Wednesday night at BC Place, the Vancouver Whitecaps will conclude their four game home stand with the toughest match-up of the bunch, at least on paper, as they’ll kick things off against FC Dallas at 7pm PT.
Although Vancouver is enjoying the best form of their season to date, no team is in better form than FC Dallas right now in the West, who after a coaching change in the off-season have really hit the ground running with a re-tooled core group of players. Currently, Dallas are second place in the West on 22 points from 11 matches, and have only one loss in their last eight fixtures across all competitions.
This is a team that has really been getting things done at both ends of the pitch so far this year, and this is usually what it takes to be a really successful team. But in all seriousness, it’d be challenging not to pile up some wins when you have the best defensive record in the league (only 8 goals allowed) and also boast the league’s leading goalscorer, Jesús Ferreira, who’s found the back of the net nine times already, only one less than the Whitecaps as a team.
It seems then that so far FC Dallas has been able to fill the Ricardo Pepi goal-scoring void. Yet, more than that, they also splashed some Garber bucks on an MLS deal in the off-season that brought in US international Paul Arriola from DC United. This addition has made Dallas diverse and dangerous on the counter-attack, and allowed first year head coach Nico Estévez to go away from the predominately possession based football Dallas had played for so long. It’s a change that has payed dividends thus far, as although FC Dallas is near the bottom of the league in terms of the volume of chances they create (things like progressive passes, shot creating actions, etc.) they’ve been converting on a high amount of those opportunities.
Certainly, there is an argument to be made that FC Dallas’ hot streak might run its course and that this team will regress to the mean at some point. But what seems clear is that Dallas has found a better balance of quality acquisitions and academy prospects than in years past. I don’t think that’s going anywhere, and for that reason, I’d imagine they’ll remain a solid playoff team all year long.
Where there is a a possible point of weakness for the Whitecaps to exploit is defensively. While their record has been sterling thus far, it’s an aging group, especially at the centre-back spot, and there’s not a wealth of depth there, especially if a main guy like Hedges were to go down.
In goal, Dutchman Maarten Paes has been a really good add for Dallas, he’s on loan until the end off 2022 and could be a long term fit if he wants to stay in MLS at just 24 years old. He’s been well above expected in terms of the advanced metrics so far this season and has four clean sheets in 10 starts.
In terms of the Whitecaps in this one, it does all hinge a bit on availability. Will Ryan Gauld be ready to go out of health and safety protocols, who has the legs after such a busy stretch?
The answer to the first question as it turns out is no, as of training Tuesday morning, as both Gauld and Ricketts remain in protocols.
I’d have to think Cristian Gutierrez will have a sizable role to play after making his return from injury on the weekend, while Deiber Caicedo could be prime candidate for a start, having not seen his name in the starting XI against San Jose. Hearing from Vanni Sartini after training on Tuesday, it sounds like Erik Godoy will not start more than one match a week for now, so he won’t feature in a big way against Dallas. Equally, Sartini confirmed that Pedro Vite will remain in a substitute role for the time being, as the manager wants to see more consistent play from the youngster as he adjusts to MLS.
Overall, I think there’s goals in this match for the Whitecaps but I do question their ability to slow down a potent FC Dallas counter-attack. The Whitecaps have remained decent at home and so I’m not going to pick against them outright: In fact, I’m rolling with the Caps to upset FC Dallas with a 2-1 victory.