The Vancouver Whitecaps finally got a win, but they cannot rest on their laurels. The Colorado Rapids are coming to BC Place for a Western Conference match-up.

These two teams have already met once this season only a few weeks ago. That game ended up in a 1-0 for the home side Colorado. The lone goal came from a penalty given as a result of Bjørn Inge Utvik’s red card.

The Whitecaps have a 6W-4D-5L record and sit in 6th place in the West. Colorado is tied with the Whitecaps on points, posting a 6W-4D-6L record, good enough for 7th place.

The Rapids have not won any of their three matches since they last played the Whitecaps, going 0W-1D-2L.

The last battle

Using the May 15 match in Colorado to preview this weekend’s upcoming match is difficult because of Utvik’s red card in stoppage time of the first half. Understandably, the second half was dominated by the Rapids; however, the defensive play of the Whitecaps was strong and should be mentioned.

So, let’s use the first half as both teams had equal numbers given that the red card and ensuing penalty were the final plays of that period.

And for the 45 minutes, it was an even game. Possession was roughly level and so was xG (penalty not included).

The Whitecaps had more shots in that half (7-5) than Colorado, but the home side did dominate in big chances (1-3), suggesting what few shots they did have were more dangerous.

In the Colorado lineup, there are a few players that can cause problems for the Whitecaps. One name that should stand out to Canadian MLS fans is Moïse Bombito.

Bombito has had an all-star potential season so far at centre-back for the Rapids. In playing out the back, he is one of their best in progressive passes and carries. This is likely helped that Bombito has been recorded as the fastest player in MLS this season at 37.27 km/h.

Defensively, the Canadian centre-back averages 1.78 tackles and 1.29 interceptions per game. For comparison, Whitecaps own Ranko Veselinović measures in at 0.87 and 0.93 respectively. Veselinović does dominate in clearances at 96 to Bombito’s 67.

The last time these two teams met, Colorado lined up as a 4-2-3-1. Rafael Navarro led the line and converted the eventual game-winner from the penalty spot.

The Whitecaps with something new?

The midweek match saw Sartini change his tactics a bit. Gone was the 3-4-3 and in its place was 3-5-2.

Pushing Sebastian Berhalter higher up the pitch as a no. 6 alongside Alessandro Schöpf gave creative licence to both players, namely because of the final point of this midfield triangle: Andrés Cubas.

What we witnessed in the midweek match was a competent Schöpf and a Berhalter who played his best match this season. Credit Berhalter in particular for blocking a clear opportunity early on that could have otherwise changed the direction of the match.

But the tactical change was not without problems. The players had two training sessions to work with it. And they got to utilize it against the worst team in the Western Conference.

But by the half-hour mark, they had settled it and began to move the ball well. It was a committed performance from everyone.

This tactical shift is also something that could help out another player, one who did not see game time on Wednesday.

It is not a stretch to say Pedro Vite has struggled in his new role as a no. 8. He is being asked to be a playmaker from deeper.

Pedro Vite – 2023 MLS Season and 2024 MLS Season (courtesy

Comparing last year to this one, he is still a good passer of the ball, but he has dropped precipitously in creating actual chances on the net.

Interestingly, playing in a more defensive position has also worsened his defensive stats.

This new formation provides an opportunity for Vite, to get him back to doing what he does best, terrorizing at the edge of the final third and unlocking attackers closer to the net.

Playing him alongside Berhalter becomes a real option.

What a win means

Wins against conference rivals are always important. But a win here would further ease the pressure on Sartini after a difficult May.

It would be a statement of intent and could push the Whitecaps as high as 4th in the West, back to where they said they wanted to be this year.

This is also the last match before a two-week international break. Winning now sends players, coaches and fans off with a more positive outlook, a sign that a corner has been turned.

A loss is equally infectious throughout the masses. It makes the win against Sporting KC look like a blip.

That is not something the Whitecaps can afford.