MLS Team Guide: Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Ahead of the 2021 MLS season, Richard Fleming introduces us to the teams set to face the Colorado Rapids. Their third game of the season falls on a Sunday, and will be against Vancouver Whitecaps ... in Utah.
First season in MLS: 2011
Honors: Canadian Championship (2015), Cascadia Cup (2013, 2014, 2016)
Stadium: BC Place, Vancouver, British Colombia, though using Rio Tinto Stadium, home of Real Salt Lake, until at least June 23 due to Covid restrictions
Head Coach: Marc Dos Santos (appointed, November 2018)
History with the Rapids
Due to Covid-19, these two teams did not meet in 2020. They last played on June 22, 2019 at BC Place. The Rapids raced into a 2-0 lead through Diego Rubio and Andre Shinyashiki, only for the Whitecaps to hit back with a Fredy Montero penalty and a late leveler from Yordy Reyna.
The Rapid dominated the early meetings, winning eight of the first 13 contests (8-4-1). Since then, they have managed only two wins in 11 (2-5-4). Indeed, the Rapids have not beaten the Whitecaps at home since August 6, 2016, going 0-3-1 across seasons 2017-2019. This season, Vancouver will face the Rapids twice, and will not be troubled by playing at altitude, as they will reside at Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah for the first half of the season due to travel restrictions between the USA and Canada.
They have met twice on 4th July, with the Rapids losing 1-0 in 2012 and winning 2-1 in 2015, with Kevin Doyle scoring the decider – his first goal in MLS. The first-ever MLS game involving these two teams came on July 9, 2011 at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park. Goals from Conor Casey and Scott Palguta ensured the win, despite a response through Camilo Sanvezzo.
Head-to-head record: 10-9-5
Last meeting: D 2-2, 6/22/19 at BC Place
Vancouver Whitecaps were the only team in MLS to finish the 2020 season without registering a single drawn game. Their record of 9-14-0 was only good enough for ninth in the Western Conference, and so for a third season in a row they failed to appear in the playoffs.
Last season was tough on all teams, but more so for the Canadian clubs. Once MLS resumed after the Orlando bubble, the three teams north of the border played amongst themselves for a month, until they all relocated to temporary bases in the United States. For Vancouver, that then meant ‘home’ games at Providence Park in Portland for the last 51 days of the season
They lost 14 of their 23 games, including a 6-0 hammering at LAFC, a scoreline not helped by two own goals. They were shut out in 10 of the 14 defeats but only finished three points short of a playoff place.
This is a third season in charge for head coach Marc Dos Santos, and there will be a pressure for him to make the playoffs, having been afforded two years to rebuild.
At the end of 2019 and prior to the 2020 season, 15 players arrived and 16 departed. CEO and sporting director Axel Schuster was keen to avoid such a turnover heading into 2021.
He said last November: “We want to build and develop this club step-by-step and with sustainability. Everybody on the team agrees that no question, we think we’re good enough to make the playoffs.”
With that being said, the Whitecaps were actively seeking “a DP at the no. 8 or no. 10, a player that is very good in possession.”
Though not a Designated Player, they did sign Caio Alexandre from Brazilian side Botafogo mid-March. A versatile central option, the 22-year-old has excelled in a box-to-box role.
They acquired winger Deiber Caicedo from Deportivo Cali toward the end of January. They acquired his discovery rights from Nashville SC for $75,000 in General Allocation Money. There was a fee involved, believed to be in the $2.5 million region.
Fullback Bruno Gaspar is another new addition, joining on loan from Primeira Liga side Sporting CP in Portugal. The deal includes a purchase option., which is reportedly around $1.75 million.
Two draft picks have signed, Nigerian-born forward David Egbo (University of Akron) and Jamaican international right back Javain Brown (University of South Florida).
Dos Santos also added to his coaching staff, bringing in former Houston Dynamo and USA midfielder Ricardo Clark as an assistant.
Players To Watch
For the Whitecaps to pose a threat this year, they will have to be more consistent in the final third. The two attack-minded signings, Caio Alexandre and Deiber Caicedo, will offer support to last year’s leading scorer Lucas Cavallini (6). And maybe keep an eye on draft pick David Egbo, a 6’1” striker who bagged 21 goals and 13 assists in 56 appearances for Akron.
Vancouver will also hope for a more settled figure in between the pipes. Maxime Crépeau and Thomas Hasal suffered season-ending injuries, forcing Dos Santos to eventually use four different goalkeepers throughout 2020.
In: Caio Alexandre (Botafogo), Javain Brown (MLS Superdraft) Deiber Caicedo (Deportivo Cali), David Egbo (MLS Superdraft), Bruno Gaspar (Sporting CP), Evan Newton (Indy Eleven)
Out: Evan Bush (Columbus Crew), Jasser Khmiri (San Antonio FC, loan), David Milinkovic (released by mutual consent), Fredy Montero (Seattle Sounders)
Meetings in 2021:
May 2 (away)
September 19 (home)
Click HERE for the full Rapids schedule.
Did You Know?
With the Whitecaps being based in Utah for at least the first two months of the season, the Rapids will play at Rio Tinto – the home of Rocky Mountain rivals Real Salt Lake – three times in 2020.
There has been a front office signing during the offseason which the club hopes pay dividends. Nikos Overheul has been hired as their director of recruitment. He has a background in analytics, working with clubs such as English Championship side Brentford and Danish Superliga outfit FC Midtjylland.