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Pre Match: Whitecaps vs RSL

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MLS: Real Salt Lake at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Whitecaps will begin life without Marc Dos Santos against Real Salt Lake in a match up between two teams who have just parted ways with their manager and who are not very good.

Real Salt Lake:

RSL are the slightly less bad of the two teams. In many ways they are very similar to the Whitecaps except that their defence is a bit better, they have gotten a little bit luckier, and they have gotten better goalkeeping this season. All of this sees them in 6th place in the Western Conference while Vancouver is in 10th. They are a beatable opponent but the ‘Caps will have the fatigue and psychic damage of the midweek loss to Pacific F.C working against them.

RSL’s attack features a small army of good but not great attackers. Anderson Julio, Albert Rusnak, Rubio Rubin, Maikel Chang, and Bobby Wood all sit in that 0.3-0.4 xG+xA/96 range. Damir Kreilach usually features but he is suspended. None of those guys is all that scary as an individual but if RSL can shut you down then they add up to do enough damage to snatch a few wins.

RSL typically line up in a 4-2-3-1. Pablo Ruiz and Nick Besler are usually in the double pivot, both are pretty average. In the backline there are Aaron Herrera and Justin Glad, both of whom are pretty good but are usually paired with two other guys who aren’t so good.

In goal RSL have been able to rely on the excellent David Ochoa but he is injured for this game. Backup Zac MacMath left RSL’s last game with an injury so the Whitecaps will likely be against third string keeper Andrew Putna. Putna kicks the ball really far but that’s about all you can say for him.

Vancouver:

It’s hard to know what to make of Vancouver’s chances in this game. On the one hand RSL are very beatable at the best of times and are down to their third choice goalkeeper. On the other hand the ‘Caps are also beleaguered with several players out injured and a midweek humiliation behind them.

Vanni Sartini is serving as interim head coach and has said he is unlikely to change much but may do one or two things differently from Marc Dos Santos. What those changes might be we can only speculate. The Whitecaps didn’t rotate midweek against Pacific but there is minimal travel involved so hopefully that will limit the fatigue.

Vancouver will have to rely on a makeshift defensive group, a big part of what got them in trouble against Pacific. Gutiérrez, Godoy, and Nerwinski are all out while Michael Baldisimo is questionable with injury. That leaves them with limited options and not a lot of players who are comfortable playing a forwards pass under pressure. Bruno Gaspar is likely to draw into the lineup after spending most of the season being injured or lacking fitness. New signing Marcus Godinho is also a possibility but his fitness probably isn’t up to the level where he can start yet. I’d also be interested to see Florian Jungwirth as he is a potential solution to the playing out of the back problem. But his fitness levels also aren’t clear.

The real x-factor will be how many minutes Ryan Gauld can play. Gauld played 90 minutes for the first time on Thursday so it will be interesting to see how long he can go for against RSL. In the 4 games Gauld has played the Whitecaps have an expected goal difference of +1.71 when Gauld is on the field and -1.32 when he isn’t.

I imagine we’re looking at something like this from the Whitecaps:

Crepeau; Gaspar, Veselinovic, Rose, Brown; Owusu, Bikel; Caicedo, Gauld, Dájome; White

Injuries:

Real Salt Lake:

  • OUT: David Ochoa (undisclosed)
  • OUT: Zack Farnsworth (undisclosed)
  • OUT: Andrew Brody (undisclosed)
  • OUT: Jeizon Ramirez (undisclosed)

Vancouver:

  • OUT: Lucas Cavallini (left PCL sprain)
  • OUT: Caio Alexandre (left foot)
  • OUT: Erik Godoy (left calf strain)
  • DOUBTFUL: Cristian Gutierrez (left quad strain)
  • DOUBTFUL: Michael Baldisimo (not specified)

Staff Picks:

Caleb: 2-1 VAN

Andrew: 1-0 VAN

Sam: 1-1 Draw

Ian: 2-1 VAN

Luis: 1-0 RSL