So far, it’s been a very quiet offseason for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
This is probably a good thing. After years of offseason rumors and turmoil, the Whitecaps appear destined for stability in 2022, even if the competitiveness of the team they will field is still up for debate.
With many more knowns than normal heading into the preseason, I figured it was time to take a look at the 2022 schedule for this team and see if any trends could be impactful.
I couldn’t start this column without noting that this will be the first time in three years that the Whitecaps (at least at this stage) will be playing a regular slate of games against both the Western and Eastern conferences, and things will also be much less condensed than last year, with matches kicking off at the end of February.
In previous discussions I’ve had with sporting director Axel Schuster, I recall him sighting the importance of using the league schedule (and the flexibility you get within it) to his teams’ advantage. So that was something I was looking out for when analyzing this schedule.
One of the first things that stood out to me is that the Whitecaps will play 6 of their first 9 matches of the season on the road.
Backloading the season schedule, even if it was because their hand was forced in 2021, obviously played a big role in the playoff push and I would imagine that the Whitecaps pushed for as many late-season home matches as possible in 2022 as well. Overall, they’ll play 10 of their last 18 at home. Despite this, the Whitecaps’ strongest stretch of home matches actually occurs earlier in the season, as the Whitecaps will enjoy 7 of 10 matches at home between May 8th and July 8th.
Something else that surprised me when digging through the schedule (and I have no idea if this is intentional or not) is that of the Whitecaps’ first 17 matches of the year, only 4 of them will be 7 PM pacific kickoffs. In particular, there are several mid-afternoon starts at home from February to June that caught my eye.
One of the underlying reasons that might explain this is how front-loaded the Whitecaps’ Eastern conference matchups are. Vancouver will go the last 12 regular season matches without facing an Eastern opponent. Much like 2021, this will offer the Whitecaps a series of six-point opportunities near the end of the year which could shake up the playoff race.
Another point of note is that the Whitecaps will not have any prolonged home-stands or road trips this year (something this team is all too familiar with) with the longest streak of any kind being three games. The Whitecaps will enjoy three three-game homestands while playing on the road three matches in a row only once.
A final thing to watch out for is those pesky double match-weeks. The Whitecaps will have a couple of rough travel days during these windows: First, there’s a mid-week fixture at home vs. FC Dallas (May 22nd) before traveling to Charlotte for a 2 PM Sunday kickoff. Second, the Whitecaps will be on the road in Cincinnati on a Wednesday (July 13th) before playing in Portland that upcoming Sunday night. Thankfully, there are no mid-week trips to Orlando or Miami, but those are still a few tough travel days to watch out for.
Overall, the Whitecaps appear to have done well to avoid some of the potential pitfalls of the MLS schedule, and you have to think that the league will have paid special consideration to Vancouver given all they’ve had to deal with over the past two seasons.
Was there anything that stood out to you from the 2022 schedule? Or more importantly, which match do you already have circled on the calendar?