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The Vancouver Preview

Well, it's again been a quiet week for me here on the blog. In case you missed it, I'm working on a post related to team age and how well that translates to team success. Getting the numbers I want for it has proven to be a longer process than I thought it would be. Hopefully it comes out next week.


Charlotte face a must win game this weekend. I mean that sarcastically in some ways, but seriously in others. I am still upset about the loss on Saturday, not because we lost to the 3rd place team in the East who has been on a tear, but because of how we lost. Montréal was always going to be a difficult team to beat, but they shouldn't have been a difficult team to score against--they hadn't kept a clean sheet all year until Saturday. This concerns me moving forward. I've said it basically all year, but this team seriously struggles to create chances. It's why the report of Charlotte trying to buy a Young D.P. who is an attacking midfielder this summer makes sense. Their inability to score against a team that allows everyone to score should absolutely worry fans.


On the surface we seem to have a lot of midfield depth, but when looking at attack-oriented midfielders, we actually don't. I've seen a number of people say that Alcívar and Franco are more holding mids who, at least at their previous clubs, played deeper. Their play this year makes me think this is true. Bronico and Jones clearly are defensive/holding midfielders. Titi was supposed to be our 10 and, while he still may turn this year around, it doesn't look likely at this moment. Ruiz's best position is still up in the air, but he looks like an 8 to me. Bender is really the only midfielder--other than Titi--who looks like a surefire attacking mid.


Back to why this might be a must win. Charlotte's upcoming schedule is tricky, to say the least. After Vancouver, we have our Cup game versus RBNY, which will take place at a middle school field in New Jersey. Why RBNY was allowed to keep their host status after the conflict about their home stadium emerged is beyond me. It feels like you should have to host at your actual home stadium and, if you can't, you forfeit hosting privileges. But what do I know? Then we go across country to Seattle, before coming back across country for another match against RBNY at BoA. Then it's at Columbus, at Montréal, and home to Austin. RBNY is 5th in the East; Montréal, again, is 3rd in the East; and Austin is 1st in the West. Yes, Seattle is struggling in the league this year, but anyone who has been to a Sounders' game will tell you how wild that stadium can get. Coupled with our lack of ability on the road and travel, it's not a game I'm expecting points from. Columbus has also not been great, but again, that's a road game (see: Seattle caveats maybe without the home atmosphere? I've never been to Columbus so can't say).


What that leaves us with is a home match against the worst team so far in the West, Vancouver. If we, as a club, truly have aspirations of making the playoffs, this is a game we need 3 points from.

 

Team

Possession

Shots per game

Shots on target per game

Goals for (xG)

Goals against (xGA)

Points (standing)

WhoScored team rating (SofaScore team rating)

Charlotte FC

53.4%

11.33

4.33

10 (11.7)

15 (16.9)

13 (9th in the East)

6.53 (6.81)

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

41.5%

11.36

2.73

12 (13.7)

21 (16.7)

11 (14th in the West)

6.52 (6.80)

The shots on target per 90 (SoT/90) for Vancouver immediately jumps out. That 2.73/90 is dead last in the league, and by a large margin (Chicago is 2nd to last in the league at 3.08/90). Charlotte is actually 8th in the league with SoT/90, even though they are lower middle for the league in shots per 90 (18th in the league). Meanwhile, Vancouver is just above Charlotte at 17th in the league for shots per 90. To further add confusion, Vancouver have scored more goals in fewer games than Charlotte with a better total xG as well.


Honestly, I'm not completely sure how to interpret the above and following data.

  • Both teams are struggling to create shots, but when they do, Charlotte does significantly better with getting those shots on target, but worse with getting them in the back of the net (which is obviously the more important stat).

  • The tiny number of Vancouver's shots that are on target seem to be going in. They're actually underperforming their xG, which leads one to believe their goals aren't lucky (in fact, they're a little unlucky).

  • To further add confusion, over the past 3 games their xG for each game doesn't necessarily correlate to the goals they actually scored. Against Toronto, they scored one goal on 2.3 xG; against San Jose they score THREE on 1.3 xG; and against Dallas they scored two goals on 1.2 xG.

