Vancouver Whitecaps FC (12th in West, 3-7-3) vs Houston Dynamo (9th in West, 3-4-6)
Location: Rio Tinto Stadium, Utah
Date and Time: July 20th, 10:00 pm EST, 7:00 pm PST
Watching: TSN (in Canada) & MLS Live on ESPN+ (in US)
Following an inspired 2-1 comeback win over the best performing team from LA this season, the Whitecaps continue their journey from the bottom of the Western Conference table towards a hopeful playoff spot. The team, which is missing star players Maxime Crepeau and Lucas Cavallini, has had a down and up two games since losing their key pieces at the opposite ends of the field with a demoralizing 4-0 loss looking to set the tone for the weakened Canadian side. Luckily, by the second half of the second match, it looked like the team learned how to cope with the missing pieces and found a rhythm that may just work going forwards.
The Whitecaps team is looking increasingly competent during short spells, and do a fantastic job sometimes with the limited pieces they have- keep in mind they are currently without a DP until Cavallini returns. The win over the Galaxy snapped a winless run spanning back to May, and provide some respite to the news that they were the only Canadian team to stay at “home” in the U.S. for a little while longer after Toronto and Montreal already made their returns.
Positives have been increasingly rare for the Whitecaps ever since their playoff victory over San Jose in 2017, and thus making the most of this time is crucial for the team and fans. Rumours of not one, but two midfield signings continue to swirl and be the elephant on the pitch for this Whitecaps team which at times looks severely lacking in creativity. Announcing these while riding on the high could be better than using them to paper over the cracks of a loss later down the line, so the performance against Houston will be crucial to keep spirits high.
Houston, for what its worth, are in a winless run of their own, with their last victory coming over... *checks notes* ...the Whitecaps. Nice.
This may seem like ages ago, but Houston will have some confidence coming into the match due to that, and the Whitecaps will have to stay strong despite the pressure Houston brings. And pressure there will be, as the Dynamo have only gone scoreless once this season, in their last game against league leaders Seattle Sounders. Houston is equally as susceptible to conceding though, as their defending leaves a little to be desired considering their -3 goal differential. In short, with the absence of Tyler Pasher due to CanMNT duties, the Whitecaps should look to contain Maxi Urruti in order to stifle the direct goalscoring threat. This forces Fafa Picault and Memo Rodriguez to take difficult shots, something they are happy to do but haven’t found much success when it comes to returns.
In terms of performance on the field, I think that it is written what this version of the Whitecaps are able to achieve, at least until the end of the season. (Which is when the big change that everyone seems to be hoping for looks likely to happen. At this point there’s no chance it happens before season is over if it hasn’t happened yet.) Making sure that the players make the most of what they’re handed is crucial to, apologies for the repetition, keep spirits high. Come the return to BC Place, all of the pieces will be there, and the only thing that should be on the player’s minds is continuing on for one more season, especially if it does look like the one DP the Whitecaps currently have is looking at other options. Considering that a playoff spot is only two wins away, maybe the pipe dream of another home playoff victory isn’t so far off this season. I’m going to be positive about the next game and predict a 2-0 Vancouver win.
Eighty Six Forever Staff Picks:
Caleb: 1-1 DRAW
Ian: 1-0 VAN
Andrew: 1-1 DRAW
Sam: 1-0 HOU