (calf) and Ryan Gauld (adductor) all on the mend with this game (all but Gauld have been ruled out), but they’ve got strong spirit, which they hope can be enough to grab the win.
“It starts with intensity, being committed as a group to what we’re doing,” Blackmon said. “When you have everyone buying in it goes the right way, and once we get that, and once everyone is feeling good about themselves, and once everyone gets back from injury, I think we’ll be in a good way.”
There is still plenty of work for this ‘Caps side to do, yes, but they know where they need to be better, so now they just need to get out there and execute.
“Yeah, there are 2, 3 things that we’re trying to address,” ‘Caps head coach, Vanni Sartini, explained. “First of all, we need faster ball circulation from the back 3, the back 3 needs to play the ball left to right fast, and then we need the two midfielders to make the movement in the proper time to find the space, and those guys in the midfield need to be ready to make better choices to play as simple as we can, so we can avoid putting ourselves in trouble against LAFC, because that’s one of the things we have to avoid because they are very good in transition.”
The process might be behind where many expected it to be right now, especially for a ‘Caps team that surprised onlookers by making the playoffs with a frantic late push, but it’s also still early in the campaign, making it hard for Sartini to hit the alarm button quite yet.
“We need to work, we need to focus day-by-day on what we’re trying to work on, and we need to focus day-by-day on what we’re trying to do, and we need to focus on the positives. I know that sounds like a paradox, because in 3 games we didn’t win, but I had to show the guys what we did very well in the last two games, because there wasn’t much we did well in the first game, in order to have the consistency we need to do it for more minutes during the game, to have more chances to win the game.”
So as much as it might feel like the sky is falling for the ‘Caps, that time to really panic is still yet to come for them quite yet here.
Of course, they want to grab points as soon as possible, and will look to do so in this match, but with the international break just around the corner after this game, they have a good chance to regroup no matter what happens this game, all while hopefully welcoming back some healthy bodies for the next stage of the season.
“There’s always a hunger,” ‘Caps midfielder, Sebastian Berhalter, said. “I think we always want to get a result, I think again, we are three games into the season, and I think we’re just taking it one game at a time.”
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Pedro Vite
But while the ‘Caps will back themselves to win no matter who is in the lineup, they can’t ignore the reality that they’re quite undermanned right now, especially if Ryan Gauld gets ruled out.
So because of that, they’re going to need some big performances from some new contributors, and one such name could be Pedro Vite, who has done pretty well for himself so far in his debut MLS campaign, looking very much up to the standard of the league.
And thanks to that, he was able to pick up his first MLS start last weekend against the Dynamo, showing his rapid progression. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t go as planned, as despite a strong start, he had to exit the game with a concussion sub, but the good news was that it didn’t look to be too serious, making him an option for this game.
Because of that, the ‘Caps will need a big performance for him, as no matter if Gauld, their main attacking provider, plays or not, it’s no secret that this team needs more chance creation, and as a creative attacking midfielder, Vite can most certainly fill that role.
The Big Question:
Can the ‘Caps finally get that win at the Banc?
Otherwise, as expected, our big question centers around the ‘Caps (mis)fortunes at the Banc of California Stadium, where they’re not only yet to win, but have suffered some of their worst losses ever there, such as a 6-1 drubbing in 2019, or a 6-0 thumping in 2020.
So not only have the ‘Caps struggled there, but they’ve also had some of their most humiliating moments as a club there, too, showing why many see it as a house of horrors of sorts.
Because of that, it’d be huge if they were somehow able to find a win, no matter how unlikely it might seem now, not just because of the impact it’d have on their 2022 season, but as well as the psychological edge it’d give this side the next time they make it down there.
Stat to Watch:
The league’s best defence plays the league’s worst offence – who wins?
Elsewhere, it’s worth noting that this game pits MLS’s best defence against MLS’s worst offence in this game, which is a matchup to watch.
On one hand, you have LAFC, who have conceded just 1 goal through 3 games, which came off of a scissor kick from the Portland Timbers’ Yimmy Chara in week 2, as they’ve otherwise been almost impossible to breach.
Then, on the other hand, you have the ‘Caps, who have scored just once through 3 games, and have just 3 shots on target, showing that they’ve hardly had a sniff, either.
So naturally, with this being MLS, that would suggest that a few ‘Caps goals could be on the menu, but if they score one or fewer here, it’ll cement what has been a rough start for them to the year offensively.
Needing points to make the 2021 MLS Playoffs, the Vancouver Whitecaps headed to LA to take on LAFC in a crucial game, given that LA was hot on their tail in that playoff race. Despite that, the ‘Caps remained cool, grabbing an early Cristian Dajome goal, grabbing a point as a Mamadou Fall equalizer would be all that LAFC would be able to get past the ‘Caps as they chased a huge home win.
Record: 0W-2L-1D (1 point)
Head Coach: Vanni Sartini
Record: 2W-0L-1D (7 points)
Head Coach: Steve Cherundolo
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs LAFC, Sunday, March 20th, 2022, 19:00 PST, 22:00 EST (Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles).