Riding one of the best starts in MLS history, the Seattle Sounders are favorites against the Vancouver Whitecaps. There are several reasons for this beyond just “the Sounders are good.” Vancouver isn’t doing well, not just because of coaching and player acquisition — their ‘home’ pitch is Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah and Designated Player Ali Adnan has been unable to enter the U.S. due to visa issues.
These external challenges have manifested in poor on-field performances. According to 538 they have the worst attack and worst defense in MLS. American Soccer Analysis doesn’t see them as much better, with the Whitecaps being the 4th worst offense and 10th worst defense.
From Eighty Six Forever, Samuel answers Three Questions.
SaH: How has the near-year-long road trip changed fan connections to the team? How ‘bout how the team plays?
86er: It’s pretty apparent that fan interest has basically fallen off a cliff. While there is a small group of diehard supporters in Vancouver, there’s a much bigger section of fans who hop on and off the bandwagon based on the teams’ success and attend matches because going to BC Place has generally been an enjoyable experience as a summer entertainment option. Without this direct connection, and because they have struggled so much, it’s been tough.
For the team itself there’s really no excuses this year. The setup in Salt Lake has been as ideal as possible, involves less travel than if they were playing at home, and many family members have been able to join the players and staff in their new setup. Yes, there is the factor of not having home fans, but this has only begun to be an advantage as teams up capacity.
SaH: With Ali Adnan unable to join the squad how is Marc Dos Santos filling that absence?
86er: The absence has certainly hurt, but more than that, the Whitecaps’ depth at the position has really been tested lately. Bruno Gaspar (an offseason addition from Sporting CP) has been in and out of the team, Jake Nerwinski and Cristian Guiterrez have also dealt with injury, and this has meant that super-draft pick Javain Brown has been thrust into a starting role. Overall though, this is a position of depth for the Whitecaps, so they’ve been able to make do perhaps better than expected.
SaH: What needs to come around first — the attack or the defense?
86er: The defending, while not perfect, has been good enough to win matches. Offensively, the Whitecaps continue to look rudderless other than on set pieces. No matter what formation they play, they’ve lacked the off-ball movement and creativity necessary to produce a decent number of scoring chances. It’s hard to see how they can win consistently until this changes.
There is no reverse this week. You can check out their match preview here.
If you’re going to the match please hydrate now and while in the stadium. If you aren’t going to the match please hydrate now and while watching.