If you were to take a quick look at the standings, a matchup between the 6th place team in the East and 8th place team in the West might not sound all that attractive.
But if I were to tell you that both the New England Revolution and Vancouver Whitecaps FC have more points in MLS over their last 8 games than anyone except New York City FC, that might make things a lot more interesting.
The 2022 season has been a tale of two halves so far for both New England and Vancouver, or I guess it’s perhaps more accurate to say tale of two quarters in the first half, but I digress.
The Revs heavy fixture congestion with their CCL obligations and early season injuries dug them a significant hole which they have recovered from despite the trio of high profile sales that have left the team so far this year. In their last eight games, New England is unbeaten registering four wins and four draws, though arguably the Revs did lose a couple of late leads that could have bolstered that record. While the team has certainly turned a corner from their poor start, they are still not at their Shield winning level from last year either.
Vancouver’s streak is equally impressive, going 5-1-2 and aside from a 4-0 pasting at Seattle, they’ve played a lot better in the last couple of months. Lucas Cavallini and Ryan Gauld are having solid seasons befitting their DP status and while the Caps are not yet above the playoff line in the West they could be well on their way. A disastrous road form however would be on the list of issues that might keep the Caps from playing in October though.
So after rather calamitous starts, New England and Vancouver find themselves on level form with Cincy, Seattle, and RSL taking sixteen of a possible twenty four points in their last eight games. Just as we all thought going into the year surely, at least NYC being on twenty out of twenty four makes a lot more sense, and their number went down after a draw against the Rapids where they had won seven on eight and drew the other game for a twenty two point haul over eight games.
So the Revs are far from out of the woods but they are on the right track. There are still a number of issues to solve on the field and adjusting to life without Adam Buksa up top in particular. Is this the day we see the revamped Revs attack led by Carles Gil, Dylan Borrero, and Sebastian Lletget as the attacking trio in midfield with Gustavo Bou up top? We’ll have to wait for the league’s nightcap at 8pm Eastern/5pm Western to find out as the Revs and Caps are the last game on the slate for the week.
It is a fine occasion to speak with our good friends over at Eight Six Forever and Sam Rowan in particular as there is a lot to be excited about in Vancouver recently. The World Cup is also going to Vancouver as we found out about Boston/Foxboro a couple weeks back, and let’s be honest, North America is going to put on an epic showing in four years on the field and as hosts and I can not wait.
But on to more pressing matters as Sam also talks about Vancouver’s recent form, roster additions, and goal scoring down below. As always you can check out my answers to Sam’s questions over on their site.
TBM: The 2026 World Cup is coming to Vancouver, what was the reaction of the city to that announcement and talk about Canada’s qualification and return to the World Cup for 2022.
SR: I think generally people are ecstatic. About a year ago, Vancouver looked to be out of the running for political reasons and there was a lot of disappointment, especially considering that at that point, Canada had not secured a World Cup berth for 2022. Obviously, hosting the event has taken on a much different shape with how much success the national team has enjoyed over the last 12 months.
It was also a good news story Vancouver needed in terms of the national team. During the most recent international window, the men’s national team had two matches in Vancouver fall to scandal. First, Canada cancelled their international friendly with Iran after the Prime Minister publicly denounced the event, then, the makeup match was cancelled within hours of kick-off due to compensation disputes between the players and the Canadian Soccer association. Many supporters had already travelled some distance to Vancouver for the match and were only informed when they arrived at the gates, this caused a lot of frustration with both the players and Canada Soccer.
What is exciting about the 2026 World Cup is that not only will Vancouver be a host city, but it looks like they will feature rather prominently, with sources indicating that Vancouver will host six matches, and might also be the site of the group draw.
TBM: The Whitecaps have done well recently winning four of their last six, recovering from a brutal start to the year. Former Rev Cody Cropper has gotten more time in net recently but has there been any other changes Vancouver has made to turn around their form.
SR: This is a bit of a curious one, as the Whitecaps have enjoyed their best run of form this year when their roster has been thin and there were plenty of matches in quick succession. One simple answer is that the Whitecaps are a pretty good home team, and have been an awful road team, a surprise win over FC Dallas notwithstanding. As such, the recent home heavy schedule has really helped them out.
Equally though, there have been some tactical tweaks which have made a difference. True to his Italian heritage, manager Vanni Sartini has been adamant about playing three at the back. Early in the year, some of the gaps in this system were severely exposed, and there were also a number of individual errors which really eroded all confidence defensively. While the three at the back remains, the nuances of the system have changed, providing more support to the wide centre backs, and emphasizing a more structured role for Vancouver’s wide players. More to this point, I think Sartini has been honest with himself about how Vancouver will have to play on the road. Initially, the Whitecaps attempted to take their style of play to opposing stadiums, but there looked to be a disconnect between the manager’s instructions and how the team was comfortable playing. Now, with a more conservative gameplan on the road, the players look much more confident and decisive in their execution, more like they have at home all year.
In terms of Cody Cropper, he started brightly for Vancouver with some standout performances, but has fallen back to earth recently with some soft goals he allowed against Seattle, as well as one more recently in the Canadian Championship.
TBM: Lucas Cavallini I think is clearly good at soccer and is leading the Caps with 5 goals so far in 2022. Can he carry the scoring load with the scoring by committee support behind him on the scoring chart like Gauld, Raposo, White, etc., or will Vancouver need reinforcements to bolster their chances for a playoff run?
SR: For a long time, striker play was a real problem for Vancouver, even as recently as early last season. That being said, the breakout of Brian White and the resurgence of Lucas Cavallini have really stopped those discussions. If anything, Vanni Sartini needs to find a way to get those two on the pitch at the same time.
Despite this, your comment is a fair one: the Whitecaps are probably going to need a more consistent goal-scoring output to make the playoffs. I think an area of the field which will help a lot in this respect is the midfield pivot. The Whitecaps have just added Andres Cubas from Ligue 2 in the middle of the park, and he’s had a huge impact already, providing a “destroy and progress” type of player the Whitecaps haven’t had in years. With his continued play, the Whitecaps should start to hold a bit more of the ball and provide service to the likes of Cavallini and White in dangerous areas with more consistency. That is part of what’s been so impressive about Cavallini so far this year, he’s done a lot of the dirty work in build-up himself. I’d also add that attacking midfielder Ryan Gauld, who certainly can be a game-breaker for Vancouver, has struggled with injuries and fitness, so they haven’t gotten the most out of him just yet this season. All this goes to say, I think the Whitecaps have reason to believe their offense will improve in the second half, even without adding another striker to the group.
In terms of the matchup against New England itself, the Whitecaps did a decent job of balancing their squad with some rotation midweek in the Canadian Championship against York United. The only sure starter who is out injured at the moment is Thomas Hasal in goal. I’d expect the starting XI to look something like this:
3-4-1-2 (attackers listed first): Cavallini – Dajome; Gauld; Raposo – Cubas – Teibert – Godinho; Brown – Veselinovic – Blackmon; Cropper
This one is probably a coin toss between two teams in good form, but the Whitecaps have been excellent at home this season so I’m going to say that the home pitch advantage plays a tiebreaker and Vancouver wins by a score of 2-1. I think the match will turn on whether Vancouver’s back three can keep Bou and Gil under control, if they are able to do that, the ‘Caps have ample firepower to find a couple of goals.