The Whitecaps are in the middle of their annual big Eastern Conference road swing, and somehow, some way, they have the chance to get themselves on an honest to god winning streak! After back-to-back wins in Portland and Chicago, all that stands between the ‘Caps and three straight roads wins are a NYCFC side that sit 13th in the East (albeit with a solid enough home record).
To put things into perspective, consider this: the ‘Caps have a chance Saturday afternoon to win their third road match in a week. The last time before this year that the club won three road matches in an entire season was all the way back in 2018, a stat which feels like it should be fake until you remember the soccer we’ve all watched over the last half decade. The last time the ‘Caps won three road matches in a row was all the way back in June of 2015.
A win this weekend could vault the ‘Caps into a top-four position in the West, which would be a massive step forward and give them a little bit of breathing room over the playoff line in a very crowded Western Conference. Given that the regular season ends with a run of three matches against the current three top teams in the conference, picking up points against non-playoff teams is a must.
For what’s seemed like an eternity, much of the discussion about the ‘Caps has centred around the attack and its inability to score consistently. Well, who would have guessed that this year’s team would be 2nd in the West in terms of goals scored? The additions of Richie Laryea and Sam Adekugbe should hopefully propel it even further once they’re both able to play heavier minutes, but the goals are already coming in!
Ryan Gauld is 8th in MLS in goals + assists (tied for 4th if you don’t count the hockey assists that the league has begun tracking) and Brian White is now the club’s 2nd all-time leading scorer in the MLS era behind Camilo. The two of them continue to lead the point of attack and White should be buoyed by dozens of his family and friends coming to watch him play in New York State for the first time since he was traded to Vancouver from the Red Bulls.
In the midfield Andrés Cubas is back from suspension which is massive considering that the ‘Caps penchant for pushing their wingbacks super high can leave them exposed on the counter. The Fire had their chances on Wednesday but weren’t able to capitalize and Cubas will be counted on to try and mop up those messes as best he can. Given that the ‘Caps are tied for the 2nd-most goals conceded among West teams currently above the playoff line, it’s clear that side of things has been the weaker point this year.
With this being the third game in a week, there’s the question of whether one of the back three will need a rest for this one, with Mathias Laborda waiting in the wings to come in. Ranko Veselinović has been an ironman once again this season playing in all but one match so far, while Tristan Blackmon has gone the full 90 in all but one of the last eight.
Looking at the hosts, NYCFC are coming off a 2-0 home win over Montreal midweek that snapped a five-match winless run in league play. They’ve struggled to score as of late, getting shutout four times in their last six matches in all competitions including twice in Leagues Cup. The win over Montreal was only their second time scoring multiple goals in a match in the last two months, with the other coming in a 5-0 thrashing of Toronto FC in Leagues Cup. The ‘Caps will have to hope that NYCFC don’t have it out for Canadians in particular.
The Pigeons were hit hard in the summer transfer window when their star attacker Gabriel Pereira (who leads the team still in both goals and assists on the year) left in July to the Qatari league. To replace him it’s now young forward Monsef Bakrar who leads the line – he scored his first MLS goal on Wednesday. As well, NYCFC brought back club legend Maxi Moralez to bolster the attack and will hope he still has gas left in the tank at age 36.
This is just the Whitecaps’ third-ever visit to Yankee Stadium and first since 2018. They’ve not yet won in that building, in fact they only have a single win to this point over NYCFC. But they have the chance now to really stake a claim in the playoff race if they can go a real run on this road trip.