There are just a handful of teams the Vancouver Whitecaps look down upon in the MLS Western Conference standings. One of them is Sporting Kansas City, who they face on the road Saturday afternoon.
On Wednesday, the Whitecaps were held off the score sheet for the fifth time this season, getting blanked 1-0 at home by Atlanta United. While the score may have been close, the game itself was far from it. The Whitecaps were out-shot 17-7 and if it not for the goalkeeping efforts of Maxime Crepeau, the score-line could have looked much worse.
“This is a second [straight] game where I saw the ball a little more than usual,” Crepeau told reporters after the match at BC Place. “In the first half, I didn’t have much to do. In the second half, on the two transition actions, I had to respond to their attacks to keep the team in the game.”
His response may have been the best of his professional career. In a span of ten seconds, the 25-year-old from Montreal made a series of highlight-reel stops off Hector Villabla, Eric Remedi, and Pity Martinez.
“I think that was the greatest sequence from a goalkeeper that I’ve ever been a part of on a team,” defender Jake Nerwinski admitted afterwards. “I was just in awe standing there watching it happen. I wish I could have helped out, but he had it covered.”
Coach Marc Dos Santos added: “Max is a keeper that has kept us in games. He is an important player in this team and that’s why he’s with the Vancouver Whitecaps.”
The only time Crepeau was beat in the match came in the 29th minute when Atlanta’s leading scorer Josef Martinez drilled home a penalty kick. It marked the seventh time this season Vancouver conceded a goal from the spot. They gave up nine goals against on PKs all of last season.
“It’s way too many and it’s concerning,” Dos Santos stressed. “Many [fouls] we have given away are clumsy. I’m going to think about how to address it.”
The Whitecaps enter the weekend with 12 points, just one below the playoff bar in the Western Conference. However, they have three teams behind them who are within two points, including Sporting Kansas City who are winless in their last six matches.
“They’re having a difficult time with a lot of injuries,” midfielder Felipe said of Saturday’s opponents. “If we do our job, we know we can win anywhere in this league. If we go to Kansas City with the right mentality, I think we’ll be able to get points.”
Last season, Vancouver was embarrassed in both meetings with Kansas City, including a 6-0 blowout loss at Children’s Mercy Park. Scotland international Johnny Russel had a hat trick in the victory against the Whitecaps, who had both Yordy Reyna and Efrain Juarez red carded.
“Kansas City is always a tough place to play,” Nerwinsk said. “I’ve found it one of the hardest places to play since I’ve come to the league.
“We know they’re struggling with injuries and with the form we’ve been in, I think we should be able to take advantage of that.”
NOTES & TIDBITS
The Whitecaps are 3-8-3 in their previous meetings with Sporting. The ‘Caps have also managed just one road win in MLS action in Kansas City, a 1-0 result September 30, 2017.
Despite their injury woes, scoring has not been an issue for Kansas City, who are fourth in MLS with an average of 1.9 goals per game. They have also averaged three goals a game at home, which is tops in the league.
Erik Hurtado will miss his first chance to face his former team after being traded to Kansas City in the off-season. Sidelined with a knee injury, Hurtado appeared in 105 MLS matches for Vancouver over the last six seasons.