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Winless in 7, the Vancouver Whitecaps try to find optimism

Without a win in seven games, the Vancouver Whitecaps appear to be falling apart.

Jul 17, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Revolution forward Gustavo Bou (7) reacts after scoring a goal during the first half against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Gillette Stadium. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

The Vancouver Whitecaps continued their winless streak Wednesday against the New England Revolution. After losing 4-0 to the Revs, the Whitecaps have not won in seven Major League Soccer games. 

“What I want to see is growth from what we have seen in the last two games,” head coach Marc Dos Santos said the day before the loss. “We need to get back to where we were before the international break.” 

Instead of growth, however, the Whitecaps cemented their place at the bottom of the Western Conference.

Defense falling apart

The last time the Vancouver Whitecaps scored was in the fifth minute of their July 6 contest against LAFC. Since then, the Whitecaps have allowed 13 unanswered goals. 

Overall, the Whitecaps have allowed 38 goals this season. Only the Colorado Rapids have allowed more goals (40) in the Western Conference. League-wide, the ‘Caps are third from the bottom when it comes to goals conceded. Their 38 goals against are matched by the New England Revolution, and expansion franchise FC Cincinnati has allowed 45. 

“We need to hit the reset button,” goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau said after the game. “We all need to do an evaluation of ourselves individually to put the bad side away and focus on the good side.”

The bad and the ugly 

Focusing on the good is difficult considering the circumstances. With a 4-10-8 record, just 20 points and a goal differential of minus-16, the Caps are struggling. 

But Crépeau isn’t giving up.

“You know, in this league, three wins in a row and you are back up there,” Crépeau said postgame.

That is an optimistic outlook given the Whitecaps have already played 22 games, two more than the Houston Dynamo, who are just below the playoff cut line in eighth place in the conference with 27 points — seven more than the Whitecaps.

The Dos Santos question

It seems unlikely the Whitecaps will hit the reset button once again and fire head coach Marc Dos Santos so soon. But the ‘Caps coach will have to answer some difficult questions when it comes to this latest stretch. 

Dos Santos brought in 16 new players during the winter transfer window. Some growing pains are expected — the sort of growing pains the ‘Caps experienced throughout the early part of the season — but this latest stretch has revealed some significant weaknesses in the squad composition. 

The Whitecaps struggle in the transition game, moving the ball into the final third and capitalizing from the few chances the team does create. Overall, the ‘Caps are a team that can move the ball sideways but cannot pass or carry through midfield. Vancouver is 19th in dribbles and 22nd in possession (47.6 percent).

As a result, the ‘Caps try to go long and play the sort of hit-and-run tactic popular under former head coach Carl Robinson. But unlike Robinson’s squad, this team lacks a striker that can hold down the ball. Instead, Fredy Montero has to drop deep to collect the ball in the middle third, which further stifles the Whitecaps’ attack. 

Fans knew this rebuild would be a process, but they are getting restless as the losses continue to pile up.

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