Los Angeles FC (6-0-1, 1st MLS) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (0-4-2, 10th West)
7 p.m., B.C. Place Stadium, TV: TSN 1, TSN 4; Radio: TSN 1040 AM
Marc Dos Santos vs. Bob Bradley
Will the student become the master? Whitecaps coach Dos Santos was an assistant with LAFC under Bradley last season, doing much of the Major League Soccer team’s video prep as the coach responsible for advance scouting. He knows the Black and Gold inside and out, just as Bradley, the winningest active coach in MLS, is well aware of his former assistant’s credentials.
There are tactical similarities — L.A.’s style is what the Caps aspire to play — but once again there is a huge gulf in the teams’ top-end talents. It would be “peak MLS” to see a winless Caps squad knock off an unbeaten LAFC team that tops the entire league, but they nearly did that earlier this year when they came within a VAR review of toppling the mighty Seattle Sounders.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
1. L.A. bamba a.k.a. ‘To stomp’
The Black and Gold are red hot. They come in having scored 21 goals in their first seven games, the most in league history. It’s a product of an offence that has, not surprisingly, league highs in assists (21), total shots per game (18.7), most road shots (19.3), shots on goal (7, 7.3 away), away goals (11) and key passes (13.7), and posted the first back-to-back hat tricks in wins against San Jose (5-0) and D.C. United (4-0).
Including last year, their 22-9-10 record is the best start in league history since the 1998-99 Chicago Fire — a mark even more impressive considering there were no draws during that time in MLS.
2. ‘Tropezar’ troupe
Offensively, the Whitecaps have been largely ineffective. While they’ve scored two goals twice, they’ve also been shut out three times, and their five overall goals are second-fewest in MLS.
The Caps’ expected goals per game is 0.90, better only than RSL (0.73), and their two scores in three home games are the second-fewest in MLS, better only than Montreal (one). They also still lead the league in shots against, at 17.7 per game.
It will be tough sledding for a team going against an LAFC squad that is tied for fewest goals allowed in MLS (five) and hasn’t conceded a goal in 325 minutes, nor a goal from open play in 388.
3. Strike force
The source of the issue lies further back in the formation, but the fact Caps strikers Fredy Montero and Joaquin Ardaiz have combined for one goal between them — Montero’s penalty score against Houston — can’t be ignored. Montero’s 12 shots are second on the Caps, Ardaiz is fifth (six).
Despite being involved in hold-up play, Montero has just four key passes and Ardaiz none. A change in personnel or formation might boost the position.
4. Vela soul
If there’s an engine that drives LAFC, it’s their Mexican winger. Carlos Vela leads the league in goals (eight) and assists (five), and has scored more himself than eight other MLS teams have managed. He also leads the league in shots (41) and shots on goals (16). His goals/assist total through seven weeks is the most since Thierry Henry did it in 2012.
Last year, as the captain of the MLS All-Star XI, he had 14 goals and 13 assists total — both top-10 totals.
5. Your way or Uruguay
Both squads boast young up-and-coming Uruguayan stars; Ardaiz for Vancouver, Diego Rossi for LAFC. The two designated players started in the Premiera Division (2015-17) and played together on the U-20 national team.
Ardaiz came to MLS in February, while Rossi joined in 2018. Rossi’s six goals, combined with Vela’s total, are more than any other MLS team. Ardaiz has come close twice, but is yet to score this season.
PREDICTED STARTING XIs
Giro — Ardaiz — Venuto
Tiebert — Erice — Hwang
Adnan — Henry — Godoy — Nerwinski
Rossi — Ramirez — Vela
Kaye — Atuesta — Blessing
Harvey — Segura — Zimmerman — Beitashour
Whitecaps: David Norman Jr., Michael Baldisimo, Jasser Khmiri, Andy Rose.
LAFC: Adama Diomande, Andre Horta (questionable), Rodolfo Zelaya, Alejandro Guido, Lee Nguyen.
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