Eastern Escapade: Vancouver Whitecaps looking to erase Cascadian heartbreak ahead of all-Canadian clash vs CF Montreal

The Vancouver Whitecaps take on CF Montreal in MLS action this weekend. Here’s our preview ahead of that one. x

It’s a good chance at redemption. 

Exactly a week after they fell 3-2 at home to their Cascadian rivals, the Portland Timbers, the Vancouver Whitecaps will get a chance to pick themselves up this weekend when they take on Canadian rivals, CF Montreal, over in La Belle Province. 

And as they look to continue to try and dig themselves out of what has been a tough start to the 2022 MLS season for them, having won just once and drawn once in six games, they’ll be extra motivated to change that in this one, especially against a Montreal side who they have a rich history against. 

Especially after how things unfolded against the Timbers, where despite playing a mostly solid game, one where they controlled good chunks of play, they still found themselves dropping points due to costly mistakes defensively, which has been a key theme for them this season. 

So as they get set to take on Montreal, finding a way to change that is a big goal for the ‘Caps, as they feel that they’re a lot better than their record indicates, with that Portland game being a prime example of that. 

“I liked a lot of things,” ‘Caps head coach, Vanni Sartini, said of the ‘Caps performance against the Timbers last week. “The analysis, the stats, everything told us that we had a very good performance. I really liked how we pressed, I really liked how we built up play and arrived in their final third. We conceded only three entries into our box the entire game, and it’s almost impossible to concede less than three entries into a box in an entire game, so I really like the performance.”

“I just don’t like our behaviour in the crucial moment, I think especially on the first two goals, the penalties and the second goal, we made mistakes in the last 25 metres that cost us a lot.”

But while the ‘Caps will feel confident in their ability to change things on their end, they’ll know that a very stiff test in this Montreal side awaits them.

After a tough start to the year of their own, as the struggles of being in the CONCACAF Champions League made it hard for them to both focus on that and MLS, they’ve looked like a brand-new team since their elimination from that tournament, picking up 7 points in their last 3 MLS games. 

And not only that, but they have done so in style, too, scoring 9 goals in those 3 matches, which has now vaulted them to the top 3 in MLS in goals for. 

So for a ‘Caps team that has been prone to making tough errors defensively recently, it’s going to be a tough challenge for them to deal with, as you’d certainly bet on Montreal scoring based on the form that they’re currently in. 

At the same time, it’s not as if Montreal has been without faults on this run. They may have scored 9 goals, yes, but they also have conceded 7, which is less than ideal. 

Because of that, the ‘Caps will know that while they will have to be focused defensively, they will have their chances to score at the other end, potentially making it an open game. 

“They’re a good team when they have the ball,” Sartini said. “They have quality, they can move the ball very well, they can play in between lines, they play with two guys very wide that guarantee them width, they’re good 1v1, but they’re also so expansive in defending that they’re easy to beat.”

“So what we need to do is to be compact, and have a good, aggressive defensive game, because we know that if we limit their chances, we will have chances to score.”

Otherwise, some good news for the ‘Caps ahead of this one? Their injury list has just been whittled down to 2 players for this game, as Erik Godoy and Caio Alexandre are the only players unavailable for them in this one.

And with Godoy set to play for the ‘Caps second team this weekend, continuing his gradual return to action, that list will get even smaller soon, even though Alexandre will be out for a while still after picking up a new injury at training this week (he fractured his hand after being out with a foot problem). 

So because of that, that’ll leave the ‘Caps with one of their most complete squads of the season, which they’ll hope can be the fuel they need to grab a result. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Ranko Veselinovic

Otherwise, given the expected state of this game, the ‘Caps will need a strong defensive performance, so as a result, our player to watch is expected starting centre back, Ranko Veselinovic. 

And after last week’s game, where he made some uncharacteristic mistakes, he’ll want to bounce back in this game, especially given how good he’s otherwise been to start the season. 

So seeing that, look for him to come up big here. Knowing some of the threats that Montreal has in transition, the ‘Caps will need him to hold down the middle of their back 3, as he’s done for them much of this season. 

The Big Question:

Can CF Montreal continue to be the comeback kings?

Elsewhere, one area to watch out for in this game? Montreal’s penchant for being comeback kings, as after their latest result, a comeback from down 1 goal against the New York Red Bulls last week, they continued to not just be one of the best teams in MLS at comebacks since the start of 2021, but the best team. 

So for the ‘Caps, who have scored first in both of their last road games, they’ll have to be wary of that, as scoring a goal certainly won’t mean that the game is over, especially against a team like this Montreal side. 

Stat to Watch:

The Vancouver Whitecaps have won just 4 times on the road (this excludes MLS is Back) since the start of 2020. They’ve scored first in just one of those games. 

Heading into this game, the ‘Caps haven’t exactly been road warriors these past two and a half years, meaning that they have a big hill to climb if they’re to pick up a win in this one. 

Interestingly, though, despite that, 3 of those 4 wins have been comebacks, so against a Montreal team who likes playing from behind, it would be pretty fitting for the ‘Caps to make it 4 out of 5 with a dramatic road comeback victory…

Last Meeting: 

In a ‘home’ clash in Utah on May 8, 2021, the Vancouver Whitecaps downed Montreal 2-0 thanks to a Cristian Dajome brace, who would be in the midst of a red hot first half of the campaign for the ‘Caps. 

Projected XIs: 

Vancouver Whitecaps:

Record: 1W-4L-1D (4 PTS)

Head Coach: Vanni Sartini

CF Montreal:

Record: 2W-3L-1D (7 PTS)

Head Coach: Wilfried Nancy

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs CF Montreal, Saturday, April 16th, 2022, 12:00 PDT, 15:00 EDT (Stade Saputo, Montreal)

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