The MLS leading Los Angeles FC come to Vancouver Wednesday night to face Vancouver Whitecaps. While the Whitecaps have had a miserable start to their season, still winless and only earning two points from their first six games, LAFC have had the exact opposite start. One of only three undefeated teams so far this season (Seattle and surprising Houston the other two), LAFC have dominated with 21 goals for and only 5 against. They have looked impressive at home, defeating SKC (2-1), Portland (4-1), RSL (2-1), and Cincinnati (2-0). However, they have been equally, or maybe even more, impressive away from home, outscoring San Jose and D.C. 9-0 in their two most recent road matches.
The second year club is lead by Carlos Vela, who is currently tops in MLS in both goals (8) and assists (5). He also leads MLS in shots (41) and shots on goal (16). However, Vela is not the only offensive juggernaut on this club. Teammate Diego Rossi is 2nd in league scoring with six, second in shots (26) and shots on goal (14).
Vancouver Whitecaps are fairly healthy for this one, with Andy Rose being the only regular out of the lineup. Jasser Khmiri is still a month or so away, but I am looking forward to his first appearance. We might see the club move to a 3-CB back at that point. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves quite yet.
We should see some Canadian contingent on both sides of the pitch in this one, with Mark-Anthony Kaye being a regular in LAFC’s midfield. Unfortunately, the other Canadian Dejan Jakovic yet to appear.
On the Whitecaps side, Teibert has started the last few matches, while Henry and Crepeau have been staples in the defense all season.
Both clubs have another match this weekend, with LAFC hosting Seattle, so expect some rotation. The main question will be who plays both matches and if the managers prioritize one match over the other, which will it be.
It makes sense that Vancouver would prioritize this match, as it is their home game, but Orlando City is a weaker opponent than LAFC. Likewise, Los Angeles has a home match on Sunday, but it is against the equally strong Sounders. MDS has seemed to prioritize the current match and not the next one, so I expect a fully strong lineup in this one. The question is though, what is their strongest lineup?
The backfield seems set, but the midfield and attack has more question marks. Recently, Inboem Hwang has been playing in the front three, but that has left a midfield three of defensive-minded Erice, Felipe, and Teibert. Coming into this season few could argue that Reyna was the Caps best player, but he has rarely shown that so far, so who knows what could be in store.
Montero continues to struggle as a striker, while Ardaiz has had opportunities but hasn’t been able to cash in. It is possible that he gets another crack at it on Wednesday; if not, I expect him to start on Saturday.
Interview with Alicia Rodriguez from Angels on Parade
We spoke with SB Nations LAFC blog, Angels on Parade, and Alicia Rodriguez to get some information about the upcoming match. Here is our conversation. For our answers to their questions, click here.
1. LAFC had a memorable first season, going 16-9-9, finishing 3rd in the West, but fell to 6th seed Real Salt Lake in the Knockout Round of the playoffs. They have started this season undefeated in their first seven, with six wins. What are the expectations of LAFC fans this season? Are they realistic?
I think the expectation at this point is for LAFC to win a title, and I think it’s realistic so far. Last season, Bob Bradley’s 1998 Chicago Fire team’s history of winning a domestic double in their first season was the specter hanging over the team, and they got fairly close to winning the U.S. Open Cup. Now with the expansion team tag off and the team playing better, seemingly benefiting from the additional time together, they look really good. I think if Atlanta United had not won MLS Cup in their second season last year, LAFC’s confidence may look a bit overdone. But with that recent history, the hot start this year, and good performances from all over the roster, the title aspirations do look realistic. Only roughly 30 more games to go to see if that comes to fruition.
2. Vancouver Whitecaps new coach, Marc Dos Santos spent last season with LAFC and Bob Bradley. Each coach spoke very highly of each other. How has Bob Bradley helped make LAFC such an immediate success in MLS?
I think Dos Santos played a role, he was liked at LAFC and I think they knew he wasn’t going to be around long as his time was going to come to be an MLS head coach. Regarding Bradley, I think the biggest thing is he has transformed his reputation from when he managed the U.S. Men’s National Team, when he picked up the rap for playing cautious, pragmatic soccer. Of course, national teams have a (relatively) finite player pool and clubs can sign anyone they can afford, but with LAFC Bradley is determined to play what he calls “good football.”
It’s funny, nearly every manager says they want to play positive, attacking soccer when they are hired — no one comes in and says his aim is to park the bus. But Bradley has come through on that promise. LAFC doesn’t use a traditional defensive midfielder, instead tasking their three midfielders to share the burden on both sides of the ball. They like to score early and often. LAFC can win shootouts. But this season, they have shown an ability to grind a little bit better than last year, too, and pretty much every contender needs to have that ability at least from time to time.
3. Carlos Vela currently leads MLS in both goals (7) and assists (5). Clearly the lynchpin of the offense, are there any other players that are immensely important to the success of this club that probably do not get the appreciation they deserve?
Like I said, the whole team has been playing well so far here, and LAFC seem to currently be in a position where they both have Vela playing lights out and the team around him playing extremely well, too. I would reserve special praise for Latif Blessing, who joined MLS as a center striker, and played wide forward at Sporting KC and last year at LAFC. In the second game of the season, Steven Beitashour suffered an injury, and Bradley opted to go with...Blessing?! Indeed he did, and he did fairly well for being thrown into the spot (although he had prepared by playing right back extensively in training and preseason).
Then, about a month ago, there was an injury bug in LAFC’s midfield, and Blessing moved to a new position, playing midfield, against NYCFC. He was outstanding in that game, and has kept his starting spot since then. There seems to be a chance that he may have finally forced his way into the starting XI for good, and recast himself as a surprisingly versatile player who can more than hold his own in midfield.
Bonus Question: How are our former full backs of Steven Beitashour and Jordan Harvey doing this season?
These guys are timeless. LAFC made a trade with FC Cincinnati to avoid the expansion team from taking Beitashour in the expansion draft, and that was a prudent decision, even with the trade itself being somewhat lopsided. The team has been working on training understudies for Beitashour, notably Blessing and another attacker, youngster Shaft Brewer, Jr. But I expect Beitashour to stay in the lineup as long as he’s healthy and productive, and so far, so good.
Harvey’s situation is a bit different, but the result is the same. I think every season, there’s a concern that Harvey may be past it, so even though he had a good 2018, LAFC got to work on an insurance or succession plan at left back. They traded their first-ever draft pick, Joao Moutinho, to Orlando City to pick up Mohamed El-Munir, and then they brought in Finnish-American youngster Niko Hamalainen on loan from Queens Park Rangers. Three left backs seems like overkill, but Harvey seems to have been renewed by the competition and is playing great. In particular, last year he mostly stayed back in defense, probably for cover and to conserve energy. This year, he’s bombing forward much more, and getting involved in the attack. Bradley is still looking to protect Harvey, who is typically subbed off these days, but El-Munir and Hamalainen seem like they’ll have to take the mop-up minutes for the time being as Harvey continues to fight off Father Time.
There you have it Whitecaps fans. I am sure those comments about thinking Harvey is done resonate with Caps fans. I believe that was the sentiment three to five years ago!
It will be a tough test on Wednesday night for the Vancouver Whitecaps. What do you expect from this match? Can the Caps pull off the upset?
Who Will Win Wednesday Night?
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