  • They're 4th in the league in shot distance at 15.7, which helps, as shots closer to the goal are more likely to go in.

  • They're 9th in the league in goals/shot on target (G/SoT) at 0.33 goals/SoT. Charlotte is dead last in the league.

There is something odd going on here, I'm just not sure what it is. My gut tells me they're not lucky in the goals they have scored, but they may be lucky in their ability to create such good goal-scoring chances on so few shots. To be at 1.09 goals per 90 and 0.33 G/SoT on only 2.73 SoT/90 just feels unsustainable.


Also, "fun" fact: Charlotte are dead last in goals/90 at 0.83.

 
Vancouver lineup vs. Toronto, 5/8, via MLS
Vancouver lineup vs. Toronto, 5/8, via MLS

Vancouver play with 3 at the back. MLS does have them in a 4-2-2-2 for one game (against San Jose), however, in every other game they've played with a back 3. The composition of the midfield slightly changes from game to game. In the first game of the season, they came out in a 3-1-4-2. Since that game, they've run either a 3-4-1-2 (6 games) or a 3-4-2-1 (3 games, including the last game against Dallas) with the exception of the aforementioned San Jose match.


Injury/Suspensions

Transfermarkt has only 2 players listed on the injury report, with no suspensions. Those players are Caio Alexandre (midfielder) who is out with a foot issue and Thomas Hasal (GK) who is out with a finger issue.


The MLS Availability Report has Alexandre and Hasal listed as out. Joining them as "out" are Ryan Gauld (midfielder) for health and safety protocols and Charlotte legend Tristan Blackmon (defender) with a knee sprain. As always, it's unclear when the report was last updated, so any of them may become available by Sunday.


As I was reviewing this preview, Vancouver stated that 3 players--goalkeepers Isaac Boehmer and Cody Cropper and midfielder Pedro Vite--are out Sunday due to health and safety protocols. Vancouver have no healthy goalkeepers.

Vancouver lineup vs. San Jose, 5/14, via MLS
Vancouver lineup vs. San Jose, 5/14, via MLS

Attack

Vancouver has 8 players listed as a forward on their site: Lucas Cavallini, Déiber Caicedo, Brian White, Tossing Ricketts, Emiliano Brienza, Russell Teibert, Cristian Dájome, and Kamron Habibullah. Habibullah is loaned out to Pacific FC in the Canadian Premier League. Teibert is listed as a midfielder on FBref, while Dájome is listed as a midfielder/defender. Cavallini is one of Vancouver's DPs.


Brienza and Ricketts haven't really played for the club this year. Brienza is 20 and has only gotten into one game for 3 minutes. Ricketts (34), meanwhile, is a MLS vet but has only gotten into 5 games for a total of 34 minutes this season. He does have 1 goal in those 5 appearances.


Ricketts isn't really a goal-scoring threat, as his best return game in 2017 with Toronto when he had 7. He's in his 4th year with Vancouver and only has 4 goals for them across 43 appearances. He hasn't started a game for Vancouver since 2020, when he started 5 (he only has 11 career starts for them), and he's only played a total of 1,141 minutes across these 4 seasons (12.68 90s). He's basically a little-used bench piece.

Vancouvers lineup vs Dallas, 5/18, via MLS
Vancouvers lineup vs. Dallas, 5/18, via MLS

Cavallini (7 starts, 10 apps), Caicedo (7 starts, 10 apps), White (6 starts, 8 apps), Teibert (11 starts, 11 apps), and Dájome (9 starts, 10 apps) have all played a lot for Vancouver, both this year and last.


Cavallini, White, and Caicedo have been the ones to start up top, for the most part. Anytime they've played with one striker, it's been Cavallini, although as you can see from their Dallas match, Caicedo started as well, just in a little deeper of a position.


Even though Teibert is listed as a forward (winger) on Vancouver's site--which is why I'm talking about him here--he really does appear to be a midfielder. He's never been a goal-scorer with only 4 goals in 228 appearances (all with Vancouver). He does get an assist every once and a while, but it's not consistent. HIs best assist-return was way back in 2013 when he had 7. That is literally half his total for his career, as he's never had more than 3 since. In fact, he had 2 assists in 2014, then went 4 years without getting one. In 2019 he had 3 then went a year without one until last year when he had 2. He reads the game well, as he's in the 89th percentile for interceptions, and he's a solid passer with career percentages of 92.3% with his short passing, 90.2% for his medium passing, and 66.2% for his long passing.


