Where: Allianz Field
When: Wednesday, May 12th, 6:00 PM PST
How: TSN1, TSN4; AM730 (Radio); ESPN+ (Internet)
The Vancouver Whitecaps midweek clash with Minnesota United is a tough one to call. On the one hand Minnesota have started the season by dropping four straight and are the only team left on 0 points. On the other hand the Whitecaps can only score goals via Home Alone style hijinks off of set pieces.
The Whitecaps currently sit 3rd in the Western conference with a record of 2-1-1. Every time they get a corner the theme from Jaws should start playing in the stadium. But from open play they are less dangerous. They have the second worst xG from open play in the league. In no way is this sustainable. Hopefully they will get some of their missing players back and add an extra attacking piece and it won’t need to be. This first phase of the season is all about keeping within striking distance of the playoffs so that they are well set up for a late run when they can return to Vancouver. The more points they can bank at this stage the better, even if they are using a style that is not feasible in the long term.
A big reason the Whitecaps have managed to have a winning record, despite being out-chanced in every game is Maxime Crepeau. Crepeau has saved the second most goals above expected of any keeper in the league. A midweek game would seem like the the ideal time to give Thomas Hasal a start but can you really afford to rest Crepeau when you’re operating on such fine margins? It would take a braver man than me.
A midweek game against the bottom team in the league would seem like the ideal time to rotate in some of the squads promising young players but equally that definitely is not going to happen. There is, however, the chance that Michael Baldisimo will return from injury. This in turn presents the tantalizing prospect of having more than one player who can pass in the team if he is paired with Caio Alexandre.
Minnesota have been very bad. Their most recent outing saw them blow a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 to the Colorado Rapids. The data suggests they have been a bit unlucky, but not so unlucky that calling them a bad team would be unfair.
Minnesota’s main offensive weapons are Robin Lod and Emmanuel Reynoso. If you factor out penalties then both of these guys have more expected goal contributions than every single player on the Whitecaps, so the Loons do have some offensive weapons. Despite their poor standing in the league, Minnesota’s ranks 15/26 in expected goals. Bad luck has been a bit of a factor for Minnesota as they have managed to turn 5.13 expected goals into only 3 actual goals so far. Vancouver will have to be sharp defensively if they are going to come away with any points.
While their attack is probably better than it seems, Minnesota’s defence is awful. They are averaging 1.72 expected goals against per match which would work out to almost 60 goals against over the course of a 34 game season. As bad as this is, they are getting no help in goal. Canadian goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, who played excellently in 2020, is going through something of a sophomore slump. He has conceded 10 goals from 7.62 expected goals against, ranking him 28/31 in MLS so far this year.
Minnesota also had a huge meltdown when RSL goalkeeper David Ochoa employed time wasting tactics and then booted the ball into the stands following a 2-1 victory over the loons. You might be thinking “oh, did he smash it into the supporters section to try and hurt someone?” No. He just kind of lofted it.
Some kid just got a free ball, give Ochoa a medal pic.twitter.com/xOrx5bfYHI— Dr. Manuel Veth (@ManuelVeth) April 25, 2021
Players confronted Ochoa on the pitch and then expressed how mad they were in their post match interviews. Former Whitecap Michael Boxall described Ochoa as “a clown” and manager Adrian Heath described him as “not that good.” I don’t know about you but this does not exactly scream “winning mentality” to me. I mean, if these guys are getting this ruffled by some mild taunting how are the going to handle Lucas Cavallini?
Who’s Going to Win?
It’s tough to say since both teams have significant frailties. I am predicting a draw but if I were forced to pick a winner I would say Minnesota’s superior attack and home field advantage give them a slight edge.
- OUT: Ike Opara (undisclosed)
- OUT: Bakeye Dibassy (left thigh injury)
- OUT: Niko Hansen (left thigh injury)
- OUT: Nabi Kibunguchy (concussion)
- QUESTIONABLE: Robin Lod (chest)
- QUESTIONABLE: Jacori Hayes (right thigh injury)
- OUT: Ali Adnan (visa, yes still)
- QUESTIONABLE: Erik Godoy (right calf strain)
- QUESTIONABLE: Michael Baldisimo (right ankle sprain)
Caleb: 1-1 Draw
Andrew: 1-0 VAN
Ian: 1-0 VAN
Luis: 1-0 VAN
Sam: 3-1 MIN