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Inside Story: Three Questions to the Caps

Ian Jones of ‘Eighty-six For Ever’ provides perspective from the other side.

Soccer: CONCACAF Gold Cup-Haiti at Canada
Maxime Crepeau has been Whitecaps’ top performer this season.
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Ian Jones, Writer at‘s sister site Eighty-Six Forever has provided some insight into the goings on at Vancouver Whitecaps and what we might expect to see in this evening’s match.

1) The Whitecaps are set to miss out on Play-offs, and possibly finish bottom of the pile in the West. What will this mean for Marc Dos Santos? Will he be retained, and how do the fans see his position?

The fanbase knew that Marc Dos Santos would be inheriting a club broken by the 2018 mid-season firing of Carl Robinson and the apathetic lockerroom it created, resulting in a mass roster cull. Expectations for 2019 were ever-so-slightly cautiously optimistic, as a rebuild was obvious and inevitable. As long as Dos Santos could see out the season with something to build upon, the fans would know that progress was being made.

But with few exceptions, including an amazing goaltender (who we’ll discuss in a moment) and a defense whose GA Total belies its overall quality, the season has been a certifiable mess. It’s possible that this feeling is more due to a run of recent poor results, a five-game losing streak peppered with blowout losses, not to mention two embarrassing efforts against the San Jose Earthquakes, but if the club continues in this manner who’s to say if a scapegoat won’t be found in Marc Dos Santos.

Obviously, it would not be prudent to concede to a rebuild all over again, particularly when it was widely accepted that the club would struggle in 2019. But worth considering is the recent shakeup in upper management: the relegation of former-President Bobby Lenarduzzi to Team Liason, as well as the effort to develop a proper scouting department with the commitment to eventually hire a Sporting Director, to oversee “the technical direction of the club.” I mean, variations of this have been promised since the club joined MLS, but never as a result of midseason turmoil. To me, that’s a small acceptance by management that their team building processes have been extraordinarily poor.

The club’s recent performance has the fanbase more on edge than I’ve ever seen, but I would suspect that Marc Dos Santos will still be coaching the Whitecaps in 2020.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-San Francisco Deltas at San Jose Earthquakes
Been a tough and transitional year, but Marc Dos Santos is expected to survive at the helm for Whitecaps into 2020.
John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

2) A player with previous IMFC connections appears to be playing well, or at least getting plenty of activity. How impressive (or otherwise) has Max Crepeau been?

Without question, Max Crepeau has been the best player to see the pitch for the Whitecaps this season. I’m sure he’s made mistakes at some point, but in terms of performance, they’ve been overshadowed by both the number of shots he’s faced and the quality he’s exuded in stopping them.

The best example I can give is also the most recent and well-known at this point: the performance Crepeau gave last Saturday in San Jose, where he set the new MLS record for saves in a match with 16. Granted, the ten players in front of Crepeau weren’t doing him any favours, allowing 19 shots on target and 43(!) attempts on net overall. Those numbersaren’t all that surprising considering the Whitecaps only held 25% of the possession, but without Crepeau, the scoreline would have been 10-1 rather than 3-1.

But with Crepeau, it hasn’t just been the number of saves, but their quality as well. Look at this sequence from earlier in the season against Eastern Conference-leaders Atlanta United FC and try to tell me that wasn’t some of the best positioning and reactionary saves you’ve ever seen.

Well, you’ve probably seen better, but the point remains valid: if it wasn’t for Max Crepeau the Whitecaps’ goal difference would easily be double the -20 it currently sits at.

3) VWFC are about as good on the road at IMFC, that’s not very good. How will they line-up regards team formation and who are the danger men IMFC need look out for?

It’s sometimes hard to predict a lineup and its resulting formation during a short match week, as the Whitecaps return home to host New York City FC on Saturday, but there’s a small part of me that expects a 4-3-2-1 shape to be used for the fifth match in a row. After all, it generated decent results, with wins against Cincinnati and D.C. United as well as a spirited away loss to Portland. But the formation used in the aforementioned 43-shot, 19-shot on target embarrassment in San Jose?

Yeah, that was the same 4-3-2-1 formation, so those plans could very well be in the trash.
Dos Santos has occasionally relied on three defenders during away matches this season, and if he does again on Wednesday it’s possible that a portion of the attack will originate with runs from our DP wingback, Ali Adnan. And yet, I have a feeling we’ll see something similar to the 4-3-2-1, in that the Whitecaps will continue with a lone striker of some kind. Whether Dos Santos makes a minor change to the formation or a massive one, I’d bet the main threat to IMFC will be Yordy Reyna.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Orlando City SC
Yordy Reyna (left) could prove a handful this evening for Montreal Impact.
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

If we’re to see as lively a performance Wednesday night as Reyna had against D.C., be ready for a controlled touch, lots of movement to open spaces, and a willingness to dribble at players up the pitch. That match against D.C. was one of the liveliest Reyna has had all season, and if he’s got the energy for it, he could give the IMFC backline fits all night.