VANCOUVER – Derby matches are some of the most anticipated on the Major League Soccer calendar.
Considering the Vancouver Whitecaps are still looking for their first points of the season, Saturday’s home game against the Seattle Sounders gets magnified even more.
For the first time as a MLS club, the Whitecaps are winless through their opening three matches. Prior to recent the international break, Vancouver dropped a 3-2 decision against Houston Dynamo.
Having scored just four times, Vancouver prepares to host a Cascadia Cup match against a Seattle sides that is 3-0-0 and leads the league with 10 goals.
“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,” coach Marc Dos Santos said earlier this week. “There are nine teams in MLS between zero and two points. We’re working every day to find solutions.”
Yes, it is early in the season to push the panic button, but through three matches, Vancouver forwards and midfielders have combined for just seven shots on target. And yes, that includes the penalty kick converted by Freddy Montero in Houston. Lass Bangoura also scored against the Dynamo, which is the only goal Vancouver has from open play.
“It’s a frustrating start for all of us, because we want to start getting points,” midfielder Felipe offered. “But next game can’t be a better game to play against our rivals and get three points at home.”
In order to get on track, the Whitecaps need more production from players expected to produce. In-Beom Hwang has created many chances, leading the club with nine shots. Having played a full 90 minutes in all three games, Hwang returns to Vancouver after playing two friendlies for South Korea this past week.
Also returning from international duty is fellow midfielder Yordy Reyna, who appeared in two matches for Peru. For a player who had six goals and a club-high 11 assists last season, Reyna has been very quiet, having collected just one assist and contributed one shot on goal.
While offence will be required to win, better defensive play is equally important for the Whitecaps.
Iraq-international Ali Adnan has arrived in Vancouver after signing with the club earlier this month. The 25-year-old left back comes to MLS on loan until the end June after having played nearly 70 games in Italy’s Serie A. His experience in one of Europe’s top leagues can only help Vancouver in a position that needs improvement.
“Many top players are coming to MLS and I’m sure I’ll like the league,” said Adnan, who could debit on Saturday.
“I hope I do well. I want to help the team and the team is helping me in this moment.”
NOTES & TIDBITS
Saturday marks the 13th MLS meeting between the Whitecaps and Sounders in Vancouver. The Whitecaps are 3-5-4 at home against the Sounders. In Seattle’s lone visit to BC Place last year, Raul Ruidiaz had both goals in a 2-1 win, giving them the 2018 Cascadia Cup.
Seattle is one win away from matching a league record for consecutive regular season wins in the post-shootout era. The record is nine, which the Sounders set the last time they faced the Whitecaps on Sept. 15, 2018.