Vancouver Whitecaps FC (9th in West, 8-8-9) vs Houston Dynamo (12th in West, 5-11-11)
Location: BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston
Date and Time: September 29th, 9:00 pm EST, 6:00 pm PST
Watching: TSN (in Canada) & MLS Live on ESPN+ (in US)
With less than two months until the end of the regular season, the Whitecaps have pressure to deliver something not seen since 2017- the opportunity to participate in playoffs and a chance at the MLS Cup. It is interesting to see the progression of the Whitecaps since these last two teams faced off on July 20th as surprisingly enough, the Whitecaps have only lost once since then while Houston has only managed two wins. It is a playoff push for sure, but definitely punctuated more by draws than with wins, as that is what the Whitecaps find themselves with the most this season. (Funny considering their seeming aversion to them in the 2020 season. Rather than good or bad, one could definitely consider the Whitecaps to be stable, which is a good base to build something promising from.
One of the biggest factors regarding this point is that of finding which combination of players gains this stability. As has been recently seen, some players on paper who looked to be backups have taken on starting roles and vice versa. Most poignant of these being that of striker- where Brian White has been doing an excellent job of covering for Cavallini when he’s away, and even when he is also on the team. Now the team’s second highest goalscorer, this season the player brought in to much controversy has made a statement to why he should be staring over the star DP signing of last season.
Houston have had the exact same record as the Whitecaps in their last four games, which is 2-1-1, signaling an upward trend in fortunes for both clubs. Fafa Picault has become a danger to many clubs, with his 10 goals leading the team by a fair margin. Maxi Urruti has also continued his strong performances for Houston and Tyler Pasher remains an inspired signing from the Texas-based side. Unlike last time though, Memo Rodriguez hasn’t contributed to much since the two teams played themselves before, and many players have overtaken him on the goals and assists charts.
In order for the Whitecaps to find success this match, they’re going to have to continue doing what they’ve been doing since moving on from MDS, which is playing an attacking brand of soccer. Last time out in Rio Tinto, the Whitecaps played a 0-0 draw, something they haven’t done since switching managers. They cannot afford losing or drawing against the teams that are below them if they want to reach the playoffs. The current formation of three central defenders and two wingbacks should be good enough to withstand the strikes from Houston while also providing a quick option for counterattacks that stretches out their back line.
My personal outlook for this game is completely different than that of the last time the Whitecaps played Houston. Gone is the silent resignation of seeing the limits of the team spelling out another disappointing season, and in its place is an unsure excitement that maybe this team could be able to achieve something at the end of the season. As I had said before, the Whitecaps have been pretty stable since the managerial change but there also is an air of mystery of whether this team could be hiding a second wind within them, as one can’t help but feel the players maybe have more to give. It’s a tough road ahead, and unfounded optimism doesn’t equate to actual results, so it really is down to how this team applies pressure to others at the bottom half of the table or those fighting alongside the ‘Caps for their own playoff spot. All that said, I predict a 1-0 Victory for the Whitecaps with a goal followed by strong defensive play (Outside of the last ten minutes where they’ll be pushed back and given multiple scares.) the only thing separating the two teams.
Eighty Six Forever Staff Picks:
Caleb: 1-1 DRAW
Ian: 2-1 VAN
Andrew: 2-1 VAN
Sam: 2-1 VAN