After losing by a score of 3-2 in their first ever visit to Yankee Stadium last weekend, the Vancouver Whitecaps return to BC Place this weekend to face their Cascadia arch-rivals, the Portland Timbers.
Venue: BC Place
Date/Time: Saturday, April 7 @ 2 p.m.
Radio: TSN 1040
— Vancouver Southsiders (@Southsiders) May 6, 2016
The old adage predicates that “the best defence is a good offence.” Let me try to pen a new immortal phrase: “the best defence is … well… defending well…” OK, it is a work in progress. My point is that for the better part of the last two months, the conversations around the Whitecaps have focused on scoring.
“They have only scored from set pieces!” “Where are the open play goals?!” “Is Rivero ever going to score again?” We have all talked about these topics at some point over the past several weeks.
However, when looking at the numbers throughout the first ten games of the season and comparing them against the first ten games of the 2015 campaign, another reality sets in. Scoring has not been the problem in 2016. In fact, the Whitecaps have scored one more goal this year than last (12 vs. 11). It is the defence that has seemingly forsaken this team.
In 2015 the Blue and White allowed only 9 goals throughout the first ten matches of the year. This number has bumped up to 15 conceited goals in 2016.
The bottom line is that the Whitecaps need to return to the defensive form that allowed them to have the best defence in the league last year if they wish to remain competitive and have the opportunity to win games every week. Especially with an endemic goal production.
It is well known that in MLS it is more important for teams to reach their best form towards the end of the season so that when playoffs come around, they have a legitimate chance to win it all (see 2015 MLS Cup Champions Portland Timbers as exhibit A).
While this premise remains true, it is also true that the points earned and lost at the beginning of the season are absolutely critical to ensuring that playoff berth come October. Sometimes a team can start the year in fine form, rack up a bunch of points in the early stages of the season and then lose steam as the campaign progresses. It is those early points what allow them to clinch a playoff spot (see 2015 Vancouver Whitecaps as exhibit B).
The trick is to get enough results to remain in the mix throughout the first half of the year and then hit a stride in the back end of the season. If the Whitecaps want to be in that conversation, they need to start picking up points on a consistent basis. Especially at home.
So far in 2016, the Blue and White have collected only 7 out of 15 possible points at BC Place. With Portland visiting on Saturday, followed by a quick turnaround to host the Chicago Fire next Wednesday, the Whitecaps have a prime opportunity to add more ticks in the winning column and climb a few spots in the standings.
“Our house, in the middle of BC!” This is a chant that the Timbers absolutely love to sing loudly and proudly when visiting BC Place. And they do it for good reason. The Portland Timbers are the definition of an awkward guest.
The Whitecaps have recorded 1 win, 3 losses, and 2 draws when facing the Timbers in BC Place. Far from a successful record.
The ‘Caps have a great opportunity to earn a result against a hated rival. A good result would be equivalent to receiving an oxygen tank in the standings, the quest for the Cascadia Cup and bragging rights amongst supporters.