The Houston Dynamo are back at home on Saturday evening to play host to the Vancouver Whitecaps at PNC Stadium. To help us get some insight on Saturday’s opponent we spoke to Samuel Rowan of Eighty Six Forever.
Dynamo Theory (DT): Vancouver rebounded from a 4-0 defeat in the opener to hold defending champion New York City FC to a 0-0 draw in week 2. What changed in that game that led the team to playing so much better than in week 1?
Eighty Six Forever (ESF): A stronger start on home soil was definitely a big part of it. Vancouver wants to play direct, attacking football and found themselves constantly on their heels in that opening match. Against NYCFC, they were at least able to go back and forth with the defending champs, trading chances despite having much less of the ball.
Two other factors were the midfield and defence. Vancouver went for a three-man midfield in their opener which included a deep lying defensive midfielder. While Sartini played around with this idea in the offseason, it only took one match to understand that the Whitecaps are better off with a two-man pivot, which they deployed against NYCFC. Not only does this seem to get the most out of their central midfielders, but more importantly, it pushes Ryan Gauld higher up the pitch into his preferred number ten role. On the backline, the Whitecaps really missed a calming veteran presence in the opener. Adding Florian Jungwirth in match two made a big difference, and a lot is going to be asked of the German, especially in the continued absence of Erik Godoy.
DT: Vancouver and Houston are two of the seven teams in Major League Soccer who have yet to score a goal this season. Why are the Whitecaps struggling offensively and what may lead to them turning things around this weekend?
ESF: I don’t think there’s a lot to take away, especially from the first match, but obviously, a higher volume of possession in the attacking third is a priority for this team. This is something the Whitecaps have long struggled with but were able to avoid at the end of last year under Sartini. Currently, the Whitecaps have less touches in the final third than any other team in MLS. That being said, the Red Bulls are second to last and they have seven goals, so volume isn’t always everything.
Brian White coming back to full fitness would be a big help as well. He was lights out at the end of last year and has great chemistry with Ryan Gauld, so that looks like the most obvious way for the Whitecaps to get themselves back on track. Overall, the Whitecaps are likely to be more of a “clinical on the counter” team than they are to overwhelm teams with their possession, but still, the build-up play is a work in progress at the moment and it sounds like something that’s being addressed at training.
DT: The Whitecaps made a playoff run last season under interim coach Vanni Sartini. Now that Sartini has been hired as the full-time manager, what are expectations like this season in Vancouver?
ESF: Internally, the team talked a lot about how they were one of the best teams in MLS under Vanni Sartini last season and how that would be the expectation for this year. However, I think it was obvious watching that stretch run, as miraculous as it was, that there would be a bit of a coming down to earth at some point this year and we’ve seen that already.
I think those who follow the team closely expect the Whitecaps to be a fringe playoff team, but with a young roster and some players who could be poised to make a big jump, such as Pedro Vite and Deiber Caicedo, there’s always the possibility they could exceed that projection. Above all else though, I think supporters in Vancouver want a team that is fun to watch. Rarely did the Whitecaps play an entertaining brand of football under Marc Dos Santos, so, as long as the ‘Caps are an enjoyable team to watch with the ability to win games, I think supporters will be reasonably happy.
We want to thank Samuel and Eighty Six Forever for giving us some information about the Vancouver Whitecaps. Best of luck this weekend!