Whitecaps host Rapids looking to extend unbeaten run in MLS

·3 min read

VANCOUVER — After a week off to reflect on their season so far, the Vancouver Whitecaps take on the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.

Vancouver (2-2-4) comes into the match looking for a win after CONCACAF Champions League heartbreak to Los Angeles FC and a regular-season draw with Austin FC. The Canadian club has struggled to find wins in the early part of the Major League Soccer season.

“We had the possibility to rest a little,” said head coach Vanni Sartini about the bye week. “I think we’re doing well in preparing for this game. We’re working on what we’re trying to do in our principles (of how we play).”

Midfielder Julian Gressel, who was called up to the U.S. national team squad during the break, said his team has done a good job of limiting opposition teams’ chances.

“I think the last three games have put us in a pretty good spot,” he said. “At home, we’re trying to be strong. We’re trying to be a good home team.”

Gressel leads the team with five assists in all competitions, including four in MLS play which leaves him one behind league-leaders Thiago Almada and Léo Chú.

Gressel made his U.S. debut on Jan. 25 in a friendly against Serbia, earning his first international assist in his first start.

The Rapids (1-3-5) sit two points back of the Whitecaps and come in after two straight draws in league play.

Colorado’s last win came April 8 in a match against Sporting Kansas City, where the Rapids won 1-0.

But Sartini refused to downplay the abilities of Vancouver's opponent.

“They’re actually, in my opinion, playing really well when they have the ball,” he said, adding that Vancouver needs to ensure that the squad maintains its structure when defending.

Colorado and the Seattle Sounders announced a deal on Tuesday that midfielder Danny Leyva would be loaned to the Rapids for the remainder of the 2023 season.

Vancouver also announced a transfer earlier this week, with winger Cristian Dajome heading to D.C. United in exchange for up to US$550,000 in general allocation money.

“I think it was a deal that first of all was beneficial to every party,” said Whitecaps sporting director and Chief Executive Officer Axel Schuster. “We have seen, last weekend, how many very good offensive options we have in our club that haven’t played that much this season.”

Schuster cited longtime Whitecaps veteran Russell Tiebert as well as off-season signings as reasons for why Dajome’s departure made sense to the club.

Dajome scored 15 goals and recorded 13 assists in his 91 regular season appearances with Vancouver.

BACK HOME: The Whitecaps will be looking to extend their six-match unbeaten run in MLS play against a Rapids side that is undefeated in five straight MLS matches. In the previous meeting at BC Place last August, Vancouver claimed a 2-1 victory thanks to two goals from Ryan Gauld.

KEEPING IT CLEAN: Heading into Matchday 10, the 'Caps have kept three consecutive clean sheets and have not allowed a goal in the last 320 minutes of league play, marking the fourth-longest shutout streak in the league so far this season.

SQUAD DEPTH: Head coach Vanni Sartini has had to rely on his squad's depth through the first 12 matches of the season across all competitions, with 24 players making at least one appearance in that span.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2023.

Nick Wells, The Canadian Press