Know Thy Enemy: Managing wide play a key factor in 'Caps clash against San Jose


VANCOUVER, BC - Vancouver Whitecaps FC are set to hit the road for their first away match of the 2023 MLS regular season, as they face Western Conference side San Jose Earthquakes this Saturday, March 4 at PayPal Park in San Jose, California. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. PT.

  • Catch all the action live on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV starting with the prematch show starting at 7:10 p.m. PT. The game will also be available on TSN1/4 and AM730, with the radio pre-game show starting at 6:30 p.m. PT

The 'Caps, who put in an impressive display despite dropping their season opener last weekend, will be looking to claim their first points of this young MLS season against a San Jose side that was also unable to get a result on opening day.

The Quakes took an early against Atlanta United FC last weekend, but ultimately succumbed to two stoppage time goals from Argentinian World Cup winner Thiago Almada to give Atlanta a 2-1 victory.

On Saturday, the 'Caps will be looking to ruin the party as San Jose hosts their home opener at PayPal Park.

To get you set for the match, we look at San Jose's players to watch, the importance of managing wide play and capitalizing on set pieces.


Saturday's match will be the 53rd all-time meeting between the 'Caps and San Jose, and the 32nd meeting in MLS play.

The previous meeting took place at PayPal Park last September.

The reverse fixture from last season at BC Place ended in a thrilling 3-3 draw, with Lucas Cavallini, Ryan Raposo and Érik Godoy finding the back of the net for the 'Caps.


There's several San Jose players the 'Caps will need to shut down on Saturday if they are to walk away with three points in California.

First off, preventing Quakes striker Jeremy Ebobisse from getting a sniff at goal will be key, as the former Portland Timbers draft pick is coming off a career-year in 2022 with 17 goals in 34 starts.

Ebobisse also scored San Jose's lone goal against Atlanta last weekend, showing once again his lethal attacking instincts and finishing inside the box.

As shown in the above clip, Ebobisse quietly finds space in the box between Atlanta's centre back and fullback to create an angle for him to receive the ball.

Once he gets on the end of a cross, he's clinical, no matter whether he uses his right foot, left foot or head to finish.

The Blue and White will also need to prevent wingers Cristian Espinoza and Cade Cowell from wreaking havoc out wide, which we'll dissect in more detail in the next section.

In addition, 'Caps fans will recognize a familiar face on the Quakes this Saturday in Whitecaps FC academy product Michael Baldisimo, who made 49 appearances and recorded a goal as well as three assists for the first team after spending six years with the club's Residency program and a further year with Whitecaps FC 2 in the USL.


As mentioned before, Espinoza and Cowell will be threats for San Jose out wide, it's the preferred way for the team to create goalscoring opportunities for Ebobisse up top.

Just like they found efficiency from it last year, it'll be as important in 2023 under newly-appointed head coach Luchi Gonzalez, who's spent time with the U.S. men's national team and FC Dallas during his managerial career.

At Dallas, Gonzalez's side thrived off wide inter-play and being very direct towards goal once the ball got in those areas, thanks to having the likes of Michael Barrios and Jésus Ferreira.

This year, he'll look to operate in a similar fashion by having Espinoza and Cowell at his disposal.

Espinoza, who will look to provide most of the chance creation for his teammates rather than have a go himself, enjoyed a career-year in MLS last season as he recorded seven goals and 14 assists in 34 appearances.

Meanwhile, 19-year-old Cowell has yet to reach his full potential, but provides dangerous dribbling in the final third and is more likely to go towards goal himself rather than provide final product with crosses into the box.

Cowell's most productive season came in 2021, as he recorded five goals and six assists, while he tallied three goals and five assists last year in 15 starts and 31 appearances.

If the 'Caps can manage wide areas on Saturday, and use it to their advantage when Espinoza and Cowell are caught forward, they'll have a good chance at getting a result from PayPal Park.


Last weekend, the Blue and White found their opening goal of the season via Javain Brown's header off a Julian Gressel corner.

Oddly enough, San Jose also conceded two goals last weekend from set piece situations, meaning it could be something the 'Caps could capitalize on this Saturday.

In fact, the 'Caps led the league in corners during the opening week of play and also possess the league's leader in key passes in Ryan Gauld.

Don't miss the 'Caps first road match of the 2023 MLS regular season against San Jose Earthquakes this Saturday, March 4 from PayPal Park in San Jose, California, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. PT. You can catch all the action live on MLS Season Pass, TSN1/4 and AM730, with the radio pre-game show starting at 6:30 p.m. PT.

MLS Season Pass
The 2023 season will see the debut of MLS Season Pass, the unprecedented subscription service from Apple and MLS that will have every match of the regular season, Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs, and Leagues Cup – all in one place and with no blackouts. As an exclusive benefit, Whitecaps FC 2023 Season Members will receive a subscription to MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, as well as significant savings over single match tickets.