For the Whitecaps, this is their second match after the return to training in Vancouver, and the first match following a farewell to their temporary home in Sandy, Utah.
It has also been quite the whirlwind week for the Whitecaps on the transfer front. While the end of the transfer window always creates some activity, Vancouver has added two major pieces over the course of the last week, in designated player Ryan Gauld, and U22 initiative addition Pedro Vite. It’s clear with these moves that Vancouver not only has their eyes on immediate success, with Gauld, but also the prolonged development of a young roster, with the likes of Vite and Caicedo in the fold. In terms of the roster construction front, things are certainty looking up. Yet, with neither of their shiny new additions likely to be available this weekend, the focus must shift to the match itself.
Both of the previous matchups between these two teams in 2021 were tumultuous to say the least. Back on June 23rd, Erfain Alvarez stabbed a dagger into the heart of the Whitecaps with a long-distance game deciding goal deep into extra-time, earning his team all three points and a 2-1 victory. The Whitecaps were able to return the favour though on July 17th, as after an early goal against, Vancouver overran the Galaxy in the second half, with goals from each of their Colombian wingers, to record an equal 2-1 result in their favour.
Despite a run of relatively decent form for the Whitecaps (undefeated in their last four), they still find themselves dead last in the Western conference on 15 points through 16 matches. The Galaxy have slowed after a hot start, but still find themselves 3rd in the West after a midweek win over Real Salt Lake.
The Galaxy are tied with Vancouver at 27 for the most goals allowed in the West this season, but crucially, Greg Vanney’s side have scored ten more goals than Vancouver at 28, good enough second place in the West. Despite some of the stylistic changes, the Galaxy remain one of the most volatile high-event teams in MLS.
Even with some of the exciting youngsters the Galaxy have added to their squad, veteran midfielders Sasha Kljestan and Victor Vazquez continue to be their top chance creators, as they rank 1st and 2nd in shot creation so far this year. Julian Araujo also remains one of the MLS’ best kept secrets, as he’s amassed 4 assists already this year, and despite looking like a seasoned veteran at the fullback position, is still just 19 years of age.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Galaxy remain one the poorer defensive units in MLS, especially at centreback. The mobility of Derek Williams, Nick DePuy and Daniel Steres is their largest challenge, and this often leads to a lack of structure on the second phase of opponents’ attacks. The Galaxy are second worst in MLS, behind only Portland, in second chance goals conceded, with seven.
For the Whitecaps, it is crucial that either Brian White or Lucas Cavallini is able to put those centrebacks under stress. In the Whitecaps’ 2-1 victory the last time these teams met, White’s presence as an option inside the box directly led to both goals.
Equally, the 4-4-2 the Whitecaps employed the first time out (with both White and Cavallini up front) was far too static to put the Galaxy’s shape under pressure, and as a result, created next to nothing from open play.
With Michael Baldisimo serving a suspension for Yellow Card accumulation, it would make sense for Janio Bikel to drop deeper in the midfield three, and I’m assuming that Russell Teibert will keep his midfield place alongside Alexandre, who is back from suspension. Obviously, Whitecaps fans will be looking out for Gauld, but I would be a bit surprised if he is in the 18, and very surprised if he finds the starting lineup in this one.
Defensively, I would have to think that Javain Brown will regain his place at right back, although Bruno Gaspar did look back up to speed at training this week, so it will be interesting to see how, or if, he is used. At centreback, I would have to imagine things remain unchanged, as Ranko has looked much more confident recently, and Andy Rose continues to manage some injury issues.
As of Friday afternoon, both Cristian Dajome and Cristian Gutierrez are listed as out for Sunday’s match, so this will create some interesting lineup decisions for Marc Dos Santos at those spots, especially on the wing, where the caps have next to no depth.
The Whitecaps will be more rested than LA for this match, but also have to deal with the travel to LA and re-integrating the likes of Cavallini and Crepeau back into the starting lineup. Despite the vast separation in the standings, I don't think there’s much between these two teams in a head to head matchup. Overall, Vancouver has been better defensively than their counting stats suggest, and their biggest issue, scoring goals, is largely mitigated by the Galaxy’s error prone defense.
Both matches so far this year were essentially a coin flip, and so I’m going to pick them to share the spoils on this occasion, ending things in a 1-1 Draw.
Eighty Six Forever Staff Picks
Caleb: 2-1 LAG
Andrew: 1-1 Draw
Luis: 1-0 LAG
Ian : 1-0 VAN