Whitecaps photo courtesy Major League Soccer. Also three years old because the Caps do not upload many photos!
To learn about the Vancouver Whitecaps, I caught up with Harjeet Johal, who covers the team from Van City. You can follow her work at @HarJournalist on Twitter and her website.
Tim Sullivan: The Caps’ 1-2 punch of Cavallini and Gauld might be as good as any in the league, and Brian White provides scoring depth. Who are some other attacking players that fans should keep an eye on Saturday?
HarJournalist: Cavallini won’t be playing because of a quad injury, he didn’t travel with the team today. As far as offence goes, White, Gauld, Julian Gressel, and Cristian Dajome are ones to watch. Andrés Cubas has shown that he has the ability to add some offensive firepower of his own from the defensive midfield position. The Caps like to get forward with full backs so it’s more of a sneaky offence in transition that Nashville that will have to watch for.
TS: The Whitecaps made one of the big splashes of the summer window, trading for Julian Gressel from DC United. How does the club see him fitting into the back-five scheme?
HJ: Gressel started at home against Chicago last week and played 45 minutes and he came in off the bench in the second half vs Toronto FC in the Voyageurs Cup final. He’s still settling in and finding chemistry with his teammates. Vancouver views him as one of the top play making wing backs in MLS. He has the potential to whip in crosses to the likes of Cavallini, White, and Gauld when he’s fully acclimated to his new team.
TS: The defense has not generally been good this season. Is it a case of having a weak link or two, or is the backline just now performing up to par as a whole?
HJ: The defence has been a lot better. Seattle, Minnesota and Chicago had a lot of late game success against the Whitecaps when the game opened up more. For the most part the D has kept Vancouver in matches. It’s a big reason why they’ve been able to climb back into the MLS western conference playoff race. While it could be better, the D has improved as the season has gone on.
TS: Goalkeeping hasn’t exactly bailed out the defensive unit like it has in the recent past. Who has stepped up (or not exactly done so, I guess) after the offseason departure of Maxime Crepeau?
HJ: The departure of Max Crepeau left a big whole in net for Vancouver. Initially Thomas Hasal was thought to be the goalkeeper who would take hold of the number 1 spot, but that didn’t happen. The Caps awful start and Hasal’s fractured middle finger on Mother’s Day has meant that Cody Cropper has really had to come in and step up. Cropper The Shot Stopper has now taken over as the number 1 goalkeeper with the Caps. He’s coming back from a nasty injury in Cincinnati. If he starts on Saturday it will be his first MLS game back. Hasal didn’t make the trip he is in health and safety protocols.
TS: It was a huge week for Vancouver, with a Canadian Championship on Tuesday punching a ticket to next year’s CCL. Vanni Sartini mentioned expecting a literal hangover for Wednesday, but is the emotional hangover (or simple fatigue) going to be a factor for this team?
HJ: It could potentially be both. It’s a long flight to Music City and the Caps are still buzzing after hoisting the Voyageurs Cup. They’re missing a few key regular players in Teibert and Cavallini who played on Tuesday. The depth of the team will have to shine through if they’re going to continue their run of earning results on the road.
TS: Overall, Sartini has led his team to much more success than his predecessor. Is there a sense that the team is heading in the right direction in the big picture, even iff the team is below the playoff line right now?
HJ: Yes, the only way is up and that appears where the Whitecaps are headed. They were a powerhouse second half team last season and that helped them earn a playoff spot when Sartini was acting head coach. They’re hoping to use the confidence and boost from winning the Canadian Championship to climb back into the playoffs. There’s still a lot of work to be done but you can’t count them out because that’s when they surprise you.
Thanks again to Har for her insight. Don’t forget to check out her work for all things Whitecaps.