With a couple of wins in a row, Minnesota United heads back out on the road after a short homecoming. This time, the Loons head north of the border to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps. Both teams have strung together some good results, making for an intriguing matchup that is sure to showcase some quality form.

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The Occasion: MLS Week 19; Game No. 19; Road Game No. 10

The Opponent: Vancouver Whitecaps

Head-to-Head:

Friday’s match will be the first of two meetings between the teams this season. In years prior, they have met a total of nine times, splitting the series right down the middle with a 3-3-3 record. Perfectly balanced, as all things should be. This iteration of the matchup sees both teams on 24 points, with just goal difference separating them.

Their Run of Form: W-L-W-D-W

Week 14 – 2-1 W vs. Real Salt Lake (Goals from Ranko Veselinovic and Ryan Gauld)

Week 15 – 0-4 L at Seattle Sounders

Week 16 – 2-0 W at FC Dallas (Goals from Lucas Cavallini and Deiber Caicedo)

Week 17 – 0-0 D vs. New England Revolution

Week 18 – 1-0 W vs. LAFC (Goal from Andres Cubas)

Vancouver finds themselves in scintillating form, having beaten three of the league’s hottest teams in their last five games. A hiccup against rivals Seattle should be seen as an outlier, followed by impressive wins against Dallas and LAFC. Confidence will be high going into their next match.

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Last Season

In the 2021 MLS season, Vancouver and Minnesota met three times. As the all-time record between them would suggest, they split the season 1-1-1. Each game came with plenty of excitement, with 14 total yellow cards and late goals to keep fans on the edge of their seats.  

The first game was played early in the season. Despite a dazzling display from Vancouver winger Cristian Dájome, the Whitecaps failed to capitalize on several golden opportunities. A combination of good goalkeeping from Tyler Miller and a bit of luck kept the Loons in the game until the 72nd minute, when a Robin Lod cross met an unmarked Ramón Ábila in the penalty area. Ábila headed the ball home to break the deadlock and give his team all three points.  

When the teams next met in July, it was a much more open affair. Another great game for Dájome saw the winger finally break through the Minnesota defense, scoring in the 36th minute. Ethan Finlay leveled the score just before half, finishing an incisive through-ball from Emmanuel Reynoso. In the 75th minute, Lod put his team ahead, only to see a last second penalty from Dájome tie the game at 2-2 at the death. 

The final meeting came towards the end of the regular season. Minnesota found themselves down at the half following an own goal. In the second half, Brian White doubled Vancouver’s advantage. The Loons failed to find a breakthrough until stoppage time, when substitute Fanendo Adi’s goal proved to be no more than consolation.

That was then, this is now

Soccer in British Columbia goes way back. The first Vancouver team to go by the name, “Whitecaps,” was the North American Soccer League outfit that played from 1974 until the league folded in 1984. The team then bounced around a few other leagues before starting anew in 2009, when they were granted expansion rights into MLS. When they began play in the 2011 season, they became the league’s 17th team.

Just a year after joining the league, the Whitecaps became the first Canadian team to make the MLS Cup Playoffs during the 2012 season. Since then, they haven’t managed to make it past the quarterfinals of the playoffs. In 2015, they won their first Canadian Championship, their only silverware of note thus far. MLS fans will likely remember watching Bayern Munich’s star left-back Alphonso Davies play for the Whitecaps, where he came through the academy and played 65 games before making the move to Bavaria.

Despite their long history, the Whitecaps have never been anything more than a mid table team. They fight for the playoffs every year, but have yet to really make a splash after getting there. At the moment, they are hovering just below playoff position in ninth, exactly where you would historically expect them to be.

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The Attack

If you’re looking for Vancouver’s strong point, it’s not up top. They have only managed to score 19 goals this season, among the worst in the league. Forward Lucas Cavallini leads the team in scoring with five goals, followed by four players on two goals apiece. 

Although the end product is a concern for the Whitecaps attacking corps, there is plenty of talent up there. Loons fans should be wary of winger Cristian Dájome, who relished the chance to play against Minnesota last season, scoring twice and wreaking havoc across all three games. MLS veteran Toissant Ricketts brings experience and skill to the lineup, something that could prove valuable for a team trying to break out of a scoring slump. Something has been working recently, but it remains to be seen whether or not they can keep this form up.  

We will likely see the Whitecaps utilize some variation of either a 3-4-1-2 or a 3-4-2-1 formation. This gives them a nice base from which Cavallini and attacking midfielder Ryan Gauld can operate in the center of the field. If they opt for two up top, Brian White may be paired with Cavallini, with Gauld sitting behind the two strikers.

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The Defense

In the back, Vancouver typically employs a three-man system. Lately, this has seen Tristan Blackmon, Ranko Veselinovic, and Javain Brown anchoring the team in front of goalkeeper Cody Cropper. Midfielder Andres Cubas has been pulling the strings from midfield, organizing the team and getting them settled in transition. Look out for his impact on all aspects of the Whitecaps’ game plan.

Wingbacks Ryan Raposo and Marcus Godinho have proven to be instrumental in the style of the team, offering width and flexibility to the midfield and delayed support in the back. Playing fullback can be a tough job, but these two have been up to the challenge as of late.

After allowing 28 goals, the Whitecaps have managed to accumulate a minus nine goal differential. However, they have kept three clean sheets in a row, including a game against one of the league’s most potent offenses in LAFC.

Final Thought

Identical records of 7-8-3 put Minnesota United and Vancouver at 8th and 9th in the league respectively, separated only by goal differential. Both teams are fighting to get into playoff position, and both are finding their form. Minnesota’s current streak is just two games old, but those two games have seen some impressive offensive displays from the Loons. Likewise, Vancouver’s leaky defense and stagnant attack have reversed their fortunes in recent times, transforming them into a completely different team. With these two squads trending upwards, this matchup looks set to be a lively one.

MATCH INFO

Minnesota United FC v. Vancouver Whitecaps

BC Place | Vancouver, BC, Canada

Friday, July 8

9:30 pm CT (MLS LIVE on ESPN+, Bally Sports North EXTRA, The CW - Twin Cities, 1500 ESPN)