Dájome is a 28 year old Colombian who had a good year last year with 10 goals and 4 assists. It should be noted that 4 of his goals were penalty kicks, so that does flatter his return a bit. Throughout his career, he's been good for just under 4 non-penalty goals per season. Even taking the penalty kicks away from him, last year was a career high in goals for him. He already has a goal and an assist on the year. He's listed as a 2nd striker on Vancouver's site, while, again, FBref has him as a defender/midfielder. Regardless of designation, he has definitely played in an advanced role for Vancouver this year.

Caicedo heatmap, 2021, via SofaScore
Caicedo heatmap, 2021, via SofaScore

Caicedo (22) is a U22 Initiative player for Vancouver and is listed as a winger for Vancouver. This year, he appears to be playing more centrally as a strike partner or behind the striker. As his heatmaps show, he's definitely moved more centrally this year and is mainly staying on the right side of the pitch. He will still drift and get wide, but he's no longer 1) on the left much or 2) hugging the touchline.


He's in his 2nd season with Vancouver having come over from AD Cali in the Colombian league. Caicedo had a really good debut season for Vancouver, getting into 33 games (24 starts) and scoring 5 goals, along with 5 assists. He currently has 2 assists on the season. His ability to feed teammates is a clear strength of his game. He has 18 career assists over 100 appearances. This includes a 3 goal, 8 assist campaign as an 18 year old.

Caicedo heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore
Caicedo heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore

Charlotte are going to need to be prepared for Caicedo's dribbling ability. He's in the 80th percentile for shot-creating actions (SCA) from dribbles, the 87th percentile for dribbles completed, the 86th percentile for successful dribble percentage, and the 81st percentile for players dribbled past. He's also really dangerous from dead-ball situations. He's in the 82nd percentile for shots from free kicks, 84th percentile for SCA's from dead-ball passes, and the 94th percentile for goal-creating actions (GCA) from dead-ball passes. Yes, him taking corners helps these numbers, but the fact is he's really good with them. Also, these percentiles are over the past 365 days in MLS. If you really want to get nervous about this player, go look at his percentiles for just the 2022 season. I will caveat this by saying I don't think looking at just one season's worth of data, especially one that is only a 3rd of the way through, is always the best idea. When doing so, numbers can get really skewed. However, looking at a specific season can help us understand the form of a player. For the 2022 season, Caicedo's percentiles included a massive amount of green, especially with passing, possession, and GCA/SCA. Even his defensive numbers are improving, though. This kid looks to be the real deal and is really dangerous with the ball at his feet.


White and Cavallini are the 2 pure strikers on the team. White came over from RBNY last year. He can score goals, but I wouldn't call him prolific. Last year was by far his best season in the MLS, as he scored 12 goals and had 5 assists in the league. None of his goals were from penalty kicks. Coming into last season, he had a total of 14 goals in MLS: 1 goal in 2018 in 5 games, 8 goals in 19 games in 2019, and 5 goals in 18 games in 2020. He also played the most games he ever has (23 starts, 27 apps) last year, so the increase in production is understandable. He has 2 goals on the year so far.


White is already 26, so it'll be interesting to see how much more growth he has as a player. Is this a guy who just needed a chance and will become a double digit scorer consistently? Or was last year a fluke? He did have 10 goals for Red Bulls II in the USL back in 2018, so I think he might be a scorer, but this year will be telling. Vancouver seems to be the place that was willing to take a chance with giving him a lot of games and he appears to be rewarding them.


His percentiles over the past 365 days for shooting are really good. They're nowhere near as good when only looking at 2022, which, again, is why I warn about reading too much into just 2022 percentiles. There is one exception: Average Shot Distance. His average shot distance is 10.60 yards, which is in the 98th percentile for the past 365 days and the 93rd percentile for 2022. Our CBs are going to have to be really aware of where he is when he gets into the penalty box. This can also be a good thing, though, as you don't necessarily have to worry about him shooting from distance.


