The Vancouver Whitecaps managed to pull off a classic smash and grab road win against Sporting Kansas City, thanks to a Lucas Cavallini Penalty. The Whitecaps now have a record of 3W-1D-1L in their last five in MLS and are 4W-2D-1L in their last seven in all competitions. Perhaps a sign things are starting to turn around after a truly torrid start to the season.
The Whitecaps opted for a slightly more defensive variation on their formation with Florian Jungwirth slotting in as a #6. In fairness, the first half went pretty much exactly to plan. The Whitecaps hit SKC on a couple of counterattacks. One of which lead to Cristian Dájome and Lucas Cavallini combining to win a penalty and give Vancouver the lead. In classic 2022 Whitecaps fashion, they managed to get a key player injured as Dájome had to be subbed following the goal. It wasn’t exactly a super controlled first half but the 5 midfield players generally did a good job of gumming up the works in the middle of the park Vancouver mostly held SKC to long-range shots. The only exceptions were a corner that Cody Cropper flapped at and Ben Sweat headed over and a chance for Johnny Russell that he whiffed on.
In the second half score effects began to take effect. The Whitecaps mostly sat deep, looking to preserve their lead. This left SKC with a lot of the ball. But despite that SKC was limited to mostly poor quality long-range shots. They only managed a handful of shots inside Vancouver’s area in the second half. Most of SKC’s big chances came from dead-ball situations or from the Whitecaps giving the ball away foolishly.
Overall this probably isn’t the type of performance you want to be relying on week after week. But with a large number of first-team players out injured, fixture congestion, and a very long away trip, I think the Whitecaps can be pleased with how they played. In past years we have seen them attempt to play this type of game only to ship four goals and be torn apart by the opposition.
When you take into account the number of players Vancouver is missing their underlying data (especially in recent games) is not looking bad at all. With up to 5 nailed on starters missing at any given time, the team has basically played at the level of a fringe playoff team. If you add a fit Gauld, Cubas, Alexandre, and Blackmon into the team then maybe you’ve got something there. The problem is though, it usually takes 50 points to be assured of a playoff spot (sometimes it’s a little bit less). To hit that mark the Whitecaps have to win 1.8 points per game for the rest of the season. Right now only LAFC is winning more points per game in the West. So the improvement might very well be too little too late. Then again I said that last year when they signed Gauld and look how that turned out.