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Whitecaps Almost Doomed in Los Angeles

Everyone knows the Whitecaps are underdogs tonight in Los Angeles, but even the pessimists might not realize just how far back they are.

Victor Decolongon

A couple days ago I went on the record saying we shouldn't expect anything from this game and ought to just enjoy the ride[1]. That, realistically, the Vancouver Whitecaps' 2012 mission has already been accomplished and anything else is a bonus. That the LA Galaxy will very likely beat us (7:30 PM PDT, live on TSN), so what's the point of getting worked up about it?

Yet, as game time approaches, of course I'm looking for hope. It's hard to find. Nobody you can trust believes in us. A bet on Bet365 for the Whitecaps to win, as of this writing, pays +1000[2] or "bet $10, win $100". A $50 bet would win you a trip for the road leg if the Whitecaps pulled it out. Betfair is even worse, paying 10.5 to 1 for a Whitecaps victory[3] and I could go on. That's how little the world thinks of Vancouver's chances.

The Galaxy are averaging 5.26 shots on goal per game this season; the Whitecaps are only averaging 3.41. At Home Depot Centre (counting "away" matches against Chivas USA) the Galaxy go up to 6.26 shots on goal per game, while on the road the Whitecaps drop to an utterly pathetic 2.53, a figure so low that in road games the Whitecaps should expect to be shut out more often than not. In case you're wondering, that hasn't quite happened; the Whitecaps have suffered eight clean sheets against in 17 road games.

How about on the other side of the ball? The Whitecaps concede an average of 3.86 4.26 shots on goal against per game, which isn't bad, and their 4.41 shots on goal against per game on the road is still quite respectable. No help here: the Galaxy average only 3.69 4.21 shots on goal against per game. If it helps, they gain no advantage at Home Depot Center: 3.74 shots against per game in Carson, but it's still clear edge Galaxy.

Every Whitecaps fan reading this is waiting for some hope spot, some fringe measurement in which the Whitecaps are superior to the Galaxy and which might form the basis for an upset. Sorry. The Whitecaps are far worse offensively, somewhat worse defensively, concede more fouls, have an inferior leading scorer, have many fewer assists...

The only way the Whitecaps will beat the Galaxy tonight is if the Galaxy completely crap the bed, or the Whitecaps play the game of their life, or Brad Knighton hulks out and swats away ten shots. What we statistics men call "luck", in other words: something that couldn't be reproduced and certainly couldn't be reliably predicted.

You never know. That's the marvelous thing about sports: I have gotten out the calculator, shown that the Galaxy are the overwhelming favourites to win, and there's still every possibility they won't. I know I'll be clenched beyond belief if the Whitecaps drag it to the 80th minute with the score level, to say nothing of extra time... and if Vancouver snatches the first goal of the game at any point I may just catch fire.

So don't give up, don't go home, don't just hope that next season we have an offense. On March 17 in that very stadium we got the stuffing beat out of us by Chivas for most of 90 minutes and still won, 1-0 (and the fact that Chivas beat Vancouver so thoroughly despite being an awful team is hopeful in itself). July 4 in Colorado was even more one-sided in favour of the Rapids but, still, another 1-0 win for Vancouver. That same day, the Galaxy got stroked 2-1 at home to the Philadelphia Union, one of the worst teams in the league. These things happen; every team except Toronto FC has a couple fluky wins every year. The Whitecaps have seen little of Lady Luck for the past few months. There's no such thing as "being due", not in sports... but if there was such a thing, Vancouver would be.

Pull on your arbutus brown, grab two or three scarves, get together with every fellow fan you can find, and refuse to go gently into that good night. The Galaxy are Germany and we are Belgium, but you may recall Belgium won.

[1] — Massey, Benjamin. "Happy to Be Here." Eighty Six Forever, October 30, 2012. Accessed November 1, 2012.

[2] — "Match Betting: LA Galaxy v Vancouver Whitecaps." bet365. Accessed November 1, 2012.

[3] — "Los Angeles v Vancouver Whitecaps betting odds." Betfair. Accessed November 1, 2012.