The Vancouver Whitecaps look to remain undefeated (drink it in) against the Colorado Rapids on Sunday.
Where: Somewhere in Utah
When: Sunday, May 2nd at 7 PM PST
How: TSN1, TSN3 (TV); AM730 (Radio); ESPN+ (Internet)
Sunday’s matchup is between two teams who’s luck has broken in opposite directions. The Whitecaps and the Rapids have almost identical statistical profiles but the Whitecaps are 1-1-0 and the Rapids are 0-1-1. It’s not necessarily a slight against the Whitecaps to say they have been a bit lucky so far.
They have been missing at least 4 clear starters for the majority of those two games and they were both against teams in the CONCACAF Champions League. It’s to their credit that they managed to keep those games close enough where getting a bit lucky was the difference. But if they want to keep occupying a playoff spot they are going to have to raise their game a bit. This Colorado game should be interesting because we should see more of Caio Alexandre and Bruno Gaspar (maybe even Erik Godoy back from injury) and that should give us some idea of how much improvement they are capable of with their current roster.
Here is how the Marc Dos Santos seasons have gone so far in terms of the types of shots both teams get:
2019: Both teams take terrible shots (from long range, bad angles, etc) but the other team gets so many more than the Whitecaps that they win easily.
2020: The Whitecaps get a small number of good shots (from close range and the centre of the penalty area) and the other team gets a mountain of terrible shots. It adds up to the other team winning slightly more often
2021 (so far): Nobody gets any shots! Results to be determined
On average, over their two games, the Whitecaps were outshot 9-7. They have the fewest shots per game of any team in the league the 6th fewest shots against. This has resulted in 2.26 expected goals for and 2.86 expected goals against, both of which are middling. Ideally the Whitecaps would scale up their offence while still keeping the other team’s offence low event and reducing the quality of their chances.
With the players the Whitecaps have coming back, that just might be possible. The player we’re most likely to see more of on Sunday is Caio Alexandre. Alexandre played 22 minutes against Toronto and only touched the ball 15 times but they were 15 very encouraging touches. Alexandre is currently in the top 10 amongst midfielders for both passes completed above expected (per 100 passes) and verticality in American Soccer Analysis’ model. This means that his passes (all 7 of them) were very direct and they were more accurate than average. It’s, of course, a tiny sample size but the very early returns are positive. It’s like when you’re watching election results come in and the first report has your preferred candidate up 49-17 (0.001% reporting). It’s not time to pop the champagne yet but it’s a lot better than being down 49-17. Anyway, that tortured analogy aside, I expect we’ll see more of Alexandre on Sunday. It will be interesting to see how he Marc Dos Santos slots him in to the team. Will he replace Michael Baldisimo? Play as a #10 and push Cristian Dájome on to the wing? Maybe replace Janio Bikel? I have no idea.
What Happened Last Time?
The most recent photo of the Whitecaps playing the Rapids showed Erik Godoy tussling with Kei Kamara in front of a crowd at B.C place. Suffice to say it was a long time ago. Apparently it finished 2-2 but I don’t know how much that tells us about the game happening on Sunday.
Let’s not forget that there is another team playing in this game. Colorado drew 0-0 with F.C Dallas and got beat 3-1 by Austin. They have amassed 1.73 expected goals and 2.18 expected goals against. Their average xG per shots is a tiny 0.05, meaning that they are taking lots of shots from difficult positions. But, they have also limited their opponents to mostly bad shots so this will be a test of Vancouver’s ability to break down a set defence.
In terms of their roster, Colorado is a who’s who of good but not exceptional MLS talent. Most of their chances have come through Diego Rubio and Michael Barrios. A lot of hope has been placed in new addition Younes Namli but so far he has less xG than Ryan Raposo so that has not really panned out so far in 2021. Youngster Cole Basset is another notable player who’s potential has drawn interest from Europe.
Defensively Colorado will be a bit threadbare for this match. Regular starters (and very good players) Lalas Abubakar and Sam Vines are both questionable for the match. If they are not fit to play then the Whitecaps’ chances increase dramatically.
In goal Colorado has former US international William Yarborough. Last year the data was relatively positive on him but so far in 2021 his stats not good. He has conceded more goals than expected and is bottom in the percentage of crosses intercepted (0%). It’s only been two games so maybe drawing hard and fast conclusion is a bit harsh but perhaps this represents an opportunity for the Whitecaps to continue enjoying success from set pieces.
- OUT: Braian Galvan (undisclosed injury)
- OUT: Steven Beitashour (undisclosed injury)
- QUESTIONABLE: Lalas Abubakar (undisclosed)
- QUESTIONABLE: Sam Vines (undisclosed)
- QUESTIONABLE: Erik Godoy (right calf strain)
- OUT: Leonard Owusu (right hamstring strain)
- QUESTIONABLE: Tosaint Ricketts (left hamstring strain)
- OUT: Ali Adnan (visa)
WHO’S GOING TO WIN?
This game is all set up to be a tight and cagey affair. But I think the benefit of being the “home” team and more time with Caio Alexandre on the field should give the ‘Caps the slight edge.
Sam: 2-1 Vancouver
Caleb: 1-0 Vancouver
Andrew: 2-1 Vancouver
Luis: 1-0 Vancouver
Ian: 2-0 Vancouver