We’re just about at the halfway mark of the MLS regular season and the Whitecaps sit with an even 5-5-5 record. That balanced record will fall one way or the other against SKC, with the ‘Caps coming off what Vanni Sartini labeled their “worst performance of the season” against Houston in which the club broke their own record for most goals in an MLS match.
I know, there seems to be some mixed signals there. But the ‘Caps record-breaking performance was certainly helped by the Dynamo falling to pieces in the second half and the hosts cleaning up scraps at the end of the match. It improved their home record to 5-1-2, and the ‘Caps now have 15 home wins since the beginning of last year, second-most in all of MLS behind only LAFC (18).
The backline was in shambles in the first half against Houston, as the Dynamo really should have scored more than two goals but some luck and strong play from Yohei Takaoka kept the ‘Caps in it. Bringing in Ranko Veselinović in place of Javain Brown at halftime did seem to calm things down, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Sartini went with that back four of Veselinović, Tristan Blackmon, Mathias Laborda, and Luis Martins against SKC.
Of course, squad rotation could come into play as all eyes are on the Canadian Championship final on Wednesday. Blackmon, Laborda, Julian Gressel, and Alessandro Schöpf have all started three matches in a row in quick succession, and Sartini has to balance trying to take advantage of this important homestand with making sure he can put out the best possible lineup against Montreal.
This means that players like Sebastian Berhalter, Simon Becher or Déiber Caicedo could end up with a bigger role on Saturday to spell a bit of rest for others. The ‘Caps certainly aren’t going to “punt” any match (not that they can afford to anyway given their position in the standings) but I feel like the fanbase would agree that the chance to win silverware midweek is more of a priority than this random regular season match against not the highest tier of opposition.
Now, that opposition has actually been gaining a bit of steam in recent weeks, as SKC have shaken off an absolutely dreadful start to the season where they took just three points from their first 11 matches. They’re now 4-1-1 over the last month including back-to-back home wins over Portland and Dallas coming into this weekend.
SKC have been quite the bogey team for the ‘Caps, as Vancouver has a paltry 2-8-1 record against them over the last five years. Those two wins were both at home, however, including a 1-0 victory the last time SKC came to BC Place last April. Ryan Raposo scored the lone goal that match, his first in MLS play.
The Whitecaps can jump as high as 4th in the West with a win, which would be a good achievement at basically midway through the season. With the Leagues Cup break coming around the corner, getting into a groove before that point would be quite useful. Continuing to take care of business at home is a great way to get that going.