The Vancouver Whitecaps long road trip is almost over.
Portland, Chicago, New York City, Toronto, Houston and Sandy Utah are in the rear view mirror. The final stop is Commerce City Colorado to play the lowly Colorado Rapids.
This was a season defining road trip and the Whitecaps have a 3-2-1 record and 10 points out of a possible 18. That isn’t bad at all.
After the win in Toronto, things looked great. But a lot could change in a week as the Whitecaps lost 4-1 to the Houston Dynamo and let a first half slip away for a 2-1 loss against Real Salt Lake.
But Vancouver is looking to end the trip on a high note in the mile high state. This game was supossed to take place on June 21 but it was postponed due to hail, tornadoes and flash floods. A few days later, the Whitecaps got their first road win of the season, a statement 3-2 win over defending MLS Cup Champions LAFC.
The Rapids have been bad
The Rapids have been flowing in the wrong direction. They are tied with Toronto FC for the worst team in MLS with 22 points. While FC Cincinatti is running away with the Supporters Shield, the Wooden Spoon race is down to Colorado and Toronto.
Rapids fans are fed up and rightfully so. Just over a week ago, in their game 2-1 win over the New England Revolution. (who have been an off the pitch mess, but that’s another story.) Rapids fans protested against the Kroenke ownership group walking out and leaving these banners.
Dick’s Sporting Goods park has not been a fortress. The Rapids have are the worst home team in MLS with a 2-7-5 record.
A lot of things have gone wrong for the Rapids.
They have already been eliminated from playoff contention and fired head coach Robin Fraser earlier this month. Assistant coach Chris Little is the interim head coach.
Despite the Rapids being last, Whitecaps know it won’t be easy
The Rapids have been a bad team but they have been starting to pick it up lately. In their last game, they lost 3-2 to the Portland Timbers but they came back from a 2-0 deficit to make it 2-2 before halftime. But they are still last in goals scored in MLS.
Under Fraser, the Rapids played a defensive game. The Whitecaps saw that on April 29 when these teams last met in a 0-0 draw. In that game, Vancouver found it hard to breach the Rapids backline that consisted of Lalas Abubakar, Andreas Maxsø and Danny Wilson. Goalkeeper William Yarbrough stopped all five shots he faced.
In that game, it could have been worse. But Yohei Takaoka managed to stop a late penalty kick from Diego Rubio.
Under Little, it looks like the Rapids are going with a more attacking approach as they have scored five goals in the three games after Fraser was fired. In the five games (in MLS play) before that, they scored none.
“We enjoyed last time actually,”said Sartini on the game in Colorado being postponed last June after Tuesday morning’s training session. “I think it was a big part of our time building, the fact that we were all together. To be honest, our road trip changed after the waiting, waiting and waiting. We won in LA and got good results after that. So I think it was an accident that helped us and cemented the group.”
“It’s not a game against an Eastern Conference opponent but it feels like a game against an Eastern Conference opponent,” he said on Wednesday’s game in Commerce City. “They are out of the playoffs, so it’s not ‘Ok, if we lose maybe we can tie.’ No, no, let’s go and try and win. That’s the idea for tomorrow.”
Sartini also thinks the Rapids will be a tough opponent despite them being tied for the worst team in MLS.
“Every game is extrememly hard in MLS,,” he said. “If we don’t go there at 100%, we’re not going to make a result…When you play a team that is in a situation like Colorado they’re out of the playoffs, with an interim coach, I think every player wants to shine.”
“We can’t be complacent,” Sartini also said. “The objective is there, we know what’s there and the fact that we lost the last two games…We need to be there and show everyone that we are playing for something enormous. Getting into the top four of the (Western Conference) playoffs would be a like a treble after the Canadian Championship and the Cascadia Cup.I don’t think we need an extra motivation.”
“We just focused on getting the win,” said midfielder/fullback Ali Ahmed. “You see the standings and how tight they are in the West. We’re going in like it’s the last game of our lives…three points, like I always say. We just got to get that win on Wednesday.”
Ahmed knows the game is as important as it would be against a top team
“They are a team that has nothing to lose but those ones are pretty dangerous,” he said. “If we take one foot off, it will come back to bite us. We can’t do that. We are preparing like if we are playing a top team. Whether they are first place or last place, it’s business as usual.”
“It’s a massive opportunity to get three away points to end the road trip,” said Junior Hoilett.” I think we just have to knuckle down and work hard and show our talent.”
Kickoff is at 6:30 pm Pacific.