The opportunity that lies ahead of the Vancouver Whitecaps Sunday evening at the Los Angeles Galaxy is clear. It’s a chance to do something they have yet to do in the Marc Dos Santos era: win three matches in a row.
More than that, the Whitecaps are looking to secure their positioning in the Western Conference playoff race. A few weeks ago, that would’ve sounded crazy, but it’s something the team has been focusing on all along. In this wild season, it only takes a few good results to turn the tides, and that’s what the Whitecaps have been experiencing over the past week. A wave of positivity they’re hoping to ride.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the LA Galaxy. Once the class of MLS, they are languishing down in last place in the West, winless in their past seven matches and on a six-game losing streak. If being the second-best MLS team in your own city wasn’t torture enough, recent off-field events have only heightened the sense that the walls are closing in on this group. Irish tabloids are touting that former Galaxy striker Robbie Keane is set to return to the club in a managerial role, destabilizing the current tenure of Guillermo Schelotto to an even greater extent. Meanwhile, Galaxy supporters groups took to social media penning an open letter to ownership which begged for drastic changes as well as a sense of “accountability”.
Yea, not good.
But what does this mean for the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday? Will it be an easy trot to victory? Well... maybe. The Galaxy certainly have weaknesses that the Whitecaps can look to expose. Chief among those weaknesses is the spine of their roster, the central midfielders and centrebacks.
In the midfield, Sacha Kljestan and Perry Kitchen have certainly had their positive moments in MLS, but Kitchen really hasn’t been the same since an injury riddled 2019 season, and at this point, Kljestan is only a shell what he was in his 15+ assist NY Red Bulls days. Meanwhile at the centreback position, Americans Daniel Steres and Nick DePuy have really struggled, as the Galaxy have conceded 10 goals in the last two matches alone. It’s not all their fault though. The Galaxy have simply been a bit unlucky and mistake-prone this year, especially at home, where they’ve conceded 24 goals this season on just 12.67 XGA (expected goals against).
On the positive side for the Galaxy, they have Cristian Pavon. The Argentinian international has seven goals so far this season, and whenever the Galaxy move the needle in attack, it’s most likely his doing. Last time these two teams matched up against one another, Janio Bikel put in a noble shift at right back shutting down Pavon. This time however, the Whitecaps are without Bikel due to yellow card accumulation, and as a result, will have to pursue alternative methods of shutting down the young playmaker.
Naturally, this brings us to the tactics Marc Dos Santos and his coaching staff might look to employ on Sunday. Dos Santos chose to stick with the same lineup and 4-4-2 shape which was successful against RSL during the last match, and he was definitely rewarded for that sense of continuity within his side.
So despite not having the exact same luxury this time out, I wouldn’t expect too much to change on Sunday. We will likely see a straight swap of Michael Baldisimo for Janio Bikel, and other than that, I’d expect the lineup to remain unchanged.
If I was given the reigns of this team and perhaps looking for areas to tinker, I’d explore the possibility of replacing Russell Teibert on the left wing with Ryan Raposo or David Milinkovic, as well as slotting in Derek Cornelius for Ranko Veselinovic. Realistically though, I anticipate Dos Santos will stick with the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach.
Now how will this all play out in southern California on Sunday night? Your guess is probably as good as mine, this is MLS after all. That being said, I envision this match being relatively one-sided. Either the Whitecaps will continue to roll, and capitalize on the Galaxy’s poor form and fragile mental state, or the Galaxy will mount an impressive reversal and take advantage of the Whitecaps’ day-of travel struggles. So if I had to guess (which I do), I’m foreseeing the former rather than the latter, and therefore I’m going to predict a 3-0 Vancouver Whitecaps victory.
What do you think of the Galaxy’s recent struggles, and can the Whitecaps make it three wins in a row this Sunday at 7:30? Let me know in the comments!