Cavallini (29) is in his 3rd season with Vancouver, having come over from Puebla in Liga MX. 2021 wasn't a great year for Cavallini, as he only netted 3 goals in 21 appearances. This is a noticeable difference in return from his career. In almost every year where he has played in at least 20 games, he has scored in double figures. This includes 14 goals in 27 appearances (2014-15) for Fénix in the Uruguayan Primera División, 13 goals in 25 appearances (2017-18) and 11 goals in 33 appearances (2018-19) for Puebla, and 10 total goals in 35 appearances (2019-20) for Vancouver and Puebla. In 2015-16, he only had 7 goals in 25 appearances for Fénix, but for the most part, if he gets playing time, he scores in double figures. He already has 3 goals (2 non-penalty goals) this year, so he may be finding his scoring form again. Finally, while he is a striker, his heatmaps over the past 3 seasons show a player who definitely drops deeper in order to link the attack.


Midfield

Vancouver have 12 midfielders listed on their roster. Two of these, Damiano Pecile and Simon Colyn, are loaned out. Vasco Fry and Andrés Cubas have yet to feature for the club. Alexandre has yet to play this year as he is still recovering from foot surgery. He's a U22 Initiative player who featured in 15 games for Vancouver last year. Ali Ahmed is another young player (21) who has only gotten into one match for 33 total minutes. The remaining midfielders have all featured in at least 4 games: Vite (3 starts, 10 apps), Sebastian Berhalter (6 starts, 9 apps), Gauld (7 starts, 7 apps), Michael Baldisimo (3 starts, 7 apps), Leonard Owusu (2 starts, 4 apps), and Ryan Raposo (5 starts,10 apps). Gauld and Cubas are 2 of Vancouver's DPs. It's a young midfield, as Gauld is the oldest at 26.


Gauld is the big name in the midfield. The Scottish international is in his 2nd season with Vancouver, having come over from the Portuguese Primeira Liga. He began his career in Scotland with Dundee United and, as a 17 year old, had a 6 goal, 6 assist campaign for Dundee. He moved to Sporting CP (one of the big 3 of Portuguese football) the next year, but he was never able to break into the Sporting team. He was loaned to Vitória de Setúbal in 2016-17, making 5 appearances (4 starts). He was then loaned to Aves for the 2017-18 season, getting into 18 games (5 starts). He was next loaned to Hibernian in the Scottish league and Farnese in the 2nd division of Portugal for 2018-19, making 5 appearances and 12 appearances, respectively. He permanently joined Farense in 2019. He only ever made 2 appearances for Sporting.


I think Farense were in the lower Portuguese division, as FBref doesn't have information on his 2019-20 season (they don't have information on the lower divisions of Portugal). Farense was promoted for the first time in years and Gauld made 33 appearances (33 starts) for them. He had 9 goals and 7 assists on the year, but unfortunately it wasn't enough to keep Farense up. It should also be noted that 5 of his 9 goals were penalties. Their relegation precipitated his move to Vancouver, where he made 18 appearances (13 starts) for them last year, scoring 4 goals and getting 5 assists. So far this year he has 1 goal.


Coming up, Gauld was often compared to Messi by the British press, which certainly set him up to fail. Now 26, Gauld really hasn't played a lot of football, at least at the highest level. He had 31 appearances in 2013-14 as a 17 year old, then went the next 6 years never making more than 18 appearances. I imagine he played a lot for Farense when they were in the second division, but I can't find information on how much he actually did. He's been playing a lot over the past few years, but it took until he was 24 for that to happen. He's been productive when he's played, especially when it comes to assists. He also has proven he can chip in the odd goal. He's a good, dangerous passer, who, coupled with Caicedo, could cause all sorts of trouble for Charlotte. We'll see if he's healthy enough to play Sunday.

