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Notes & Quotes From The Training Ground: Getting Ready for Philly (April 26th)

Team building, the “Zorro” mask & MLS travel schedules.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Orlando City SC Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Following up a busy double week against LAFC (at home) followed by Orlando City (on the road), the Vancouver Whitecaps (and Marc dos Santos in particular) were happy to have a full week of training in preparation for Philadelphia Union this Saturday afternoon.

The big topic of discussion early in the week at training was the MLS travel schedule and the fact that the Whitecaps had been faced with one of the longest commutes in MLS on a double week with less than 72 hours rest. While not making excuses for the loss, the skipper was firm in his commitment to the idea that all teams in MLS should be provided 72 hours between fixtures, especially when confronted with a long travel day. For anyone who watched the match last weekend, I think it was clear that the Caps were both mentally and physically fatigued in the final stages, and that certainly wasn’t ideal.

Midfielder Andy Rose also found himself back at full training this week after a prolonged absence with a facial fracture. Interestingly enough, Andy gave an answer to something I’d been wondering for a while on Tuesday: why couldn’t he wear the famous “Zorro Mask”?

Apparently, because of the awkward positioning of his orbital rim fracture, he had to wait for the bone to heal fully as opposed to wearing the mask while the bone was healing. Disappointing for mask enthusiasts no doubt, but perhaps Andy can provide a different look for a midfield which has been struggling to produce in recent weeks? Doesn’t sound like Andy will get much action this weekend, but it could be a consideration going forward.

When asked about the Whitecaps play of late, Rose stressed a point which we had heard from Dos Santos last week: that it’s going to be important for the club’s success for the midfield to link up with the wingers and for the squad to display more patience in possession higher up the pitch. We haven’t really seen this pan out as of yet in matches, with low possession numbers in both matches last week, but I would guess this means that the Caps intend to keep In-Beom in his hybrid-wing role for the foreseeable future.

Turning to preparations for Philadelphia and beyond, dos Santos pointed to (as is now a weekly ritual) his squad’s need to hold possession and be precise in the final third. Marc also displayed his frustrations with his struggle to find a consistent finisher up front, and while I think it’s clear that dos Santos wants to upgrade this position long term, he emphasized that the squad must be committed to attacking collectively in the same way they’ve been successful defending collectively over the past few matches.

On Friday, dos Santos analyzed the dangers that Philadelphia poses, and it sounded quite similar to what he wants to see out of his own squad. The skipper cited Philly’s ability to move the ball quickly and clinically after gaining possession, while mentioning that his own team doesn’t need to be so anxious or play long balls over the top when they’re not on.

Organizationally, dos Santos commented that Philadelphia is a club which has seen drastic improvement since Jim Curtin’s appointment 5 years ago, that it took time to install the right kind of culture in the team, and that we are now starting to see the results of this work.

Ultimately, the match on Saturday is one the Whitecaps can, and should, win. What remains to be seen is whether or not the Caps can be clinical finishing their chances. If they can find improvement in this area, it could have a drastic effect on the results they see going forward.

As a final note regarding dos Santos on the team building front, It sounds as though MDS wants to improve 2, 3 or 4 “key positions” at the club in the short-term future (summer window, next off-season) - with one of those improvements possibly being the retainment of Ali Adnan on a permanent deal.

All of these upgrades would theoretically represent a “good bump” at the positions in question, and I think dos Santos believes that if he’s given the green light to make such additions (obviously that’s a HUGE “if”), he could have his squad much closer to where he wants them to be in the table.

With all that being said, which key positions would you like to see the Caps improve in upcoming transfer windows, and how hopeful are you for a home victory this Saturday?