Vancouver Whitecaps FC (12th in West, 3-7-4) vs Los Angeles FC (5th in West, 6-5-3)
Location: Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles
Date and Time: July 23rd, 10:30 pm EST, 7:30 pm PST
Watching: TSN (in Canada) & MLS Live on ESPN+ (in US)
Can you feel it, Whitecaps fans? Its the often missing feel of brighter days ahead. This Saturday marks Vancouver’s last game in the States before returning home for the first time during the regular season. It’s a much needed homecoming for many of these players, and even though the first match back at BC Place is still a long ways away, this weekend’s match could be a look at what is to come when fans are allowed back into BC Place.
After what was a record-breaking 2019 season only missing the cherry on top of an MLS Cup Victory, many were tipping LAFC to become the de facto league giant and hold a monopoly unlike anything seen before. Unfortunately for them (And fortunately for every other team in the league) that was not to be the case, as they have followed the trend of outstanding teams grinding into mediocrity, seen perfectly in Atlanta United and Toronto FC. Luckily for LAFC, when the team clicks, they are unstoppable- keep in mind they were up one goal in the CONCACAF Champions League final after putting on the most impressive run by any MLS team to date on their way to their unfortunate loss. Their talismanic trio of Diego Rossi, Brian Rodriguez, and Carlos Vela all look to have been dulled this season. This doesn’t mean that they’re not a threat, but they don’t look like a team to score four goals in the opening fifteen minutes.
LAFC’s biggest factor contributing to their wins at the moment is the perception of the opposing teams. Easily cleaning up all of the playoff-hopefuls and bottom feeders, they have struggled to take more than a point from the recognized top teams. (Those being Seattle, SKC, Portland, LA Galaxy, and even NYCFC.) The top teams in the league see a team limping after a stunning victory lap, while the smaller teams see a sleeping giant that could awaken during their game at any time.
The Whitecaps will have to use this top-team mentality to their advantage, which shouldn’t be too hard to do, considering footage of Marc Dos Santos shows that he is very good at getting a specific message drilled into everyone’s heads, for better or for worse.
Fatigue will not be doing the Whitecaps any favours either, as this is their third game in eight days, and the team looked tired in their uninspired draw with Houston midweek. Ranko being experimented with a defender other than Rose could prove fruitful, as Javain Brown looks to get back that starting right-back role. Keeping the defense tight will be key, as although Carlos Vela’s goal output is nowhere near his record breaking 34 goal trajectory, he is his side’s top assister, proving that the most dangerous aspect of his game is getting defenders out of position.
Speaking of said goalscoring threat, how scared would you be of playing against Cristian Dajome? Well, goal-wise he is tied with LAFC’s top scorer at the moment with five goals a piece and one more assist for the Colombian. In fact, LAFC has only scored four more goals than the Whitecaps have all season. Those four goals could prove to be an important piece of the LAFC puzzle though, as they could be attributed to Ecuadorian midfielder Jose Cifuentes. The usually defensive player has found himself second on the goalscoring chart with four goals to his name. This could be attributed to the fact that he shows up at opportune times while defenders are too busy with LAFC’s front line, catching teams by surprise. He will be one to keep an eye on if the Whitecaps don’t wish to get bit for not being field-aware.
Hopefully the players aren’t distracted by the prospect of flying home and can resist LAFC’s power of perception, but I feel the fatigue and depleted roster could prove too big a challenge for the Whitecaps to climb if they do not sort their confidence out. I predict a 3-1 loss for the Whitecaps with the defeat being upstaged by a very convenient announcement of the worst kept secret ever.