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Match Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps vs DC United

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MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps at D.C. United Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Whitecaps come up against DC United this weekend. With the Whitecaps being last in the West and DC being 3rd in the East one would expect this to be an easy win for DC. But I am not sure that this will be the case because over the course of my research I have come to the conclusion that DC United are actually low key pretty bad.

Kick Off: 7:00 PM PT

TV: TSN1 TSN4

Radio: TSN1040

DC United:

DC United may have Wayne Rooney, the much coveted recognized name, and Luciano Acosta, who almost moved to PSG for reasons that aren’t really clear, but their success is almost entirely down to Bill Hamid having an insane season. That and being amazing at set pieces. DC United have scored 9 goals from set pieces which is 3rd most in the league. At the other end Bill Hamid has stopped 5.17 more goals than expected. But set pieces aren’t a very reliable way to score goals and goalkeepers tend to run hot and cold in MLS (though Hamid has been one of the top keepers for 3 years in a row). The upshot of all of this is that DC United may be the luckiest team in the league.

Wayne Rooney has 11 goals and 6 assists. But he only has 5 goals and 3 assists from open play. The rest are all penalties and free kicks. If you filter for open play then these are the top 5 players in xG+xA from open play per game between Vancouver and DC:

  1. Theo Bair: 0.41
  2. Lucas Venuto (lol): 0.37
  3. Wayne Rooney: 0.31
  4. Quincy Amarikwa: 0.31
  5. Fredy Montero: 0.29

Not exactly an impressive bunch! Yet one of these teams has 9 more goals and 13 more points than the other. Speaking of goals, DC has 34 of them. Yet they’ve managed to turn that into 39 points. This means they have an effective goal distribution (i.e they win a lot of games by 1 goal. 7 of DC’s 10 wins have been by one goal). This is generally not sustainable in the long run.

DC typically play a 4-2-3-1. They play quite similarly to the Whitecaps but with more dribbling, a few less long balls and a few more crosses. They have a lot more quality on paper but for whatever reason they haven’t been able to produce significantly different underlying metrics than the lowly ‘Caps. If the Whitecaps avoid giving away too many set pieces then I think DC are very beatable.

Vancouver Whitecaps:

Vancouver have found some success with new look 4-3-2-1 formation. Well, it’s not actually caused any change in underlying metrics, or overlying metrics for that matter, but they’ve gone from a 5 game loosing streak to 1-1-1 over they last 3 games so we all feel a lot better. The change in fortunes is more likely due to the players being less tired (remember the 5 game loosing streak came with fixture congestion and the Whitecaps aren’t a very deep team) or just to getting a bit luckier, rather than the change in formation. With the 4-3-2-1 the Whitecaps goals for, goals against, expected goals for, and expected goals against are all almost exactly identical to their season average.

But the Whitecaps will have the help of two new additions in Michael Chirinos and Tosaint Ricketts. What difference will Lucas Venuto but from Honduras and Theo Bair but older and shorter make? If you can’t tell from my sarcastic tone I don’t think it will matter all that much. This isn’t to say I think they are bad signings. Chirinos looks like he has a bit more physicality than Venuto and his dribbling is a bit better but I am yet to be convinced he’ll be more than a slight upgrade. Ricketts has a good goal record in MLS but he’s another year older and the players who will be getting him the ball won’t be nearly as good as they were at TFC. They’re both decent complimentary pieces but I doubt either will make a huge difference in the short term.

Injuries:

DC United:

  • OUT: M - Russell Canouse (collapsed lung, out 3-6 weeks)
  • OUT: D - Oniel Fisher (knee surgery)
  • OUT: M - Chris Durkin (ankle injury)

Vancouver Whitecaps:

  • OUT: D - Jasser Khmiri (left knee injury)
  • OUT: M - Lass Bangoura (left adductor tightness)
  • OUT: D/M - PC (right foot injury)
  • QUESTIONABLE: D - Doneil Henry (back contusion)
  • D - Ali Adnan (adductor injury)

Predicted Lineups:

DC: Hamid; Jara, Brilliant, Birnbaum, Mora; Moreno, McCann; Ariolla, Acosta, Rodriguez; Rooney

Vancouver: Crepeau; Nerwinski, Godoy, Cornelius, Adnan; Teibert, Hwang, Rose; Montero, Reyna, Bair