Match Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Colorado Rapids – a rock fight

Match Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Colorado Rapids – a rock fight

For all of the Whitecaps’ woes in the CONCACAF Champions League (and in terms of generating goals in general), they’ve been slowly clawing up the MLS Western Conference standings since the first couple of weeks of the season.

The ‘Caps are currently riding a 320-minute shutout streak in MLS play, and are unbeaten in six straight league matches (two wins, four draws). They’re also tied with the Sounders for the second-fewest goals conceded in the West at just seven, which is quite good!

On the other end, however, outside of their shellacking of Montreal the ‘Caps have scored just six goals in their other eight matches. There’s not been a single Vancouver match yet this season where both teams scored multiple goals. It’s not always been pretty to watch!

After some time off the ‘Caps return to action Saturday night against Colorado, a team that is tied for the second-fewest goals scored in the West this season. On paper at least, this isn’t setting up to be the most electric of clashes.

BC Place has at least remained a difficult place for opponents to play, with the ‘Caps holding a 18-6-5 record at home under Vanni Sartini. Since the opening day loss to RSL fans have witnessed a draw and two shutout wins in MLS play at home, and the ‘Caps even held more than 50% possession in each of their last two home matches which feels unheard of for the club in recent years.

At least some of the credit for winning that possession battle has to go to the midfield, with the trio of Andrés Cubas, Julian Gressel, and Ali Ahmed providing a more dynamic presence than we’ve seen the last couple seasons. Alessandro Schöpf is healthy once again after a month on the sidelines, but he’ll be in a dogfight to regain a nailed-down starter position.

Sergio Córdova, meanwhile, is still some time away and the departure of Christian Dájome means some more minutes up front will open. Déiber Caicedo is a likely pick to take some of them as he gets fully re-integrated into the squad – he got a goal and an assist last weekend for Whitecaps FC 2.

The slotting of Brian White as more of a #10 is an interesting one, as he feels a bit clunky to be playing in that role. Sartini seems committed to making the 4-3-2-1 setup work rather than shifting to more of a 4-3-1-2 when both White and Simon Becher are out there, and I understand wanting to build a proper system but the attack has clearly not been consistent yet this season (not least because Ryan Gauld has continued to struggle to assert himself).

Looking at the visitors, the Rapids were dealt a big blow early in the season when their captain Jack Price ruptured his achilles. Cole Bassett also missed their last match (a 1-1 draw with St. Louis) due to injury, while former Whitecap Steven Beitashour is listed as questionable to play on Saturday.

Colorado is on a similar sort of run of form as the ‘Caps, unbeaten in five matches but four of them being draws. This means they’re still mired close to the bottom of the West but within striking distance of moving up – they would leapfrog over at least Vancouver with a win. The Rapids have won at BC Place once in the last eight seasons, a 1-0 victory in 2018 that saw Marcel de Jong score an own goal for the lone tally of the match.

After a hectic stretch of play the Whitecaps were given a weekend off to take a breather and hopefully re-calibrate. Depending on how results go elsewhere they could end the weekend anywhere from 6th to 12th in the West, showing how congested things are through these first couple months. We’ll see if they can keep pace.

Authored by: Jake McGrail

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