Raposo heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore
Raposo heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore

Raposo is a young player (23) slowly working his way into Vancouver's setup. A wide player, he has 2 goals on the season so far. More importantly for him, he's already made 5 starts this year, which matches how many he had over the previous two seasons. He did get into 15 games in 2020 and 21 games in 2021, so he's played, but appears to be making a case to be a starter for this team. His percentiles on FBref, especially the attacking ones (passing, shot creation, goal scoring), look outstanding, but they're comparing him to fullbacks. In Vancouver's system, he appears to be playing as a wingback, so it's not an unfair comparison, but just something to note. It appears he can play on either side, as his heatmap has him more on the left, but he's started at least one game (that Dallas game) on the right. His heatmap doesn't necessarily show a defensive minded player, so while he's playing wingback, he's getting and staying up the pitch.


Vite is a 20 year old Ecuadorian who is just starting to play for Vancouver. He came from Independiente in the Ecuadorian league last year, but never made an appearance for Vancouver. There's not a ton of information on him. He had 2 goals and 4 assists for Independiente in 2021, but has yet to get on the scoresheet or provide an assist for Vancouver. When he has played, it looks like he's mostly slotting in at the top of the midfield behind the strikers. (Note: see injury report above. The info about Vite was already written by the time the news broke, so I just kept it in.)


Gregg Berhalter's son is another of young Vancouver midfielders. He's 21 and, like Raposo, appears to be working his way into Vancouver's lineup. He began his career with Columbus in 2020, making 9 appearances (4 starts). He joined Austin on loan for 2021, making 18 appearances (5 starts). He joined Vancouver this season and has made 9 appearances (6 starts). He's never had a goal or an assist in MLS. He's at 578 minutes this year, which is almost as much as he had total last year (658 minutes). He only had 397 minutes for Columbus. As such, I'm hesitant to read too much into his percentiles.


Baldisimo is a 22 year old homegrown player for Vancouver. He made 34 appearances (19 starts) for Vancouver before this year, tallying one goal in 2020. While he's made 7 appearances and 3 starts this year, he's only totaled 263 minutes. In his 3 starts, he only last 45 minutes in 2 of them and 67 in the third. He, like Berhalter, is a defensive midfielder. A real strength of his appears to be his long passing ability. He's a 71.8% long passer for his career, including 72.1% this year, but only got into 1 match for 9 minutes.


Based on his heatmaps and FBref's game logs, it looks like he plays as a defensive midfielder. This explains his lack of goal contribution. He's a fine passer, although he has struggled this year in medium distance passing (80% on the year). This percentage is far below the 91.7% and 91.5% he had the previous two years. Of course, he also only attempted 343 medium passes over those years and he's already at 140, so we'll have to see what his true level is.


The final midfielder is Owusu, who also appears to be a defensive midfielder. The 24 year old Ghanian has played in 44 games (28 starts) over the past 2 seasons. He only has 1 career assist in 2020. He does look like he's able to defend well, as he's in the 87th percentile for dribbles tackled, the 99th percentile for percentage of dribbles tackled, and the 89th percentile for dribbled past (i.e., he doesn't get dribbled past).


The only nailed on starter of this group appears to be Gauld (if he's healthy). Then it looks like Vancouver fill it out with a defensive midfielder (one of Berhalter, Baldisimo, or Owusu). Vite appears to be fighting for his place more with the attackers (e.g., Caicedo), while Raposo is playing as a wingback and is probably fighting for a spot with the defenders we'll talk about below.


Defense

Vancouver have 11 defensive players on their roster, one of whom (Derek Cornelius) is loaned out. Luís Martins and Matteo Campagna have yet to feature for the club this year. Javain Brown (7 starts, 11 apps) and Ranko Veselinović (10 starts, 10 apps) have played in the most games for Vancouver. Jake Nerwinski (8 starts), Blackmon (7 starts), and Cristián Gutiérrez (4 starts) have each gotten into 8 games. Florian Jungwirth (4 starts) and Marcus Godinho (2 starts) have each gotten into 5 games. Finally, Erik Godoy has appeared in 2 games (2 starts).


Blackmon, Jungwirth, Godoy, and Veselinović are all listed as CBs, while Brown, Nerwinski, Gutiérrez, and Godinho are all listed as fullbacks. With that said, in a back 3, fullbacks can often fill in as CBs and that has happened with Vancouver. Brown, for example, has definitely been an all-around defender, playing as a right sided CB, a right back, and a right wingback over the past 3 games.


