There’s no time to dwell if you’re the Vancouver Whitecaps, you simply have to move forward.
After dropping their fourth match in a row on Friday night, and falling to 12th in the Western Conference standings, the Whitecaps are once again on the hunt for answers.
While much was made of the “Preseason 2.0” that the team enjoyed during the international break, it didn't appear to make all that much of a difference in their return to play, as the Caps continued to sputter in the chance creation department, even with the shift to a 4-3-3 shape.
Now, a re-invigorated LA Galaxy side under the guidance of familiar foe Greg Vanney looms on Wednesday night with a kickoff at 7:30 PM Pacific.
Things really won’t be getting any easier for this Whitecaps team in the coming weeks, as they’ll face this Galaxy side twice in the next five matches, as well as making a trip to the Pacific Northwest to face the league leading, and currently undefeated, Seattle Sounders.
In terms of this matchup with the Galaxy specifically, it’s a bit of a clash of styles. While the Whitecaps have been low event, the Galaxy continue to be a boom or bust offensive team, albeit not to the same extremes we saw the last couple years.
Digging into the numbers, the Galaxy definitely appear to have been on the “lucky” end of a good team so far this year. They boast one of the worst expected goal differentials in MLS at -4.7 (which is actually worse than the Whitecaps), and overall, they surrender both a high volume, and high quality of scoring chances.
At the other end of the pitch, they don’t necessarily overwhelm you with the volume of their output (it’s pretty close to league average), but Javier Hernandez & Co have done an incredible job so far in converting pretty much every decent chance they’ve seen. I think that given this, there will definitely be goals in this match for the Galaxy, the question is, can the Whitecaps take advantage offensively as well (a big ask, I know).
Tactically, the Galaxy under Vanney have played primarily in a 4-2-3-1, and only shifted to a 4-3-3 in their last match, a 2-1 loss to the Sounders. Regardless of the shape they do end up playing, the Mexican partnership of Hernandez at striker and youngster Efrain Alvarez at the number ten has played a key role in all of LAG’s buildup play.
The faces of Daniel Steres and Nick DePuy at centreback will be familiar to most, but what the Galaxy have done a really good job of so far this year is integrating some of their young wide players into the lineup.
Frenchmen Kevin Cabral and Samuel Grandsir have quietly been pretty good pickups for the Galaxy, and their roles should only grow as they acclimatize to MLS. Equally, 19-year-old American fullback Julian Araujo has taken a big step in his play, and compares statistically to the likes of Alex Roldan, Andrew Gutman, and Ali Adnan.
Flipping back to the Whitecaps, they’ll continue to face some injury concerns, as Jake Nerwinski and Bruno Gaspar are unlikely to feature, and despite being available, both Cristian Gutierrez and Caio Alexandre could be at less than full fitness.
These availabilities may impact what shape Marc Dos Santos chooses to employ Wednesday night, as he could stick to the 4-3-3, revert back to the early season 4-4-2 model, or debut the much-hyped 3-5-2 which was tested during the international break. Will any of the changes make a difference in terms of offensive creation? Who knows at this point.
This brings us to predictions. Until the Vancouver Whitecaps show some signs of life, I can’t reasonably pick them to win a football match. I also think that this clash of styles could lead to the kind of match that gets away from the Caps early on. At the very least, I’m hopeful that this will be a high scoring affair, so I'm picking the Galaxy to take this one by a final score of 4-2.
Eighty Six Forever Staff Picks:
Caleb: 3-2 LAG
Ian: 2-1 LAG
Andrew: 2-0 LAG
Luis: 2-1 LAG