Welcome, old familiar foe.

The Vancouver Whitecaps, in a quick turnaround from their midweek Canadian Championship match, head to Los Angeles to take on LAFC, an opponent they faced several times last season in a handful of different competitions.

The two clubs met a total of six times in 2023, two matches in the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals and four matches in MLS, including two in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs.

It was a tough time for Vancouver as their record over those six matches was 1W-1D-4L.

LAFC finished the 2023 MLS season in third place in the Western Conference and made it all the way to the MLS Cup Final against the Columbus Crew before losing that match 2-1.

But for all of their success last year, it’s been a bit of a difficult road for LAFC. They have a 4W-3D-4L record, which puts them in seventh in the West.

Justin Ruderman of SBI Soccer called the season “a tale of home and away.”

“At home, they’re unbeaten and the best team in the West,” he said. “But away, they have one point the whole season and are bottom of the West.”

The Whitecaps are three points ahead of LAFC in the Western Conference standings and have a game in hand.

A transition year for LAFC?

Big moves were made in the offseason for MLS, and LAFC was at the forefront of those. Perhaps one of the more notable changes anywhere in the league was what the California club did in goal.

Former Whitecaps goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau joined LAFC for the 2022 MLS season and helped lead the club to their first-ever MLS Cup. But after a horrible injury in the 2022 MLS Cup Final sidelined him for over half of the 2023 MLS season, he found himself on the outs and expendable.

The signing of Hugo Lloris as a free agent meant that Crépeau had to leave.

“Lloris in goal has been bad according to the stats, but I think that’s a bit harsh personally,” Ruderman said. “His distribution is obviously great though.”

LAFC have also spent heavily to bring in Omar Campos from Mexican club Santos Laguna and Mario González from SC Braga from Portugal’s Primeira Liga.

However, Campos, the most expensive signing of the off-season, has struggled lately for game time.

“Campos was signed for $5 million [US] and just kind of fell out of the starting lineup after a couple poor defensive performances and a small injury. [But] he’s so good going forward and was the most dangerous player yesterday in [Lamar Hunt U.S.] Open Cup so we’ll see,” Ruderman said.

Instead, Ryan Hollingshead, a player who always seems to find a way onto the scoresheet against the Whitecaps, has switched from right to left, taking the left-back position as his own.

French attacker Olivier Giroud will also join the club from AC Milan on July 18.

But for all their spending, LAFC has struggled in their first 11 matches this season. In particular, they have allowed 19 goals against, a stat only shared with clubs that are below the playoff line in the West.

They were also effectively handled in their last MLS match, an away game to San Jose Earthquakes in a 3-1 loss.

LAFC sits within the odd placement of being a counterattacking team that likes to hold possession. Especially at home, their possession stats go up even higher, as a counterattacking unit it also suggests they will hold the ball a slow play down as they look for outlets to activate Denis Bouanga.

Kickoff is Saturday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m. at BMO Stadium.