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Match Preview: Whitecaps visit LA Galaxy

After a tough start to the season for both teams, the Whitecaps will be looking for key points in the city of Angels.

MLS: LA Galaxy at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday night at Dignity Health Sports Park, the Vancouver Whitecaps will visit the Los Angeles Galaxy, with both teams looking to pick up their first win of the MLS season. Kickoff is set for 7:30PM Pacific.

The Galaxy had a strange start to their 2023 campaign as their planned Rose Bowl Game against LAFC had to be cancelled last minute due to inclement weather on opening weekend. Since then, the Galaxy have spent the past two weeks on the road. First, the Galaxy allowed three second-half goals in a contest with Vancouver’s most recent MLS opponent, FC Dallas, losing 3-1. Then last weekend, the Galaxy were thoroughly outplayed by Sporting KC, surrendering 30 total shots and 11 shots on target, although they did manage to survive in the end and play out a 0-0 draw.

Notably, the Galaxy have been without their key frontman Javier Hernandez, although it does appear as though the Mexican is inching closer to making a return. When the Galaxy are at their best, they have played through a gifted midfield three of Riqui Puig, Gaston Brugman and Marky Delgado. It will be interesting to see how Vancouver’s stand-out midfield trio matches up against this group, especially coming into this match well-rested having not made the trip down to Honduras with the team midweek.

Last season, the Whitecaps traded home wins with the Galaxy, besting LA by a score of 3-0 at BC Place in September, but having dropped the reverse fixture by a score of 5-2 down in LA on August 14th.

Although the sample size is small, both teams have struggled defensively so far this season. Vancouver’s inability to stop crosses has been well documented on this site, while equally, the Galaxy have struggled with being too permissive in wide areas. Raheem Edwards and Kelvin Leerdam are quality players, but when the game opens up, they have really struggled to stay in structure and both SKC and FC Dallas took advantage. Overall, the Galaxy under Greg Vanney have tried to rebuild their defensive unit, but it still very much looks like a work in progress.

In terms of how Vancouver will set up, Vanni Sartini should have ultimate flexibility based on the players he rested midweek. As mentioned earlier, I would expect Vancouver to return to their top choice midfield three of Cubas, Gressel and Schopf. Meanwhile, Ryan Gauld, Ranko Veselinovic, and Yohei Takaoka also look poised to return to the starting XI. The fringes of the roster is where the team selection might get interesting, particularly at fullback, where the Whitecaps have yet to find any consistency.

Overall, the Whitecaps have been playing well enough in MLS so far this season to produce better results than the standings have shown. If they can find a way to clamp down on set pieces and crosses, there’s every potential for the Whitecaps to steal three points down in LA. Ultimately though, while I do think the Whitecaps will be able to score goals against the Galaxy, I can’t see them fixing their defensive issues on such a short turnaround, so I’m going to say this match ends in a 2-2 draw.