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Matchup Nightmare: Beleaguered Whitecaps Trying to Steady Themselves for San Jose

The Vancouver Whitecaps are back in action midweek in California.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday night, the Vancouver Whitecaps will take on the San Jose Earthquakes at 7:30pm in Avaya Stadium. For the visitors, San Jose produces an opportunity to gain some momentum after back-to-back losses against Cascadia rivals. Meanwhile for San Jose (who sits 9th in the West), it’s an opportunity to draw closer and closer to a playoff spot, as they’ve vaulted themselves off the bottom of the standings with back-to-back wins over LAFC and LA Galaxy. San Jose has been a difficult team to peg down this season, and their unique man-marking style led by manager Matías Almeyda makes them a dangerous opponent for any team.

This has been particularly true for the Whitecaps under Marc Dos Santos, as Vancouver is 0-3 in matchups against the Quakes since 2018. Most recently, these two teams faced off in a wild MLS is Back opener which saw the Whitecaps fall 4-3, while registering just two total shots on target.

Needless to say, a lot has changed within the Vancouver Whitecaps since then. Whether it’s the departure of In-Beom Hwang & Yordy Reyna, the injury of their top two keepers, or the vast list of injuries the Whitecaps are currently facing, the Whitecaps will certainly be setting up a bit differently than they did down in Orlando.

The same can be said of the Earthquakes as well. Perhaps most importantly for them, former American U-20 international JT Marcinkowski has taken over between the sticks from 36-year-old former USL veteran Daniel Vega. Even last season, Vega was a serious weakness for a Quakes team prone to giving up quality scoring chances, and so far, Marcinkowski is undefeated in his three 2020 starts. On the flip side, San Jose will be without Danny Hoesen for the rest of the regular season, and Chivas loanee Oswaldo Alanís is still questionable to start as he recovers from injury at the centreback position.

Unlike Portland and Seattle, San Jose will definitely look to take their game to the Caps right from the outset, and Marc Dos Santos will have to keep his side well drilled if they want the possession battle to be anywhere close to level. Back in Orlando, the Whitecaps held just 30% of the possession against San Jose, and conceded a whopping 30 total shots, as well as 22 corner kicks.

These styles don’t match up well for Vancouver, and in particular, the complete lack of midfield depth is a concern. Janio Bikel will be out due to suspension, and both Russell Teibert and Leonard Owusu are unlikely to play due to injuries. This leaves Michael Balidisimo, Andy Rose and Patrick Metcalfe as the most likely starters in midfield for the Whitecaps, which leads me to believe that Marc Dos Santos might toy with the idea of five at the back, although that wouldn’t be my personal preference. So without further ado, here is my projected lineup (as I’d like to see it) for the visitors.

It feels like the midfield is going to be overrun no matter how you setup, and at least with Rose in midfield, you can shift to five at the back if things really start to breakdown. Meanwhile up top, with Cavallini out of the lineup, it presents an opportunity to give Ricketts some running and I think his physical traits, along with Bair and Raposo, give the Caps the best opportunity to wear down San Jose and get the most out of Montero’s vision and passing ability. In goal, it’s time for Bush to get his feet wet, and maybe he can inspire a little more confidence than Bryan Meredith has so far in his starting role.

As far as match predictions go, I’m not very optimistic about this one. As Marc Dos Santos said in his latest media availability when I quizzed him on the issue, his team is trying to fix some pretty major tactical problems on the fly or through video, and that’s not a recipe for success:

“The problem is that we’re trying to improve the team with video,” said Dos Santos. “Film alone helps a certain percentage, but then you have to bring the film into the training field. And one of the difficult things right now … is our inability to train. We only go to games, speak about things, and try to become better during the games. And that’s very difficult with all these games coming so fast. I think the schedule and what we’ve been living makes it very, very hard on us. The mountain is big to climb.” (h/t to JJ Adams for the transcription)

Given the current absences, as well as the fact that this would still be a matchup nightmare for a full strength Vancouver team, I can’t predict anything kinder than a 4-2 loss for the Whitecaps.

But more importantly, what do you think? Let us know in the comments!

Also, if you’re looking for more post-match reaction from Seattle, as well as an in-depth Earthquakes preview, you can check out my latest Podcast episode with Between the Sticks’ Alex G-R here:

Is Vanni Sartini The Man For The Job?

Guess the Starting XI - Match 31 vs. San Jose

Coffee with the Caps, Friday October 22