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Pre Match: Points at a Premium as Whitecaps Visit Rapids

Despite a good recent run, the Vancouver Whitecaps still have plenty of ground to make up in the playoff race.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday evening at 6PM, the Vancouver Whitecaps will be at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City to take on the Colorado Rapids.

While the Whitecaps are coming off a disappointing home loss to the Portland Timbers last weekend, the Rapids are as hot as any team in MLS. The Robin Fraser led outfit is undefeated in their last nine matches (five wins, four draws) and currently sit third in the Western Conference, with games in hand on the two teams above them.

The Rapids calling card this season, so far at least, has been their consistent defensive play. For a Vancouver Whitecaps team that has struggled to create at times this season, this could present a problem. One matchup worth watching out for on Sunday night will be the likely return of Lucas Cavallini in a starting role against the Rapids backline.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Canadian international had some chances against Portland, but looked a bit rusty and was ultimately unable to convert, so it will be interesting to see how the high priced striker will perform in his first start alongside Ryan Gauld.

The pressure is going to be on Cavallini for the rest of this season. He needs to prove that the Whitecaps using a designated player spot on the striker position is worthwhile, especially with the way Theo Bair and David Egbo have performed on loan this season and how decent Brain White has looked on a much more budget friendly freight.

The Rapids have found consistency over the course of their unbeaten run in a 3-4-3 shape, although the degree of positional flexibility within this shape has been pretty high. When it comes to chance creation, it’s been largely down to two veterans and a youngster. 20-year-old Cole Bassett leads the way for the Rapids, followed in short order by shrewd offseason acquisition Michael Barrios and Rapids mainstay Jack Price.

For those Canadian National Team fans out there, Mark-Anthony Kaye will also be one to watch. Despite consistently being one of the better midfielders in MLS, Kaye never settled into a defined role with LAFC. So far, Bob Bradley’s loss has looked to be Robin Fraser’s gain, as MAK has played a big part in the Rapids current run of form.

On the Whitecaps’ side of things, fullback depth remains a big question mark. Cristian Gutierrez is still a week or two away from seeing match action, although Javain Brown should be back in the fold after his stint with Jamaica earlier in the month. Until Gutierrez is fit, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Sartini stick with a three at the back system, especially if the Whitecaps can continue to utilize Florian Jungwirth’s passing ability from the backline.

When these two teams met early in the season at Rio Tinto, the Rapids took a narrow 1-0 victory off a set piece by Diego Rubio. While the Whitecaps felt hard done by at the time, the Rapids were the better team in that match.

With teams around them already picking up big wins this weekend, the Whitecaps will be desperate to scratch out a point in this one, so perhaps that will provide the motivation they need.

Both of these sides have improved a lot since that initial meeting way back in May, the only bad news for the Whitecaps is that overall, the Rapids are still a better team. Ryan Gauld is evidently a wildcard for the ‘Caps that could break down even the staunchest of MLS defenses, but I’m expecting the home team to take all three points here, even if it is a tightly contested and entertaining affair.

My Pick: Colorado Rapids 2-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

Staff Picks:

Caleb: 1-0 COL

Andrew: 2-0 COL

Luis: 1-0 COL

Ian: 1-1 Draw