Vancouver Whitecaps FC are set to host their second home match of the season this Saturday, April 2 as they face Western Conference advisaries Sporting Kansas City at BC Place, with kickoff at 5 p.m. PT (pre-game at 4 p.m. PT on AM730).
The match will mark the first time the two sides meet since their MLS Cup Playoffs encounter last November, as SKC prevailed with a 3-1 win.
However, the 'Caps claimed a 2-1 victory in the last regular season match-up at BC Place back in October thanks to goals from Ryan Gauld and Russell Teibert.
Flipping the page to 2022, SKC has had several key injuries to start the season and have found it difficult to create as many chances as last season.
In this edition of 'Know thy enemy', we look at the missing pieces for Sporting ahead of Saturday's tilt as well as some areas the 'Caps could look to exploit.
- FLEX PASS: Starting from only $83, select three or more for the 2022 season and enjoy exclusive savings and upgrades
Through their opening five matches of the regular season, SKC have posted a 2W-3L-0D record, with all three of their losses coming on the road.
In addition, they've only scored four goals in those matches and managing one of the lowest expected goals totals in the league with 4.1.
A big part of that has been their injury issues, as both DP striker Alan Pulido and DP midfielder Gadi Kinda are set to miss extended periods of time on the sidelines.
Both players have been key pieces in Sporting's attacking game over the past two seasons, with the pair combining for a total of 25 goals and 20 assists.
New attacking additions Nikolas Vujnovic and Marinos Tzionis have helped replaced the offensive load but both are still looking to settle into the league's style of play.
Despite the injury issues and their new signings still settling in, SKC still possess some danger on the attack in the form of wingers Daniel Salloí and Johnny Russell.
Salloí, who finished as an MVP finalist last season, tallied 16 goals and eight assists in 2021, along with two assists in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Russell enjoyed his most prolific season in MLS as he surpassed his totals from 2018, recording 15 goals and eight assists as well as a goal in the playoffs.
Similar to last year, SKC has faced plenty of problems through the opening five weeks of the 2022 season when teams commit numbers on the attack against their backline and play past their midfield in quick transitions.
In fact, Sporting have given up five goals on the counter attack this season, with three of those coming in their opening match of the season against Atlanta United.
As you can see in all three of Atlanta's goals above, Sporting KC commit too many numbers forward, allowing Atlanta to win the ball back and play the ball quickly in transition to create good opportunities.
It's all done in a very efficient manner by Atlanta, who make smart and quick passes to get into dangerous areas.
Credit also has to go to the movement from their attackers, which causes SKC to panic defensively and create more areas for Atlanta to operate in.
If the 'Caps can win the ball back and get past Sporting KC's midfield in quick fashion, they could find themselves creating plenty of goalscoring chances.
Another area the 'Caps could look to take advantage of on Saturday are set pieces.
At the time of writing, the Blue and White sit tied for third in MLS for completed dead-ball passes that lead to a shot attempt with 11, according to FBref.com.
On the other hand, SKC have the second-least amount of completed dead ball passes that lead to a shot attempt with four and have conceded one goal off a set piece in their previous road match against Colorado Rapids.
Look for the 'Caps to make the most of their set pieces on the offensive and keep their backline stable when defending them.
You can catch the match live this Saturday, April 2 at 5 p.m. on TSN1/4 (TV) and AM730 (Radio), with the radio pre-game show starting at 4 p.m. All times in PT. Tickets are still available at www.whitecapsfc.com/tickets.