VANCOUVER, BC – As Vancouver Whitecaps FC head coach Marc Dos Santos said this week, “with every challenge comes a huge opportunity.”
And the next challenge in front of his group is a big one.
Following the international break, the ‘Caps host bitter-rivals Seattle Sounders FC next Saturday at BC Place (7 p.m. PT kickoff on TSN1 and TSN 1040 radio – tickets still available). For many Whitecaps FC players, and all the coaches, it will be their first experience being a part of a Cascadia derby. And this one so happens to be against the top team in MLS after three matches.
“I’m very aware as a coach how important it is when we play teams like Seattle and Portland,” Dos Santos said. “Even if it’s tough for a Vancouver fan or coach to say that, today Seattle is in the top three teams in MLS at the moment … For us to play Seattle in a moment that we have three losses and they have three wins, it’s very exciting and a huge challenge.”
At the same time, Dos Santos said he isn’t in “Seattle mode” just yet.
The ‘Caps have a much smaller group in training this week with six players away on international duty and a few on the injured list, including Andy Rose who suffered a concussion and facial fracture against Houston on the weekend. Recently-acquired left back Ali Adnan is also waiting for his work visas to be processed and has yet to join the group.
“In 'la la land' it would be incredible because he would be here and he would be ready to train and ready for the week before Seattle,” Dos Santos said. “But this is the real world and the real world is that he’s not here yet. We’re still waiting for the green light to know when he’s going to fly.”
With so many players missing, Dos Santos said it’s difficult to “accomplish any type of growth tactically as a team,” so the focus this week has very much been working with players individually.
“You’re focusing on the 10 players you have here,” Dos Santos said on Tuesday. “We have work for those 10 players, including individual film for them to become better.”
One area where the ‘Caps are looking to become better, according to Felipe, is in the final third. They scored their first goal from open play last weekend against Houston Dynamo, through a dazzling counter-attack from Lass Bangoura, and now Felipe said the team needs to start trying to break down opponents through their build-up play in advanced areas.
That, he said, will only help create more space and opportunities for the likes of Bangoura, Lucas Venuto, Yordy Reyna, and of course striker Fredy Montero. Currently, midfielder Inbeom Hwang leads the team with eight chances created and nine shot attempts, which speaks to the Korean’s strong start but also illustrates the need to get Vancouver’s wingers and forwards more involved.
“All of our offensive players, including myself playing in a more advanced position, I think we need to create a little bit more and be sharper in the final third, and be able to create more numbers up the field,” he said. “When we start to hold the ball more in their half, we’re going to be able to create more possession in their half, which creates an overload of numbers against their team.”
“I think that’s going to be the key for us to get more players around Fredy, create more numbers, and isolate our wide guys that have a lot of speed and a lot of quality.”
Tactically, Felipe said the team is clear in how they want to play. Now it’s just a matter of making the right decisions on the pitch, which can sometimes be the simple pass to maintain possession or change the point of attack, and continuing to grow in their identity.
“It’s a frustrating start for all of us, because we want to start getting points,” he said. “But next game can’t be a better game to play against our rivals and get three points at home.”