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Match Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps vs. LA Galaxy

Don’t get Zlatan-ed

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps at Los Angeles Galaxy Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Whitecaps (0-3-1) are coming off their first result of the season, after a 0-0 draw last weekend against the Seattle Sounders. They will look to parlay that into their first win, as LA Galaxy come to town on Friday evening (3-1-0).

Match Information

Where: BC Place

When: 10 PM ET/7 PM PT

How to watch: TSN1, MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US

Who’s Available?

We already know three Caps (Michael Baldisimo, Jasser Khmiri and Andy Rose) remain out with long-term injuries. The status of Russell Teibert, who played 70 minutes last week with a seperated shoulder, remains less clear, although my guess would be that he will be available.

The only injury question for LA Galaxy appears to be solved, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic appeared to confirm yesterday that he will line up on the BC Place turf Friday.

Who to watch?

The obvious answer is the man mentioned above: Zlatan. The Caps missed having to deal with the summer signing in their first match of last season and managed to escape with a 0-0 draw. They were less lucky in the September match, where Ibra converted two goals to lead the Galaxy to a 3-0 win.

The size and physicality of the Caps’ new-look backline means they should be in a decent position to counter the sizeable Swede, who has scored three goals already this season, although they will have to be as stout in their defensive positioning as they were last Saturday against Seattle. With the confirmation that he will be playing on turf this season (a charm used to ward other aging superstars like Didier Drogba off from BC Place in the past), the Caps were spared no reprieve.

Portland had a lot of success clogging the middle of the field and forcing the Galaxy to play (largely ineffective) crosses into the box. The problem is Portland also gave away two bad penalties and lost 2-1. It wouldn’t shock me, however, to see the Caps attempt a very similar strategy: use Teibert and Jon Erice to stand strong in the center of the park and hope that Ali Adnan and Jake Nerwinski can handle the wider shape the Galaxy would then be forced to play.

From an offensive perspective, I think the Caps will have their chances against an LA Galaxy backline that is averaging giving up a goal-and-a-half a game this season. Yordy Reyna and Hwang-in-Beom will likely return to the lineup and will have to fancy their chances against Jorgen Skjelvik and Diego Polenta, both of whom have underwhelmed thus far.

One last thing to watch? LA has won three penalties so far this season. Vancouver has given away three penalties this season. Let’s hope those trends don’t continue Friday—all the more reason why proper defensive positioning will be important against a savvy, veteran Galaxy team.

Potential Lineups

Vancouver: Crepeau, Adnan, Henry, Godoy, Nerwinski, Erice, Teibert, Hwang, Reyna, Venuto, Montero

LA: Bingham, Feltscher, Steres, Polenta, Sjelvik, Lletget, dos Santos, Allessandrini, Corona, Antuna, Ibrahimovic

Who’s going to win?

You have to go all the way back to July of 2017 to find the last time the Caps beat the Galaxy and, when they are at their best, the Galaxy have looked tough to halt this season. But the Caps were able to corral Seattle, one of the few teams which has played even more successful, free-flowing soccer than LA so far this season. The Vancouver midfield will have to be more effective than they have been in other matches this season, however, and whomever Marc dos Santos taps to start at striker will need to take the chances that come their way against a rather soft LA Galaxy backline. I think both of these things are doable for the Caps to at least walk away with a point.

Prediction: Vancouver ( 1-1 ) LA Galaxy