July 24th, 2024

Vancouver Whitecaps won’t underestimate struggling New England Revolution

By Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press on June 14, 2024.

Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Sebastian Berhalter kicks the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Sporting Kansas City Wednesday, May 29, 2024, in Kansas City, Kan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel

VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Whitecaps know Major League Soccer’s standings can be deceiving.

Just because a team sits at the bottom of the table doesn’t mean it’s going to be an easy opponent. So the Whitecaps (7-5-4) will be prepared when they face the New England Revolution (4-10-1) in Foxborough, Mass., on Saturday.

New England is currently last in the Eastern Conference standings, but comes in on a two-game win streak after downing the New York Red Bulls 1-0 last weekend.

“I think they had a really bad start but I think they’re going to be better and better,” said Whitecaps defender Ranko Veselinovic. “If we go there thinking it’s going to be easy, it’s going to be bad for us.”

Vancouver also comes into the matchup with two wins in a row, but hasn’t played since a last-minute 2-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids on June 1.

The break was a necessary one for a club that played nine games in six cities across 29 days. Capturing momentum after time off can be a challenge, though, said Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini.

“The nice thing is that we had a complete week of training where we could work on these things,” he said.

Vancouver will need to make some tactical adjustments heading into Saturday’s game. The team will be playing without defensive midfielder Andres Cubas, who’s playing a trio of friendlies with Paraguay’s national squad. The ‘Caps will also be without wingback Ali Ahmed, who was called up to Canada’s men’s team on Thursday.

Relying on a variety of players will be key as the club moves into the second half of a season where it will be balancing league play with the Canadian Championship and Leagues Cup tournaments, more players will go out on international duty and injuries and fatigue will likely creep in.

“We’ve showed that we have depth,” Sartini said. “We’ve showed that we don’t have 30 players, but we have at least 17, 18 guys that can start at any time.”

One player who’s taken a step recently is Sebastian Berhalter.

While Sartini used the 23-year-old American midfielder as a substitute through the early part of the season, Berhalter’s crisp passing and stalwart defence have earned him a spot in the starting lineup in three of Vancouver’s last four games. He scored his first goal of the season in the ‘Caps victory over the Rapids.

“I think I just had to stay patient,” Berhalter said of his recent play. “I think it was a tough couple months, not playing, kind of coming on (as a sub).

“It was just something where I was like “˜All right, I’m just going to enjoy this time and try to not let it get to me.’ And then to kind of have that mentality of enjoying the in between kind of just led me to keep kicking, keep turning it over. And then you start getting starts, and you feel good and you just keep riding it out.”

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (7-5-4) AT NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (4-10-1)

Saturday, Gillette Stadium

INS AND OUTS: In addition to Ahmed and Cubas, Vancouver will be without defender Sam Adekugbe, who’s still working his way back from a calf strain, and midfielder Alessandro Schopf, who missed training due to an illness this week. Revolution midfielder Matt Polster will miss the game due to suspension.

HISTORY BOOKS: New England has a 5-2-4 edge in all-time meetings and is unbeaten in the last five games between the two clubs. The ‘Caps haven’t played the Revolution since June 26, 2022, however, when they battled the visiting side to a 0-0 draw at B.C. Place.

ROAD WARRIORS: The Whitecaps will play six of their next seven games on the road. The team has a 4-2-2 record in away matchups this season and is tied with Real Salt Lake for most road points (14) in the Western Conference.

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

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