Match Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps v Sporting Kansas City – The Desperation Derby?

Match Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps v Sporting Kansas City – The Desperation Derby?

This past week was not a good one for the Whitecaps. On Saturday, they were torn to pieces by LAFC, completely capitulating in a 6-1 defeat that was their worst performance of the season by quite a long shot. On Wednesday, a more or less first-choice line-up was held in check by CPL Spring Season champions Cavalry FC, a 0-0 draw in Alberta that did nothing to placate the mounting frustrations amongst the team’s fanbase.

The ‘Caps now have an even 20 points from 20 matches, a PPG rate that is tied with Colorado for worst in the West, and only ahead of Columbus and Cincinnati across the entire league. They’ve scored just 22 goals – again ahead of just Colorado and Cincinnati – and have just four wins, tied with MLS’ newest expansion side for bottom in the league.

Basically, the ‘Caps 2019 season has been as futile as any MLS side outside of Ohio, and as things stand it would take an almost miraculous turnaround to make a run at a postseason berth. I believe it was generally accepted that this “rebuild” would take some time to gel, but the ‘Caps are on pace for their worst finish since 2011, and look set to miss the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time in the team’s MLS era. Even if you entered the season with lowered expectations, it is pretty much impossible to excuse how poor the team has looked at times.

At this point, it’s hard for me to brainstorm ideas on how Marc Dos Santos could shake his team up against SKC this weekend. Every tactical decision made surely has to be with the team’s attack in mind, because aside from far-too-few isolated flashes the ‘Caps offense has been hilariously inept, with a black hole in the front third where reliable chance creation should be.

I’m a big Yordy Reyna fan, and he’s been the team’s only threatening attacker recently outside of Ali Adnan, who’s technically a defender. The ‘Caps have six goals in their last five matches, three of which were scored by Reyna. The other three were two Fredy Montero penalties (one of which Reyna drew off a fantastic solo run against Toronto) and Lucas Venuto’s stoppage-time screamer against Dallas. Reyna’s been great the last few weeks, but unfortunately not too many others have been.

Reyna and Venuto will likely start up top against SKC with Montero suspended, unless Dos Santos wants to throw in the recently-recovered Joaquín Ardaiz. In theory it makes sense to add a bit of size to the attack, but in practice the Uruguayan has been majorly disappointing in terms of actual finishing ability, which is an important skill for strikers to have! As of right now, I’d be willing to bet that Ardaiz will leave the club without scoring a goal, and I’m saying this about a forward the ‘Caps are reportedly paying a little over $270,000 this season. That’s not good.

Whether or not the ‘Caps are playing a back three or a back four, Adnan, Érik Godoy, Doneil Henry, Jon Erice, and Inbeom Hwang are all locks to start, especially since the latter two were given a rest against Cavalry. Andy Rose or Derek Cornelius will take the third centre-back role if Dos Santos wants one, while Russell Teibert and Jake Nerwinski will probably draw back into the starting XI as well. I’m not sure what else to say about this group of players that I haven’t already said…again, that’s not good.

Looking at the visitors, SKC have had a very much “not-good” season of their own, sitting just two points above the ‘Caps for 10th place in the West. They come to Vancouver after taking three points at home in a much-needed 1-0 win over Chicago, bouncing back after a 5-1 drubbing of their own against LAFC – I guess proof that it is possible for the ‘Caps to do the same.

Since Cornelius’ sensational stoppage-time volley stole a point at Children’s Marcy Park for the ‘Caps, SKC is 3-3-2, slowly starting to pull themselves out of the Western Conference basement. But despite picking up some more points, their offence has been a mirror image of the ‘Caps recently: they have just six goals in their last six matches, with two penalties and Yohan Croizet playing the role of Yordy Reyna by scoring three of the four from open play.

I think the term “must-win” can be a little silly and gets thrown around quite often, but if the ‘Caps fall flat on their faces in front of their home crowd after what we’ve seen over the last couple matches, then feel free to put a fork in the season. If they don’t win there’s a chance they could be behind Colorado in the standings by the end of the night, and sitting in dead last for at least a few days would be quite the sobering predicament.

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Authored by: Jake McGrail

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