The Vancouver Whitecaps are back home after a whirlwind travel week. The Caps played the Chicago Fire on the road, then midweek against league leader LAFC before heading to Florida to face Orlando City.
Overall, the Whitecaps collected four points from the three matches and at times showed significant improvements on the pitch. Now after a full week of training back in Vancouver, the Whitecaps will take on the Philadelphia Union on Saturday 2 p.m. PST at BC Place.
“We’re going to be ready,” head coach Marc Dos Santos said after training on Monday. “Everything is focused on how can we beat Philly at home,” he added.
Ahead of the game against the Philadelphia Union, two things were on the coaches mind. First, to recuperate from last week’s travel and second to continue improving the Vancouver Whitecaps tactically after a 1-2-5 start to the season.
“All week it is about to prepare the team for Philadelphia. Today we were still in a recovery mode, not because of one game — the game in Orlando — but because of the accumulation, the numbers we have seen. Some players are still recovering from last week,” Dos Santos explained earlier this week.
The team, therefore, did not start until Wednesday with the actual full-on preparation for the game on Saturday. A big part of that preparation will be tactical and getting more production from the team in the final third.
After all, it has been in attack that the Whitecaps have struggled the most. With just six goals from their first eight games, the Whitecaps have averaged 0.75 goals per game this season. The Whitecaps are last with just three goals scored from open play and are tied with the New England Revolution for the fifth last place in the league for shots per game (10.8).
Even when factoring in expected Goals the Whitecaps have not fared well in attack. The Caps xG in the first eight games of the season was 7.85, which ranks them fifth from the bottom in the league.
Defensively, however, the team has been sound — the Whitecaps head into the game with an average goals against of 1.375. In fact, since matchday 4 the Whitecaps have on average just conceded 0.8 goals, which ranks them sixth in the league. But on balance, the Whitecaps still concede more often then they score, and the defensive play has come with a cost.
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That cost was on display in the match against Orlando City last Saturday. In that game, the Whitecaps once against struggled for possession and in their defensive 5-3-2 lineup failed to create many chances and consequentially lost the game 1-0.
Hence, creating offence is now the number one task ahead of the game against Philadelphia, who have started well (4-3-1) but will be without starting goalkeeper Andre Blake.
“When we get in the opponents half I always speak about what could become better,” Dos Santos admitted. “I speak about the quality of our possession and our decision making when we get into our opponents half.”
“It is about finding a balance to allow the team to grow. We discussed that a lot in the locker room and we all want to become better in that part of the field for sure,” Dos Santos concluded.
That balance, however, could become a problem for the Whitecaps. The defensive stability, after all, has been created by sitting deep and getting numbers behind the ball, offensively, however, the Whitecaps lack quick transition players that could break forward when winning the ball.
Striker Fredy Montero, in particular, has seemingly struggled this season. Brought in to score around 15 goals a season Montero has only scored once in eight games this season.
“Yeah I mean it is no secret. We are doing a good job defensively but at the end of the day when you score goals you have the opportunity to win matches,” Montero admitted. “It isn’t the model that matters, the team needs to find a way to score no matter who plays up front,” Montero concluded.