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Scouting Report: Vancouver Whitecaps travel to Hollywood!

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The Vancouver Whitecaps play their final away match of the 2018 season. We scout the LAFC match, and sit down with Alicia Rodriguez to get her insights on LA’s inaugural season...and some familiar faces.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Los Angeles FC Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club Scouting Report

LAFC are a potent club in their inaugural season. They are second in league scoring, only two behind Atlanta United FC (67 to 65), and have three players with 10+ goals. Behind them are two good playmakers in Feilhaber and Nguyen.

Where LAFC are vulnerable is on defense. They are relying heavily on former Whitecaps fullbacks Harvey and Beitashour. While no slouches, as Alicia points out below, LAFC’s style of play leaves the older veterans a bit vulnerable on the counter. The club has allowed the third-most goals of any of the current 12 playoff teams. As a result, the speed of guys like Davies and Shea could be useful.

LAFC have a strong Whitecaps connection, which fans will sure enjoy. We spoke with Alicia Rodriguez of Angels Parade to find out more about how our favourite fullbacks were doing in LA, along with several other questions.

1. Jordan Harvey and Steven Beitashour were well-liked in their time as Whitecaps. How have they fared playing for LAFC? Will we see either or both of them on Sunday?

I think it’s pretty likely both players will start for LAFC on Sunday. While Beitashour has been close to ever-present this year at right back, only getting a rest for a few games, Harvey wasn’t used a lot early, with top MLS draft pick Joao Moutinho getting a fair amount of playing time. But over the course of the season, Harvey’s experience and steady play beat out the rookie, and he’s started the last nine games in a row. Bob Bradley does make changes from time to time, but he’s been pretty consistent with a handful of players, and Harvey and Beitashour are likely to suit up against their old team.

And I think both have been good for LAFC. The team plays a pretty risky style of soccer, with there not being a traditional defensive midfielder shielding the defense. Sometimes, the fullbacks have to fill in for marauding center backs. Do they get caught out at times? Absolutely. But on balance, I think among the non-star players, Beitashour and Harvey have been among the most consistent on the team, and have been good value for their additions.

2. In their inaugural season LAFC is currently one point out of first in the West with two matches to go. Are you surprised by this or was this realistically expected at the beginning of the season?

As someone who has seen most expansion teams fall flat in year one, I was cautiously hopeful LAFC would make the playoffs. To say they have outperformed my own expectations would be an understatement. In hindsight, it looks obvious, but full credit to former Whitecaps midfielder John Thorrington for building a strong roster, and to Bob Bradley for making them a team pretty much immediately.

It has to be said, however, that LAFC were targeting a championship right away. Part of the reason they are in the position they are, I think, is because they set the bar so high. This team was devastated to get knocked out of the U.S. Open Cup semifinal, because they thought they could win that tournament (and they could have). The playoffs are a different beast, but they aren’t content to coast on the accomplishment of making it, and that should serve them well in the coming weeks.

3. Despite leading the West in scoring, LAFC will probably end the season giving up 50 goals. Is there concern that if the offense fizzles out the club could be in trouble come playoffs (a la Atlanta FC previously)? Has the defense improved as the season has worn on or have they gotten worse?

The defense is definitely a concern. They’ve played a lot of shootouts this year. On the bright side, LAFC were on the good side of most of those, but teams that play shootouts seldom (never?) win MLS Cup. I think any opponent they encounter in the playoffs will sit deep, beg LAFC to break them down and run speedy counters to catch them out.

But as to your second question, for all of the concerns about letting in a boatload of goals, they are capable of notching shutouts, and have 10 on the season, which is pretty good. Danilo Silva and Walker Zimmerman seem to have a good partnership in the back that continues to develop after the shock departure of Laurent Ciman. The big concern for maintaining that coherence is ensuring Silva and Zimmerman stay on the field, and Silva has already missed some games due to injury. Things seem to be trending in the right direction, but you just never know how it will end up.

Vancouver Whitecaps Scouting Report

The Vancouver Whitecaps come into Sunday’s match without anyone on the injured list. I am not sure that has been able to be said all season. In addition, the Whitecaps should have their full array of regular starters available to them, as everyone is back from international duty. That means Aja and Maund, who had a terrible second half on Wednesday will be relegated back to the bench in favor of Waston and Henry. Could we see Dominguez get his first start? Possibly. I would certainly like to see him get an opportunity before the season comes to an end. If he is good enough to start for El Salvador, he can start at CB for Whitecaps (or at least be in the conversation).

In front of the center backs, we could see Ghazal and Teibert return. Felipe’s strong play on Wednesday, including his first goal, might throw a wrench into those plans.

Many, including myself were surprised that Techera remained on the bench once again. With Davies back, I would be (disappointed) to see Techera remain on the bench another match. He has certainly done more on-the-field to earn that spot opposite Davies than Shea.

I was disappointed to see Mutch have a so-so match. With the return of Ghazal and Teibert, and the strong play of Felipe last match, we might have seen the last of Mutch as a Whitecaps player. It is a shame because if he can stay healthy, and have good players ahead of him, I think he can be a great weapon for the Whitecaps.

Kamara will probably slot in at striker again, with Reyna right behind him. Although, like others appearing to be stapled to the bench, it is a bit surprising that we have not seen Blondell much this season. The Venezuelan has only eight matches this season and played 621 minutes. Not exactly great numbers for a player that Vancouver is paying over one million for!

I expect a stereo-typical lineup from the Whitecaps, with an effort to counter as LAFC leave a lot of space to drive at the back. This could be a big game for Davies (and Shea). This could end up being a LAFC blowout or a high-scoring match. I am hoping for the latter.

What are your expectations?