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Goal-starved Vancouver Whitecaps visit in-crisis Colorado Rapids

Apr 17, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Whitecaps defender Doneil Henry (2) passes the ball against the Los Angeles FC during the first half at BC Place. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 17, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Whitecaps defender Doneil Henry (2) passes the ball against the Los Angeles FC during the first half at BC Place. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

The Vancouver Whitecaps are back on the road after last Saturday’s 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union at BC Place. Up next is a trip to Commerce City, Colo., where the Caps will face the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park at 9 p.m. ET.

The clash will see the two worst teams in the Western Conference go against one another. The Colorado Rapids reacted to their 0-2-7 start to the season Wednesday by firing head coach Anthony Hudson

“We appreciate Anthony’s commitment to the Rapids organization during his time with the club,” Pádraig Smith, executive vice president and general manager, said in the statement. “This is a pivotal period in the development of our team, and it’s in the club’s best interest to make a change now. We still have a lot of season left, and we look forward to getting back on track.”

The move came after Hudson had been critical toward the Colorado Rapids’ recruitment strategy. 

“We come to a place where [there’s] a team full of superstars and big-money players and a massive, massive gap in class,” Hudson told the Denver Post following Colorado’s 1-0 defeat to Atlanta United. “We are fighting down at the bottom with a bottom group of players, and we have to find a way to pick up a result.

“Today was just another example of the real gulf in class. If this was a promotion-and-relegation league, we’d have been relegated by now.”

Words that also reflect the current status of the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Caps have a bad start under new head coach Marc Dos Santos with just one win in the first nine games.

Thankfully, for the Caps, there is no promotion and relegation in MLS. And on Saturday against Philadelphia, the Caps showed real signs of progress. For the first time this season, the Whitecaps had the majority of possession and also managed to transition the ball well from the defense to the attacking third

Although the Whitecaps managed to carry possession into the attacking third, the Caps’ biggest problem against Philadelphia once again was goalscoring. The Whitecaps have scored just seven goals in nine games, the fewest among all Western Conference teams. 

Against the Union, Dos Santos opted to bench both strikers Fredy Montero and Joaquín Ardaiz to start the match. Instead, Yordy Reyna started the game in the No. 9 role. The Peruvian did not score, but looked dangerous and going forward appeared to have been the solution for the Whitecaps’ problems to find a consistent striker. 

Reyna, however, suffered an injury in the match and had to be subbed off.

“He did everything right apart from getting a goal that he deserved,” Dos Santos said Tuesday before confirming Reyna would be out for the foreseeable future. “No it doesn’t look good. We are talking about this month, that is seven games we are not sure he can participate in them. This is a tough blow for us, but we won’t know until the end of the week, when the MRI results come back, how bad it is — but it is not encouraging.”

Without Reyna, the Whitecaps need to find a goalscoring spark.

“We can’t afford luxury players,” Dos Santos said about his two other strikers, Montero and Ardaiz, indirectly criticizing the workrate of the two strikers. 

The Whitecaps are open to adding another attacking piece before the transfer window closes for MLS clubs May 7.

A new attacking player, however, will not be available Friday against Colorado. The current squad will have to get the job done against a struggling Colorado side that will look to regroup under interim head coach Conor Casey.

Judging from training this week, the Caps likely will go with a 4-3-3 with Lucas Venuto, Montero and Lass Bangoura forming the attacking trident up top. 

Meanwhile, defender Doneil Henry, who made the MLS team of the week following his performance against Philadelphia, was straightforward in what the Whitecaps need to do against Colorado.

“Win,” he answered. “Defending well and scoring goals. It is as simple as that.”

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