The Vancouver Whitecaps are getting set to take on Austin FC down in Texas this weekend in MLS action. Here’s our preview ahead of that one.
The challenges keep flying in left, right and centre.
Stuck in rut to begin the 2022 MLS season, with just one win and a draw through their first seven games of this campaign, things don’t get any easier for the Vancouver Whitecaps this weekend, as they get set to take on an Austin FC down in Texas.
Already a state filled with nightmares for the ‘Caps historically, things will be especially difficult for them in Texas this time around, as they’ll have to contend with an Austin team that is currently tied for third in MLS on points, having gotten off to a hot start to their campaign.
So for a ‘Caps team that needs to desperately start getting points on the board here, it’s expected to be a stiff challenge, one that could very well see them continue their tough start.
Despite that, however, they’re keeping positive. Knowing that they haven’t been far off in many of their games, they just need to get back to basics and get rolling again, so as tough as that might be against this Austin side, that’s the mindset they’re looking to bring into this one.
Plus, with it still being early in the season, they’ll feel that they have time to turn things around, provided that they really get back to those foundational principles that they spoke of.
“We have to be realistic,” ‘Caps head coach, Vanni Sartini, said this week. “It’s true, we didn’t start the way that we wanted, both for results and in some games for performances, it didn’t go the way that we wanted, so we’ve been very honest with each other this week, and we said that we need to go back to the basics, and we really need to stick to the plan.”
At the same time, while they’ll feel that it’s too early to hit any sort of panic button, they aren’t kidding themselves – yes, this start has been tough, and yes, they need wins, pronto.
As a result, they feel like this game is a ‘must-win’ one for them, no matter the difficulty, knowing how important it could be in the overall context of their campaign.
“It’s a must-win,” ‘Caps striker, Lucas Cavallini, added. “ I don’t think we can expect or ask for less, we need to get back on track, and winning will put us there, and we’ll go from there.”
But if they are to grab a victory, it’s important that they know what to expect in this Austin side.
Currently tied for the league lead in goals with 17, they’ve been red-hot to start the year offensively, and along with a solid defensive record, having conceded just seven goals in seven games, that’s allowed them to pick up points quite efficiently.
Not only that, but they’ve been dominant at home, too, where they’ve picked up 10 out of a possible 12 points so far this year, outscoring opponents 12-2 along the way.
So for a ‘Caps side who is tied for third-last in MLS in goals against with 14, it’s important that they’re ready for the offensive onslaught that could await them here, because if not, they’ll have to be ready for a long night.
“They’re a very good team offensively,” Sartini said. “They possess the ball very well, they’re very good at building up, and even last year, here at BC Place in my second game in charge, they basically outplayed us, and then we actually went back to being more aggressive and much more solid defensively, and that’s the reason why we had the comeback.”
Yet, while the defence will be a big focus for the ‘Caps in this game, and rightfully so, that doesn’t mean that they should forget about their offence, either.
Tied for second-last in goals-for in MLS with just six, they’ve struggled to score this year, which doesn’t bode well against that tidy Austin defence.
Especially on a night where you’d bet on Austin grabbing at least a goal or two, that’d create a tall ask for an already struggling attack, making it hard to imagine them grabbing a result.
Despite that, however, the ‘Caps feel that the goals are coming.
That might be hard to imagine considering they’re a bottom-six team in MLS in Expected Goals (xG), yes, but despite that, they are underperforming their xG by nearly two goals, which does show that they could be doing a bit better than they currently are offensively.
And if they can take a step forward on top of that, that will only add further merit to that claim, something which they want to start proving this weekend.
“Yeah, it’s coming,” Cavallini said of the offence. “Each game, we’re improving on certain things, certain qualities, I guess we just have to put it in the back of the net no matter what, capitalize on our chances, I know that we’re creating a lot, but we have to be confident that we can put the ball in the net.”
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Ryan Raposo
But speaking of goals, one player that can certainly help them do that? Ryan Raposo, who after a strong cameo off the bench at wing back last week vs CF Montreal, looks likely to start again this week.
And considering what he did in his limited time on the pitch against Montreal, where he created the ‘Caps lone goal in a 2-1 loss, before nearly adding an assist on a potential late game-tying goal from Tosaint Ricketts that was only ruled out by VAR on an offside, that’s exciting.
Usually a winger, he’s been redeployed as a wing back this season, and it’s seemed to give him new life as a player, allowing him to grab his first MLS goal earlier in the year, and just overall look like a threat down that left-hand side.
So for the ‘Caps, they’ll hope to see that once again in this game, helping them grab the goals they so badly desire.
The Big Question:
Can Brian White and Lucas Cavallini thrive together?
Interestingly, it finally looks like the ‘Caps are going to play their two best strikers, Brian White and Lucas Cavallini, up top together as a pair in this game, which isn’t something we’ve seen a whole lot of while the pair have been at the club.
But one of those rare moments? Last week against Montreal, where they showed surprising chemistry, looking like they could do some damage as a duo. And considering that White scored the lone goal in that game, having found space opened up by Cavallini, it’s not a bad idea at all, which is why it’s exciting that the ‘Caps are finally running with it.
As a result, it’ll be interesting to see if both strikers can get on the scoreboard in this game, because the ‘Caps certainly wouldn’t complain if they did, especially as they look to start scoring goals more regularly as a team.
Stat to Watch:
The ‘Caps won both of their two games against Austin FC last year, the only team they grabbed maximum points off of (minimum of two games played, they also beat CF Montreal in their lone meeting).
Elsewhere, it’s worth noting that the ‘Caps actually completed the double over Austin last year, which given that last season was Austin’s first in MLS, means that they’ve never lost to the Texas-based club.
Of course, given the form that Austin is in now, it feels unlikely that the ‘Caps will be able to keep up that streak, but it’s certainly something to consider, as you do wonder if their 2021 record against them does give them a potential boost.
Especially seeing that in both of those wins, the ‘Caps actually trailed, meaning that they came from behind for both results, that only adds fuel to that potential fire, of which they just have to find a way to make burn.
In just their second game under head coach Vanni Sartini, who at the time still had the interim head coach tag after the firing of Marc Dos Santos, the ‘Caps watched Austin grab a first-half lead via Sebastian Driussi, before storming back in the second half with goals from Erik Godoy and Deiber Caicedo, allowing the BC Place faithful to sing ‘Stand By Me’.
Record: 1W-5L-1D (4 PTS)
Head Coach: Vanni Sartini
Record: 4W-1L-2D (14 PTS)
Head Coach: Josh Wolff
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Austin FC, Saturday, April 23rd, 2022, 17:30 PDT, 20:30 EDT (Q2 Stadium, Austin)