Do or die is a common phrase in sports and that is what exactly the situation the Vancouver Whitecaps are in right now.
After falling 5-2 to LAFC in Los Angeles last Saturday, the Whitecaps have a chance to even the series on Wednesday. As criticized as the new MLS Cup Playoffs format is, the best thing about is that the Whitecaps will play game two in the friendly confines of BC Place.
Defending set pieces
The Whitecaps let in four set-piece goals and three of them were corner kicks. As this author mentioned a few days ago, the zonal marking system won’t be changed, it just needs to be executed better.
That is what the Whitecaps have been working on and will continue to work on in training leading up to Sunday’s playoff game.
“The first thing in order to be better at something, is to be better at the origin of something,” said Sartini during his weekly media availability at the National Soccer Development Centre at UBC on Wednesday. “So if you score 12 corners in a game, unfortunately, the odds of conceding one goal….are high. The main thing first is to be better defending especially in the middle block in order to not make mistakes too much in the box and not concede too many set plays.”
“We’ll try to be better,” he added. ” We worked, we analyzed, did video sessions and luckily the schedule created this extra day of training since we are playing Sunday instead of Saturday. So we’ll have even more time to work on it.”
Ending the meme with structure
The Whitecaps played well in the first half in LA last week. Brian White and Sam Adekugbe got on the scoresheet and it looked like it would be a high-scoring, barn burner of a game. We all know what happened next.
“Last week, we had this idea that this was the joker game, trying to win the game,” said Sartini on the tactical approach to game two. “It was more of aggressiveness and restlessness than structure. This week is the other way around. We need to be very structured in order to limit them because if we do this with the quality we have, I think we have a good chance to win.”
Sartini joked about his 0-0-2 record in the playoffs when asked what he has learned from coaching in the playoffs in 2021 and last week.
“Hopefully to win one playoff game!” he said with a laugh. “At the moment my record in the playoffs is not good, I’m a better regular season coach I would say and I created a meme of myself! But what we learned is that it is pretty obvious: you pay immediately when you make mistakes in the playoffs. By definition, the playoffs is playing against the best teams in the league and you can’t allow mistakes because their best players will score.
But all memes die at one point (There are a few exceptions like the Drake Hotline Bling meme) and Sartini and the Whitecaps want to kill the meme of having one playoff win in their 13 MLS seasons.
“The main thing, the same can be said with set plays, is [that] we really need to be really good and concentrate on the things we need to do well,” he said. “If we do that, I think we’ll have a lot of chances to win and to make the meme go away.”
Whitecaps will have upper bowl open
On Wednesday morning, the Whitecaps announced they will open the upper bowl at BC Place for Sunday’s clash with LAFC.
This is a great achievement by the club and the fans. Cue Ode To Joy.
As of 12:41 pm Pacific time on Wednesday, this was the amount of tickets the Whitecaps sold according to Sporting Director and CEO Axel Schuster. It looks like the lower bowl is nearly full which is a good sign.
At the time of this writing, Ticketmaster has released upper bowl tickets on their website.
Schuster was asked about the early start time (4:30 p.m.) and if more of those could be implemented next season. He didn’t think it was the right time to discuss that but talked about Sunday’s early start.
“For the playoffs, clubs have the chance to set times,” said Schuster on Wednesday. “I think it will definitely give us a good picture of the impact of that. For example, it will prove our arguments that it will impact ticket sales to groups, youth soccer groups and families. Then we will see the solution for all partners at the table and I have always said we’ll continue to work on that. We hear our audience, we have seen our internal surveys and for that reason, we selected this time…we have pushed up for it and now fill up the upper bowl because we’ll have more of that strong argument for another kickoff time in the future.”
So far the early kickoff time is working as it looks like it will be a packed house at BC Place. But the Whitecaps will need to make sure they get the fans’ money’s worth with a win.