The only time Veselinović hasn't played was when they went 4 at the back against San Jose. Otherwise, he appears to be the center of the back 3. He's a young defender at only 23, which might explain why they don't trust him yet outside of a back 3. He's played a lot for Vancouver after coming over from the Serbian league. He's made 114 appearances (103 starts) for Vancouver, including 27 appearances last year. That's mighty impressive for a 23 year old. To be honest, nothing jumps out as a huge strength of his when it comes to defending. He's in the 74th percentile for percentage of dribblers tackled and the 70th percentile for clearances, so he's not a pushover, but it's clear he's not a finished product as a defender.


Blackmon is seen as a player that got away from Charlotte, and for good reason. He's a really talented defender with good passing range and some dribbling ability. He's been out injured for a few weeks now (hasn't played since 4/23) so I don't know that he'll be available this weekend.


Godoy is a veteran who has kind of been losing playing time over the past few years. He joined Vancouver from the Argentinian league and made 29 appearances (28 starts) in his first year. He only had 29 appearances (26 starts) for them over the pervious two seasons and, again, he's only gotten into 2 games this year. At 28 he should be entering/in his prime for a CB, but it doesn't appear Vancouver trust him to be a consistent starter. He is a good tackler against players who try to dribble past him (90th percentile for dribblers tackled) and gets a good number of blocks in (2.1/90, 78th percentile), but he struggles elsewhere (e.g., 52nd percentile for tackles in the defense 3rd).


Godinho doesn't play a lot. He only has 9 appearances (3 starts) for Vancouver over the past 2 years, including this one. He came over from the 3rd division of Germany (although he started his career with Toronto in 2015). He's a wingback who likes to get forward and hug the touchline. He's not consistently getting minutes so far this year.


Jungwirth is a veteran, having begun his career in 2009 with Dresden in the German 3rd tier. He joined San Jose at age 28 after 3 seasons with Darmstadt 98 in the Bundesliga. He stayed in San Jose for 5 years, before joining Vancouver last year. In his prime, Jungwirth was starting 25+ games a year; that has been on a steady decline as he has grown older. He's only played in 14 games in each of the previous 2 seasons (25 starts). He appears on pace for similar numbers this year. His biggest strengths are in blocks (99th percentile) and dribblers tackled (88th percentile).


Nerwinski has played his whole career for Vancouver, playing in 25+ games each of the past 4 seasons. He's a fullback who plays as a LCB in Vancouver's system. Looking at his heatmaps over the years is interesting. He actually started his career playing on the right side and stayed there until 2020. Last year, he played on both sides of the pitch, while this year he has transitioned to the left. I imagine he's good with both feet. While he contests a lot of dribbles (84th percentile), he's not as proficient at stopping them as some of his teammates (62nd percentile).


Guitérrez is a 24 year old in his 3rd season with Vancouver. He joined them after starting his career in the Chilean league. He has a growing role in the Vancouver lineup, as he steadily increased his appearances over the years (he had 12 appearances in 2020 and 19 in 2021). He shows a propensity for making assists, as he had 3 last year and has 1 this year. He's never scored a goal. He's mostly going to show up on the left side of the pitch as a wingback.


Brown might be the most interesting of the defenders. The 22 year old played in 25 games (19 starts) last year for Vancouver. He's mostly deployed as a wingback on the right side, although last year he played a bit on the left too (at least according to his heatmaps). He did fill in as a RCB last match, though, so I wonder if Vancouver are at the point where they just want him in the side. He's an active crosser and a strong defender (90+ percentile for tackles, tackles won, tackles in the defensive 3rd). Like a lot of his teammates, he doesn't let people dribble past him (92nd percentile for dribblers tackled). He applies a lot of pressure on the ball when it's in the defensive 3rd (93rd percentile).


A theme that has appeared throughout these defenders is their ability to tackle opponents who attempt to dribble past them. Almost all of these guys can do it well. Charlotte will need to be sharp with their passing in order to have success.


Goalkeeping

Hasal was Vancouver's starting goalkeeper, but hasn't played since the Toronto game with his finger injury. Cropper has come in the past few games in his stead.


