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What’s wrong with the Vancouver Whitecaps?

The Vancouver Whitecaps are down bad right now. They’re currently in last place in the Western Conference with eight points from 10 games. What's wrong with Vanni Sartini's team? Let's find out.

2 min read

This question was submitted by Jackie G.

Thanks for the question, Jackie!

The Vancouver Whitecaps are struggling right now. They’re currently in last place in the Western Conference with eight points from 10 games. And they’re second-to-last in the Supporters’ Shield race, averaging 0.8 points per game. The only team averaging fewer points per game is Sporting Kansas City, who lost 7-2 over the weekend.

The Whitecaps are bad. But why are they bad? Let’s talk about it.

First off, Vanni Sartini has been missing some key players for stretches of the season. Ryan Gauld and Brian White have both missed time, while midfielder Caio Alexandre still hasn’t seen the field in MLS this year. Vancouver simply doesn’t have the depth to stay afloat without real contributions from their impact players.

Outside of some of their personnel issues, the Whitecaps are leaking goals defensively. They’re allowing two goals per 90 minutes, which is the second worst total in the league after the San Jose Earthquakes (who are still trying to put the pieces back together after the end of the Matias Almeyda era). Looking at their expected goals numbers, the Whitecaps are allowing the 5th most non-penalty xG per 90 minutes in MLS, according to FBref.

Now, you often expect teams that are down at the bottom of a league table to spend a lot of time defending deep in their own half. It’s a natural response to playing at a talent disadvantage – and most teams that have consistent issues getting results tend to be at a talent disadvantage. With some of their key injuries and absences right now, the Caps are a little low in the talent department. But they’re not bunkering. Instead, they’re high pressing more in the final third per 90 minutes than all but two teams in MLS.

For the neutral, it’s fun that Vancouver try to press! But for Vancouver fans, it’s not nearly as fun. Why? Because they’re really bad at it. According to Second Spectrum, the Whitecaps allow the 2nd most shots after pressing in the final third on a per 90 minute basis. They get pulled apart, overloaded in central midfield, and beaten between the lines. You can see all of that in this clip:

It’ll be way more boring, but it might be time for Vancouver to set up shop in their own defensive third for a while. Or at least until DP midfielder Andres Cubas gets on the field.