After back-to-back matches totaling 16 goals, the Rapids settled for a 1-1 draw against the Columbus Crew Saturday night at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park. The winning streak ended at two but the unbeaten streak grew to three. Standing in the way of four will be the Vancouver Whitecaps as the Rapids make a midweek trip for their only game in Canada in 2022.
The ‘Caps made the postseason tournament in 2021, riding the infectious energy of interim-now-full-time manager Vanni Sartini. Despite currently being below the playoff line in the Western Conference, the Whitecaps have amassed an impressive 6-3-3 record between the walls of BC Place, one of six synthetic surfaces in Major League Soccer.
From the end of May to early June, the Whitecaps tallied four wins which helped elevate them to fighting for a playoff spot after a sluggish start to the 2022 campaign. But since then, they’ve gone 1-3-3, their only victory a win over the Houston Dynamo. Last time out, the ‘Caps fell 5-2 on the road to the Galaxy.
They’ve been a team plagued by inconsistency which can be said of so many teams not named Los Angeles Football Club who appear to be running away with the Supporters’ Shield. But when the Whitecaps are firing on all cylinders, they’re nearly unbeatable, especially at BC Place where they’ve already dispatched the aforementioned LAFC, Toronto FC, FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake.
Up front, they’re led by Canadian forward Lucas Cavallini. Now settling into MLS after a stop in Mexico’s Liga MX, el Tanque leads the ‘Caps with eight goals in 2022. In the midfield, the man pulling the strings is their Scottish Designated Player Ryan Gauld who has four goals and two assists. And still lethal but not as productive as his 2021 which saw him bag 12 goals and five helpers, American Brian White has three goals to his name, and he can still finish his chances.
Off to the Great White North along the west coast, the Rapids are fighting for playoff positioning. Here’s how to get three points and continue climbing.
Use Their Pace Against Them
The Whitecaps have a really good roster full of athletic bodies. Cavallini is big and fast, Gauld is quick as can be and their third DP, Andrés Cubas has shown flashes of what he can do in his short time in the iconic blue and white hoop kits. Then you have Brian White, Tossaint Ricketts, Julian Gressel. There’s pace for days, and the Rapids need to be mindful of it. Especially with defender Lucas Estevez and midfielder Bryan Acosta serving yellow card suspensions and being unavailable. The Rapids can counter that athleticism by being smart with the ball, working the Whitecaps into areas of the field where they overcommit and can be punished on counters.
Win the 50/50 Balls
Per the mlssoccer.com stats page, the Rapids and Whitecaps are dead even in winning duels percentage. 50.8% for both teams. Given the athleticism of both rosters, Wednesday night may come down to who can wind up on top of the contested soccer balls the most. Every 50/50 ball won is another attacking opportunity that also ends up being an attacking opportunity subtracted from the Whitecaps. Even if a ball is 60 yards from goal, expect each team to fly after it with a fury because each side will understand the value in winning those balls. Missing Bryan Acosta’s physicality in the midfield means somebody else will have to jump up and be that guy who isn’t afraid to bump elbows in the middle of the park.
Continue the Climb Up the Table
The Rapids have a game or two in hand against most of their current rivals in the Western Conference standings. They’re a point behind Seattle Sounders with one game in hand, two points behind the Portland Timbers with two games in hand and the same for Nashville SC who occupy that seventh spot in the standings. We’re getting down to crunch time where anything can happen, and every team feels like they control their own destiny. Wednesday night’s match in Vancity kicks off a stretch of four of the next five away from DSGP. Points here are invaluable. It’s time for the Rapids to continue displaying the resiliency and togetherness they’ve shown us in the last couple of years under Robin Fraser.