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Fresh off an impressive away performance against LAFC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC are back home in beautiful British Columbia getting set for this weekend’s upcoming clash with Western Conference side Minnesota United FC.

The ‘Caps showed plenty of positives last Saturday, including their successful high press, some great overall play from the midfield, and defenders building up attacks out of the back.

In this edition of ‘Film Room’, we look at all the above and how the ‘Caps could use similar tactics to break down the Loons this weekend.

To follow along, open this highlight package in a new window and look for the timestamps throughout the article to find each specific highlight in the video.

FORCING TURNOVERS

Throughout the match, the ‘Caps showed they could go toe-to-toe with one of the league’s best teams.

The most impressive part of the ‘Caps performance was perhaps their ability to force LAFC players into uncharacteristic turnovers by pressing high up the field and looking for the forward pass right after winning possession.

Take the action in the 12th minute - 2:49 timestamp in the highlight package above.

LAFC midfielder Latif Blessing receives a pass in the middle of the park and Michael Baldisimo immediately puts on the pressure to prevent Blessing from moving the ball upfield.

Baldisimo successfully wins the ball back, plays a neat one-two with Brian White and sends Deiber Caicedo out wide into a 1v1 situation on the counter.

Caicedo whips the ball into the area but unfortunately can’t find his Colombian compatriot Cristian Dájome at the back post.

Nevertheless, it’s a great move from the ‘Caps to attempt to create a chance on the counter and to isolate Caicedo 1v1.

The move happens all thanks to the awareness of the ‘Caps to block Blessing’s options and Baldisimo’s quick pressure to win the ball back, as well as the positioning of the ‘Caps’ front three to be ready for a pass from Baldisimo on the transition.

This wasn’t the only occasion where the ‘Caps forced LAFC into a dangerous turnover.

In the 21st minute (4:29 timestamp in the above video), LAFC forward Carlos Vela receives the ball and is forced into quickly releasing the ball due to the heavy, instant ‘Caps pressure on him.

The Mexican international isn’t able to get the ball to Blessing’s feet, allowing ‘Caps midfielder Caio Alexandre to step in and win the ball back. 

Much like Baldisimo, the Brazilian opts to look forward immediately after winning the ball back and plays Caicedo into another 1v1 situation on the counter. 

This time, Caicedo drives a decent low cross into the area but unfortunately for the ‘Caps there aren’t enough runners into the area to pounce on the Colombian’s delivery.

The ‘Caps created another dangerous turnover in the 35th minute off an LAFC throw-in (7:53 timestamp).

Once again, Alexandre presses quick and forces the ball to be laid right into Caicedo’s path, who runs at the LAFC backline and decides to keep the ‘Caps in possession at the top of the LAFC penalty area.

Ultimately, the amount of successive turnovers the ‘Caps forced out of LAFC allowed them to gain the upper hand during the first half and gave plenty of chances to their Colombian duo of Caicedo and Dájome to run at the LAFC backline.

It’s worth noting Caicedo was able to tally five dribbles from the amount of chances he got to run at the LAFC backline on the counter.

If the ‘Caps can continue creating turnovers high up the pitch against Minnesota United FC, expect Caicedo and Dájome to have plenty more areas to operate in on the counter.

MIDFIELD BALANCE

The ‘Caps midfield trio of Caio Alexandre, Michael Baldisimo, and Janio Bikel showed their qualities all night long at Banc of California Stadium.

As mentioned in the previous section, Alexandre and Baldisimo were key in the ‘Caps high press, while Bikel offered plenty of protection for the back four and was even involved in the play which led to the ‘Caps free kick for Dájome’s headed goal in the 38th minute (8:35 timestamp).

The trio also showed off their wide arrange of distribution across the park, sometimes opting for the long switch or sending through balls in behind for the ‘Caps front three to chase onto.

In terms of statistics, Alexandre finished the match with 73% pass success rate, 12 passes into or around the final third, two tackles, two blocks, and two interceptions.

Baldisimo registered 81% pass success rate, eight passes into or around the final third, one key pass, one tackle and one interception, while Bikel tallied 85% pass success rate, 10 passes into or around the final third, four dribbles, one key pass, and three blocks.

Looking ahead to Minnesota, the Loons usually operate in a 4-2-3-1 formation, meaning they’ll be outnumbered defensively in middle of the park with only two midfielders operating to defend attacks from the ‘Caps.

Alexandre will unfortunately miss the match due to yellow card accumulation but if the ‘Caps midfield can build upon their strong performance from last weekend, they’ll be able to get past the Loons’ midfield building up through the middle of the park and preventing the ever-reliable MNUFC playmaker Emanuel Reynoso from creating chances for his side.

DEFENDERS ON THE OFFENSIVE

Throughout the match, the ‘Caps fullback tandem of Cristián Gutiérrez and Javain Brown were heavily active on both sides of the ball.

First and foremost, the pair were excellent defensively, with Brown shutting down Canadian winger Raheem Edwards in the first half while Gutiérrez kept Vela quiet for large portions of the match.

Brown tallied a game-high seven tackles, three clearances, and one interception, while Gutiérrez registered five tackles, a game-high six blocks, a game-high four interceptions, and one clearance.

If you thought those defensive actions sounded impressive, wait ‘til you see the offensive actions from the pair.

Brown and Gutiérrez made sure every time they got the ball at their feet with time and space to move the ball into the final third, which conjured up some pretty nice chances for the ‘Caps.

Take the pass from Brown in just the fifth minute of the match (1:19 timestamp).

The Jamaican youth international makes an incredible, line-breaking pass right into the path of Alexandre, who just narrowly misses out on getting the ball into the area.

It may seem like a simple pass from Brown, but it requires plenty of precision and vision to pull it off.

In the 16th minute, it was Gutiérrez’s turn to play the ball forward (3:45 timestamp).

After evading a couple of LAFC players, Gutiérrez plays a curling ball right into the path of White on the counter with very little cover at the back for LAFC.

The chance eventually develops its way into the box thanks to some neat play from White, who sends it out wide for Dájome to put a cross in which somehow gets directed towards goal, forcing a smart save from LAFC goalkeeper Tómas Romero. 

Again, it may look simple but it’s a difficult skill to perfectly time that ball into White’s path and have the vision to look for the counter instead of keeping possession.

Fast-forward to the ‘Caps’ first goal, Brown picks up the ball in plenty of space , looks forward and lifts a ball towards White, who once again finds Dájome out wide (5:22 timestamp).

Albeit a deflection, the ‘Caps leading goalscorer finds his Colombian counterpart Caicedo at the back post to tap in his third goal of the season.

It all starts from the willingness of Brown to look forward, noticing LAFC don’t have much numbers back and take a risk instead of playing a square ball or keeping possession in the ‘Caps half.

Brown and Gutiérrez will look to continue their fine form when the ‘Caps take on Minnesota United FC this Saturday, July 31 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah for their final match before hosting games at BC Place later in August. You can catch the match live on TSN1 and AM730 at 7 p.m. with the radio pre-game show starting at 6 p.m. All times in PT.

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