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Scouting Report: Examining the Vancouver Whitecaps

On paper, this feels like the most win-able game in some time.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Admittedly, last week, as I doom-scrolled through the abyss that is our collective reaction to being at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, most of my exasperation was focused on FC Dallas. We were supposed to be better this season. The Hunts signed some new wingers (lots of them). The Homegrowns have matured. The next man up was ready to step up. And yet we’ve struggled.

Well, I think the folks in Vancouver were thinking some similar thoughts. Last week I wasn’t concerned with them because they were still ahead of us, but now they are at the bottom of the standings – and faced with a weaker foe on our own turf, we need to win this game.

Recent Results

Date Home Score Away
Date Home Score Away
5/22 Houston 2-1 Vancouver
6/18 Real Salt Lake 3-1 Vancouver
6/23 Vancouver 1-2 LA Galaxy
6/26 Seattle 2-2 Vancouver

The Vancouver Whitecaps come into the match with a record of 2W-2D-6L – and that opening day win against a weakened Portland team that was struggling with CCL matches (that seems so familiar...) was a long time ago... so that’s one win in their last nine matches. Not surprisingly there are Whitecaps fans calling for coach Marc Dos Santos’ departure. And while those same fans may be hoping that last week’s draw against Seattle is a harbinger of better times to come (and not simply a Seattle team behaving like mere mortals for a change), this is a team that is still playing its home games in Utah and no one knows when that will change.

Let’s start up top. I’m predicting a 4-3-3 (they played a 4-4-2 against LA mid-week, but they got a result against Seattle over the weekend, so I’m sticking with the 4-3-3). Lucas Cavallini came to Vancouver to lead the line and bring the franchise respectability, but those familiar with the player knew he needs service. Through ten matches, Cavallini has two goals. There have been rumors of a 10 coming to Vancouver for years, but they’re still waiting. And Cavallini still needs service. On the wing, Christian Dajome is in his second season with Vancouver and leads the squad with four goals (two from the spot). He’s also tied for the team lead with 2 assists. On the opposite wing, look for first-year man Deiber Caicedo – a 21-year-old Columbian whom the Whitecaps hope grows into his potential.

In the middle, Dos Santos trusts Russell Teibert, Michael Baldisimo, and (I’m going with) Caio Alexandre. Alexandre started against Seattle and Vancouver has hopes for the 22-year-old Brazilian midfielder. In contrast, the most amusing statistic I’ve come across this week noted that Teibert’s xGBuildup per 90 is .15 (.03 ahead of keeper Maxime Crepeau). Ouch.

And defensively, Erik Godoy and Andy Rose man the middle in Vancouver’s back four. Cristian Gutierrez and Janio Bikel will likely line up on the outside. Bikel could also see a start in midfield, but usual right back Javain Brown missed last weekend with a head injury. Gutierrez will get forward into the attack, so Che (if he starts again) had best be aware. Between the posts, Maxime Crepeau has played every minute for Vancouver this season.

The Numbers

Vancouver Stat Dallas
Vancouver Stat Dallas
10 Goals For 11
16 Goals Against 15
3223 Passes Completed 3826
1489 Passes in Opponents’ Half 1527
100/34 Shots/Shots on Target 135/45
2.55 (Crepeau) G-xG for Keepers -.96 (Maurer)
66 Key Passes 98

While I know I’ve read at least one suggestion that the underlying numbers say that Vancouver is better than their record, I don’t share that opinion. Vancouver did not score from open play until May 22nd against Houston. In terms of Key Passes, Columbus (at the bottom of the list) has two fewer than the Whitecaps. I don’t feel like Dallas moves the ball well in the offensive half, but we’re doing better than Vancouver. They take 2/3 of the number of shots that Dallas attempts – and rarely do I feel like we’re an offensive juggernaut. Then in terms of Goals vs. Expected Goals, Maxime Crepeau is not helping his team.

Keys to the Match:

1) Remember that last stat: I don’t foresee Crepeau standing on his head as David Ochoa did for Salt Lake a few weeks back. Let’s take our shots and get that Pepi Hype Train moving a little faster. Similarly, I want to see Jesus get off the mark. Wouldn’t mind a winger bagging a goal either. I keep hoping that our early season woes were a crisis of confidence coupled with injuries to key players. Some easy goals would help several players with confidence.

2) Vancouver’s midfield has not been strong this season. Whether that’s because Teibert is a non-factor offensively (I feel like I’m playing with fire as I make these statements. I’m knocking on wood to be sure I don’t jinx us) or because the squad simply isn’t on the same page, Dallas needs to maintain that advantage. If Vancouver’s front three – especially Cavallini – are denied service, it should be a quiet night for Jimmy.

3) For once, home field and the heat will not be an advantage for us – it’s hotter in Utah right now than in Dallas. So instead I’ll suggest that we play with confidence. We know that Jimmy can make big saves. We know that Pepi can make big shots. We know that Jesus will make some incredible passes. Hopefully, some faith in ourselves leads to better play (and fewer desperate attempts to get calls - looking at you, Obrian. Stay on your feet).

That’s all I’ve got, folks. If I missed something, add it below.