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The Gauld Table | Part 3: The New World Struggles to be Born

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Seattle Sounders FC Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

We are now twelve games into the Ryan Gauld era, each more thrilling than the last. According to people who are a lot more knowledgeable about this stuff than me, ten games is usually the point at which you can be confident a team’s data is a true reflection of what they are. So we now have a good idea of what the Whitecaps are with Gauld.

The Gauld Table Part 3

Reporting Period PPG Supporter's Sheild Standings (overall) Shots For Per Game Shots Against Per Game xG xGA xGD xPPG
Reporting Period PPG Supporter's Sheild Standings (overall) Shots For Per Game Shots Against Per Game xG xGA xGD xPPG
Pre-Gauld 0.93 (21) 21 9.38 (27) 13.81 (15) 1.12 (21) 1.49 (18) -0.38 (19) 1.18 (18)
6 Games 2.33 (3) 15 12.83(18) 13.67 (13) 1.54(7) 1.6 (19) -0.05 (14) 1.41 (14)
12 Games 1.83 (6) 17 12.75 (15) 15 (23) 1.37 (14) 1.55 (20) -0.18 (17) 1.3 (17)

The Whitecaps are a lot better than they were before Gauld, that can’t be doubted, but they still have some growing to do if they are to join the elite of MLS.

Their attack has gone from being one of the most impotent in the league to being about average. Generally, it takes about 50 goals in a season to be assured of a playoff spot. This xG pace would take the Whitecaps to about 46 over the course of a season. So they were there or thereabouts.

The improvement in offence has been lead by Gauld and Brian White. We have also seen Deiber Caicedo show some growth in his underlying data, though he is not quite amongst the league’s elite yet. Ryan Raposo has done quite well in limited minutes but he has rarely seen the field since the firing of Marc Dos Santos. Cristian Dájome’s move to a wingback role has naturally lead to a decrease in his xG but he is the second-highest xG wingback in MLS during the Gauld era so he’s still providing lots of value.

Whitecaps xG data since the arrival of Ryan Gauld. Provided by American Soccer Analysis

Amongst these players, there are two who are very interesting to watch in terms of the squad construction for next year. The first is Caicedo. Stylistically speaking, Caicedo seems like the perfect complement to White and Gauld in the front three. He brings some speed and dribbling ability, two things which aren’t really in Gauld or White’s wheelhouse. But if the team is going to become elite their offence does need to improve a little bit and Caicedo is the lowest scoring of the starting attackers. Will the Whitecaps trust him to continue to improve or will they go out and try to get someone in the same style who is further along in their development?

The other player is the embattled designated player Lucas Cavallini. Cavallini is having his lunch eaten by Brian White. With his huge wages and DP status, he’s quickly becoming a very inefficient player for the Whitecaps. But would anybody want him after the last two seasons he’s had?

But one thing that is becoming increasingly clear is that the biggest thing holding the ‘Caps back at the moment is their defence. This problem has been somewhat papered over by Maxime Cpepeau’s astonishing form but they are giving up a ton of shots and expected goals against. Injuries and a lack of squad depth have played a role. If we look at American soccer analysis’ goals added model we can see that there is a big drop off in quality between the ‘Caps starting defenders and their depth. The presumptive starting back 3 of Erik Godoy (+0.17), Florian Jungwirth (+0.11), and Ranko Veselinovic (+0.04) all come across rather well over the past two months. But the reserves like Jake Nerwinski (-0.09), Patrick Metcalfe (-0.13), and wildly out of position Michael Baldisimo (-0.05) present a problem.

With Erik Godoy’s injury history and Jungwirth being on the wrong side of 30, centre back depth is going to have to be a priority for the Whitecaps next season. They were heavily linked with a big-money move for Paraguayan centre back Alexis Duarte in the summer.

A move like that is making more and more sense all the time. If the Whitecaps are going to be a top team their attack needs to improve a little bit and their defence needs to improve a lot. That’s a much rosier outlook than 10 games into this season but, don’t get it twisted, they aren’t a cup contender yet.

One more thing. Russell Teibert has unironically played very well since Vanni Sartini took over as head coach.