Hasal is a young goalkeeper at 22 with good size (6'2"). However, he hasn't exactly been great, even when healthy. He started 8 games in 2020 as a 20 year old and 7 games last year as a 21 year old. For his career, he's allowing almost 2 goals per 90 (1.91), including 1.94 this year. His PSxG+/- also shows a goalkeeper who still has a lot to work on. He's had a negative PSxG+/- in each season of his career. In 2020, it was -2.3; last year it was -1.4; and this year it was -4.0. Listen, he's a young goalie with a young team in front of him; goals were probably always likely. Additionally, he was clearly their starter at the beginning of the year, so they have faith in him and must believe he's ready (Vancouver's SBNation blog certainly thought so).


It should be noted they did trade their starter from last year, Maxime Crépeau, to LAFC over the offseason. He was good. He had a +7.7 PSxG+/- for Vancouver last year in 27 games. He hasn't been as good this year for LAFC (-1.2 PSxG+/-), but he's been much better than Hasal. There is some mystery around why they traded Crépeau, although it was apparently a "personal request" by Crépeau.


(Note: see the injury report on Cropper's availability. The info about Cropper was already written by the time the news broke, so I just kept it in.)

Cropper has filled in well so far. He's only ever had one year as a starter in MLS (2017 with NE). He played a lot with Memphis in the USL (14 starts) in 2021, but aside from that has mostly been a backup. He only got into one game last year with Cincinnati.


This is a big opportunity for the 29 year old, as he is still very young in goalkeeper terms. Unfortunately, there is no PSxG+/- data for his 2017 season with NE. In 2019 he played in 7 games for NE and had a -0.6 PSxG+/-. He had the same number last year in his one game for Cincy. He currently has a +0.8 PSxG+/- in his 3 appearances this season. He did have a 1.79 goals/90 in 2017, but it was much better for Memphis (1.36). Of course, Memphis was the USL and NE is MLS. It's too little data to know exactly what he is, aside from the fact he is a 29 year old career backup. That should lead to goals for Charlotte, but they have shown a surprising ability to not score against mediocre goalkeepers.


Boehmer is the only other GK on the roster and he's in the health and safety protocols too. The 20 year old has only 1 professional game played, last year in the Canadian Premier league for Pacific FC, so him having to start still would not have been great for Vancouver.


Conclusion

Vancouver play a lot of people and I honestly have no idea who will play outside of a healthy Gauld, Brown, Dájome, and Veselinović. Even those guys probably aren't guaranteed. Another opponent with a back 3 seems likely, unless they switch it up like they did against San Jose. With the news of them having zero healthy goalkeepers, I would assume they'd stick with a back three for defensive stability. If Caicedo starts, he arguably the most dangerous player on the pitch and will have to be accounted for.


I would really like to see a front 3 for Charlotte of Jóźwiak-Świderski-Shinyashiki. This feels like the best mix of talent and experience that we can put up top. We really haven't seen them play together though and I wonder if it's because MAR doesn't see them as fitting together or if it's the lack of time they've had together. I sincerely hope it's the latter. It's not a combination that is guaranteed to work, but I'd like to see it for a decent run of games.


In the midfield, who knows who we'll see (outside of Bronico). I really don't want another diamond in the midfield, but MAR must have his reasons for persisting with it. I would like to see Ruiz start again, just because he needs a run of games for us to see what we have in him.


Before the news of their goalkeepers being unavailable, in defense, I was ready to call for Fuchs at CB and Mora as the LB (if Fuchs is healthy enough to play). Anyone who has read anything by me on this blog or Twitter knows I do not advocate for Mora to start, while I continuously advocate for Fuchs to be the LB. I thought Mora could be useful in this game, though, because while it hasn't shown up in Vancouver's results, Vancouver have a number of dangerous players. The defensive solidity of Mora, I thought, might actually be really useful this game. Without healthy goalkeepers, forget that. If Fuchs isn't healthy enough to play, then the decision is made; but if he can go, he should be our LB.


Vancouver are young in a lot of places and may well be playing some random Canuck in goal. We are at home against a team riddled with injury/unavailability. There is no reason for MAR and Charlotte to take this game to Vancouver. There is even less reason for us to lose this game. I refuse to believe we won't score against a 4th choice keeper.


Prediction: Charlotte 3 - Vancouver 1

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