May 30th, 2024

Whitecaps look to become road warriors again after disappointing loss at LAFC

By Carol Schram, The Canadian Press on May 14, 2024.

Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Ryan Gauld (25) controls the ball ahead of Los Angeles FC defender Erik Dueñas (18) during the second half of an MLS soccer match in Los Angeles on May 11, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ashley Landis

VANCOUVER – Four days after their first road loss of the year, the Vancouver Whitecaps will get a chance at redemption.

The Whitecaps (5-3-3) face the Colorado Rapids (5-4-3) on Wednesday in the second of three straight Major League Soccer road games. They followed a road win over Canadian Premier League club Cavalry in the opening leg of a Canadian championship quarterfinal with a 3-0 loss at Los Angeles FC in MLS play on Sunday.

“Things have been going well,” Whitecaps captain Ryan Gauld said after the loss. “But we still need to work on a lot of stuff to make sure we’re going to be up there at the end of the year.”

Coach Vanni Sartini was blunt in his assessment of his team’s effort against LAFC.

“It was, to be honest, our first game under our standards of the season,” he said. “We didn’t play very well.”

After a day off the pitch and a team dinner on Sunday, the Whitecaps put in two days of training at the LAFC Performance Center before flying to Denver on Tuesday.

“It’s not a crisis because we lose one game,” said defender Bjorn Inge Utvik. “We know we are a good team, and if we just continue on the same road, I think it’s going to be

The Whitecaps drew twice against the Rapids last season. After a scoreless tie at B.C. Place in April 2023, Mathias Laborda and Brian White connected in September’s 2-2 outcome at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Coming into Wednesday’s game, the Whitecaps and Rapids are level in the Western Conference standings. They’re both above the playoff cutline with 18 points each, although Vancouver has a game in hand.

The Rapids are 2-2-1 this season on their home pitch and 1-2-0 in their last three games. Their last outing was a 3-2 home loss to the San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday. Omir Fernandez recorded his first goal for the Rapids off a corner kick, while defender Michael Edwards made his MLS debut.

“Colorado is a team with a lot of quality,” Sartini said.

The Rapids’ biggest strength lies on the offensive side of the ball. They’re averaging 1.67 goals per game, led by six goals from Rafael Navarro and four from Cole Bassett.

After being shut out in back-to-back MLS games (Vancouver drew Austin 0-0 on May 4 before heading on the road), the Whitecaps are now averaging 1.64 goals per game, led by five from Brian White.

“They (Colorado) play a very dynamic brand of football,” Sartini said. “We need to be much better than Saturday in our pressing, so that we can regain more balls, as high as we can, and try to expose them with our counterattack.”

Playing in the Mile High City delivers its own unique challenge for visiting defenders.

“The ball flies faster, so every set play is going to become a chance, and every long ball is going to become a chance,” Sartini said.

In the midst of an eight-game month of May, the coach sees benefits in having such a busy schedule.

“The pressure is always up,” Sartini said. “The quality of training is always up, even if you don’t train too much. There’s the possibility to involve more players.

“When we have a lot of games, it’s always beautiful to be part of the squad.”

The Whitecaps will return to Vancouver after Wednesday’s game, then wrap up their road swing with their second meeting of the year against the Seattle Sounders on Saturday. After a 2-0 win in front of more than 30,000 fans at Lumen Field last month, the Whitecaps currently lead the Cascadia Cup standings with a 2-0-0 record.

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC (5-3-3) AT COLORADO RAPIDS (5-4-3)

Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. ET, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park

COACH COLLABORATION – Monday’s announcement that Jesse Marsch is taking over as the new coach of Canada’s men’s national team included an acknowledgment that the Whitecaps, CF Montreal and Toronto FC made “major philanthropic contributions” to support the hiring.

COLORADO CELEBRATION – Wednesday night marks Soccer For All night in Colorado, the Rapids’ celebration of diversity and inclusion which will include a post-match drone show.

RETURN MATCH – The Whitecaps and Rapids will square off again at B.C. Place on June 1 in their second and final meeting of the year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 14, 2024.

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