July 17th, 2024

Vancouver Whitecaps hope to find calm seas with MLS win over St. Louis City SC

By Jim Morris, The Canadian Press on June 28, 2024.

Vancouver Whitecaps forward Brian White (24) defends the ball from New England Revolution defender Xavier Arreaga (3) during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, June 15, 2024, in Foxborough, Mass. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Stockwell

VANCOUVER – If you are a team trying to navigate out of stormy waters, playing St. Louis City SC might be a good course to plot.

The Whitecaps (7-7-4) look to end a two-game losing streak against St. Louis (3-6-10) in Saturday night’s MLS Western Conference match at BC Place Stadium. St. Louis is winless in its last six games (0-3-3) and have a 0-3-5 road record this season.

Vancouver head coach Vanni Sartini said the Whitecaps can’t simply lace up their cleats and expect to walk over their opponents.

“Every team is hard to beat,” Sartini said at a training session this week. “You have to be harnessed by the fact you know, if we play very well, we have all the skill and the quality to beat St. Louis.

“At the same time, we need to be going into the game with the maximum focus and attention. They came here hungry for points. Everyone wants to go to the playoffs. They’re coming here trying to change their season.”

Forward Brian White said it would be difficult to look past St. Louis, a team which finished first in the west last season before being knocked out in the second round of the playoffs by Sporting Kansas City.

“They are a very good side,” said White, who is second in Whitecaps scoring with five goals. “It’s going to be a tough game with their high pressure.

“It’s a another good opportunity for us to get three points and right the ship in front of our home fans.”

After some smooth sailing early in the season, the Whitecaps are currently riding some choppy seas.

Vancouver opened the season with a 5-2-3 record and flirted with first place in the Western Conference. In the last eight games, the Whitecaps are 2-5-1 and heading into the weekend holding on to the ninth and final playoff spot in the West with 25 points.

St. Louis is 12th with 19 points.

Axel Schuster, Vancouver’s sporting director, points out the Whitecaps have played one less game than some of the teams in the division and two less than others.

“We have to be careful that we’re not panicking at the wrong moment,” said Schuster. “No team really plays at the same level — with the same performance and the same energy — a whole season.

Sartini said the Whitecaps haven’t been playing badly, just not at the level they had earlier in the season.

“Our performance actually didn’t go down dramatically. The efficiency of our performance did go down dramatically,” he said.

“We need to be a little better in finishing more chances, a little better in not making individual mistakes in the back. We need to be a little better in being mentally stronger.”

Schuster said the next few games will show the Whitecaps true character.

“This is sometimes the most important moment of the season. How you deal with this situation, how you right yourself out of the situation, how you get back on track.”

ST. LOUIS CITY FC (3-6-10) at VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (7-7-4)

BC Place Stadium, Saturday 7:30 p.m. PDT

INDIGENOUS RECOGNITION: The game will be the Whitecaps’ fourth Indigenous Peoples Celebration. Earlier in the week the team, along with Hope and Health, celebrated the opening of two mini-pitches in Indigenous communities.

INJURY REPORT: Vancouver will be without defender Samuel Adekube and forward Damir Kreilach, both out with calf strains. Two midfielders are also on international duty at the Copa America with Ali Ahmed playing for Canada and Andres Cubas on Paraguay’s roster.

NEW FACE: On Friday, Vancouver signed Whitecaps FC 2 forward Nicolas Fleuriau Chateau to an MLS short-term agreement. The 22-year-old from Ottawa has five goals in 12 MLS Next Pro appearances this season.

FAMILIAR FACES: Former Whitecap defenders Tim Parker and Jake Nerwinski now play for St. Louis.

RADIO SILENCE: The Vancouver radio station that broadcasts the Whitecaps games suddenly went off the air this week. The team said it’s looking for a replacement.

ON THE ROAD: The Whitecaps play their next four games on the road. They have MLS matches against Minnesota on Wednesday and CF Montreal on Saturday, then play a Telus Canadian Championship semifinal against Pacific FC in Victora on July 10 before playing in St. Louis on July 13.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 28, 2024

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