It’s been a long time coming, but at last, the Vancouver Whitecaps will play another match at BC Place. The timing couldn’t be better for the home team either, as they are still in desperate need of a substantial second half hot streak if they want to make the MLS playoffs - the clubs’ stated end goal for this season.
Despite the challenges that lie ahead of them, things do finally look as though they are falling into place. They just recorded their first road win of the season midweek against Austin FC, and Ryan Gauld, the club’s prized a number ten, showed Whitecaps fans exactly what they had been missing: a player who could change the momentum of a match and create chances in large volumes.
The Whitecaps could need that chance creation against LAFC on Saturday night. Despite their overall reputation, LAFC has been struggling as of late but will be looking to get back on track against a Whitecaps team that could fall victim to the distractions of such a significant occasion.
LAFC come into Vancouver with their worst form of the season, off three straight losses and with just two points in their last six. That being said, they’ve been playing better football than their results have indicated, and part of this struggle has been the adjustment process towards a back three, something which often comes with growing pains.
The threat of Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi always lurks when playing this team, and the task could be especially tall if depth in the back four remains thin. On the flip side, LAFC’s shape should give room for Vancouver’s Colombian wingers to roam, especially if Gauld is able to make his first start as a Whitecap. Brain White also appears to be gaining confidence, and his form could be essential to the ‘Caps late season surge, with talisman Lucas Cavallini on the sidelines.
Marc Dos Santos has made a lot of the struggles his team has faced by playing “every match on the road” this season, and most matches, his tactics have seemed to reflect that. What I will be really interested to see on Saturday is whether or not Dos Santos will have changed his tune as he returns home. It’s been a landmark occasion whenever the Whitecaps have dictated play this season, and such moments have been few and far between.
Even against Austin, the Caps only enjoyed a few moments of brilliance, rather than a sustained control of the affair. If the Whitecaps want to make the playoffs, or even think about having a chance at competing when they get there, they’ll have to change this in the seasons’ second half (particularly within the confines of BC Place).
That being said, Saturday should be a joyous outing for the Whitecaps and their supporters alike. It’s going to be a wonderful occasion for the soccer community in Vancouver, something which has been well deserved after such a tough stretch these past two years. I can only hope that the Whitecaps can channel the positivity in the stands and translate it to the pitch.
All things considered, this is a tough matchup for Vancouver, or at least has been traditionally, and so I’m going to pick LAFC to come out on top in this one by a score of 2-1.