Two teams to set ship right will face each other on Sunday when the Vancouver Whitecaps host Toronto FC.
Vancouver (1-6-1) has lost three in a row and languishes in the league basement with the fewest points it has ever had at this stage of an MLS season.
Meanwhile, Toronto (3-5-2) has also lost the last three, failed to win on the road in 13 games and arrives with a long list of missing players.
Something must be given.
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The Whitecaps have had time to prepare for the all-Canadian matchup, having been eliminated since a 3-0 defeat in Austin on April 23.
“I think the break came at an ideal time for us to re-evaluate, regroup, re-evaluate and re-energize,” said Vancouver veteran Russell Teibert.
“We are ready,” he added. “The energy around the (training) facility has been good. The environment is currently very good. But that said, we need to translate it into the game over the weekend because it’s a huge game for us.”
Toronto, on the other hand, spent the week moving. It lost 2-1 to a visit to Cincinnati last Saturday and traveled to and from Cincinnati for a 2-0 loss in a midweek rematch before flying west – a travel route of some 4,000 kilometers.
And Toronto arrives with a thin selection.
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Mexican star defender Carlos Salcedo and Ifunanyachi Achara are in health and safety protocols, while Chris Mavinga, Jonathan Orosio, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty and Noble Okello are injured. Wingback Jacob Shaffelburg has been labeled as questionable while midfielder Ralph Priso has been banned after his red card in Cincinnati.
“It’s true they have injuries, they have some problems, but they still have a lot of quality players like (Jesus) Jimenez, (Alejandro) Pozuelo (Michael) Bradley. Those are players who can invent something at any moment,” said Whitecaps coach Vanni Sartini.
“So what we have to do is be very focused when we don’t have the ball. We have to be compact, we have to be very good defensively because we know that if we limit them, we will have a chance to score when we have the ball But it certainly won’t be easy.”
The Toronto injuries are an overstretched part of the schedule,
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“Luckily, you don’t have this every week, but there are times in seasons where games coincide and when it coincides with other factors, yeah, you kind of scramble,” said Toronto coach Bob Bradley.
“I think the challenge is always to find a set way to keep everyone going.”
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TFC captain Michael Bradley, Bob’s son, called it “a difficult stretch for many reasons”.
“But you know, in the course of a season, everyone has to be able to deal with periods like this. No one feels sorry for themselves,” he added.
“We still look around and feel that we have a lot of good players, that we have guys who are ready for opportunities. No one is worrying about who is here and who isn’t, about how it went.”
Vancouver is without Caio Alexandre, Tristan Blackmon, Cristian Gutierrez and Leonard Owusu. But Scottish star midfielder Ryan Gauld returned to training after missing the Austin game with his second concussion of the season.
Sartini says the farewell week helped dispel the hangover from losing Austin.
“The mood for the first few days after Austin was very depressed – bad performance, bad result,” said the Italian.
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Sunday’s game is the first of four consecutive home games for the Whitecaps, who are 1-1-1 this season at BC Place Stadium and 0-5-0 on the road.
“There is no doubt that we are a different team at home,” Sartini said. “We are safer, more confident. We’re more like a play-off team, like the team we want to be.”
Toronto, which is 0-3-2 on the road this season, has not won from home in 13 league games – since a 2-1 decision in Chicago on July 24. TFC is one way to tie its franchise-worst scoreless run, a 14-game stretch from March to August 2011.
Toronto has not kept a clean sheet this season and has not knocked out the opposition in 18 league games since a 0-0 draw in Colorado on September 25.
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Defense is a problem for both teams.
Toronto is 26th in the league, conceding 2.10 goals per game, while Vancouver is 27th with 2.13. Only San Jose scored more goals per game with an average of 2.56.
In other Toronto news, TFC II has signed goalkeeper Baj Maan.
The 21-year-old from Brampton, Ont, most recently played for Forge FC in the Canadian Premier League, where he had three shutouts in seven appearances in the 2020 and ’21 seasons. A graduate of Sigma FC academy, Maan played collegiate football at Northern Kentucky University.
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