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Preview: Austin FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Austin FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Sunday's Major League Soccer clash between Austin FC and Vancouver Whitecaps, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Two teams separated by two points in the Western Conference standings will square off in MLS action this Saturday as Austin FC welcome the Vancouver Whitecaps to Q2 Stadium.

The Verde and Black suffered their worst campaign defeat on matchday seven, 3-0 at Los Angeles FC, allowing Vancouver to overtake them thanks to a 1-0 triumph over the Portland Timbers.

Match preview

It has been a frustrating few matches for Josh Wolff and his Austin side, who are winless in their last three games, matching the longest such run from a year ago.

They have failed to take advantage of opportunities presented to them numerous times, including at BMO Stadium in their previous encounter when a Zan Kolmanic effort struck the bar, with Austin struggling to keep up that early momentum.

So far, their season has not gone how many had expected, but the franchise has to be encouraged with what they saw from their Academy, as its Under-15 squad captured the 2023 Generation Adidas Cup over the long weekend.

Perhaps watching those youngsters show so much flair could light a fire under the senior squad, as the Austin first team seem to be low on confidence since being knocked out of the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) by Haitian side Violette in mid-March.

In 2022, the Verde and Black were one of the most dynamic attacking sides in the league, finishing the regular season with the third-most goals (65), but they have not had nearly as much depth or quality so far in 2023, tied for the third-fewest goals scored to this point of the campaign (six).

Austin have conceded in all but one of their regular season encounters so far this year, though they managed to pick up a clean sheet the last time they hosted the Caps in 2022, capturing a 3-0 triumph on that occasion.

Slowly but surely, the Whitecaps are starting to creep their way up the Western Conference standings after a rough opening.

Their victory at home to Portland on Saturday extended the Caps' unbeaten run in this competition to five matches, the longest such streak for them in MLS since claiming at least a point in 10 consecutive 2021 encounters.

The biggest question surrounding this team in 2023 has been where the goals will come from following the departure of their top scorer Lucas Cavallini to Liga MX.

It remains to be seen if Vanni Sartini has found the answer to that question long-term, but there are some positive signs as a pair of youngsters have breathed new life into the Caps' attack in recent outings, creating dozens of scoring opportunities in transition.

Lately, their compact defensive line has done its job to keep Vancouver on the front foot, as they have not faced a single shot on target in back-to-back domestic contests, while a clean sheet this weekend would match their longest regular-season run without conceding from 2022 (three).

Los Angeles FC dashed the Whitecaps' hopes of a CONCACAF Champions League semi-final berth on Tuesday, defeating them 3-0, winning the tie 6-0 on aggregate.

Austin FC Major League Soccer form:

Vancouver Whitecaps Major League Soccer form:

Vancouver Whitecaps form (all competitions):
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • L

Team News

Julio Cascante remains sidelined for the Verde and Black because of a left adductor strain, as the manager brought in four new faces to his starting 11 versus the Black and Gold, with Leo Vaisanen, Owen Wolff, Diego Fagundez and Maximiliano Urruti replacing Nick Lima, Jhojan Valencia, Ethan Finlay and Gyasi Zardes.

Cascante, by the way, signed a contract extension with Austin this week through until 2025 with an option for 2026, having made 67 appearances for them in the regular season.

Jon Gallagher had the only goal in their previous home outing when they drew the Colorado Rapids 1-1, his team-leading third of the campaign, equalling the most in a single season for him with Austin.

The second-highest goalscorer in the league last year, Sebastian Driussi (24), has netted twice against the Caps, scoring once while setting up the winner from Urruti in their victory at home to Vancouver in 2022, with Brad Stuver collecting a shutout on that occasion.

Alessandro Schopf missed the Whitecaps' encounter versus Portland due to a left hamstring strain, Sergio Cordova remains out with a right hamstring injury, allowing youngsters Ali Ahmed and Simon Becher to start the last two domestic games.

Brian White had the only goal for Vancouver last weekend, his second of the domestic campaign, while Yohei Takaoka did not have to make a single save to collect another clean sheet in this competition.

Ryan Gauld has a goal and two assists in his four previous matches played against Austin, setting up the winner by White the first time they faced them in 2021, while Pedro Vite assisted on the winner from the Scotsman at home to the Verde and Black last year (2-0).

Austin FC possible starting lineup:
Stuver; Gallagher, Ring, Vaisanen, Lima; Wolff, Pereira; Rigoni, Driussi, Fagundez; Zardes

Vancouver Whitecaps possible starting lineup:
Takaoka; Laborda, Veselinovic, Blackmon, Martins; Gressel, Cubas, Ahmed; Caicedo, Gauld; Becher

We say: Austin FC 1-2 Vancouver Whitecaps

The Verde and Black are struggling to find depth along the backline forcing Josh Wolff to play Alexander Ring in central defence rather than his preferred holding midfielder role that he is more accustomed to.

Austin are a better team than their record indicates, but their overzealous defending when out of possession could allow the new, youthful Whitecaps to create scoring opportunities and deliver their first road victory of the campaign.

How to watch

You can watch Austin FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps and every MLS match this season live on Apple TV. Click here for more details on how to subscribe.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
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Premier League Table

Eastern Conference

1Inter MiamiInter Miami25165456391753
2FC CincinnatiCincinnati25153744331148
3Columbus Crew23127447222543
4New York Red BullsNY Red Bulls251011442311141
5New York City FCNY City2511593630638
6Charlotte FCCharlotte FC2510783027337
7Orlando City259793938134
9Atlanta UnitedAtlanta2577113536-128
10Philadelphia UnionPhiladelphia2569104542327
11CF MontrealMontreal2569103449-1527
12Nashville SCNashville2568112639-1326
13DC United2568113550-1526
14Chicago Fire2567123042-1225
15New England RevolutionNew England2372142347-2423

Western Conference

1Los Angeles GalaxyLA Galaxy26147550361449
2Los Angeles FCLos Angeles24145548301847
3Real Salt LakeSalt Lake25128551341744
4Colorado RapidsColorado2612595043741
5Vancouver WhitecapsVancouver2411584335838
6Houston DynamoHouston2410773530537
7Seattle SoundersSeattle2510783429537
8Portland TimbersPortland2510695042836
9Minnesota UnitedMinnesota Utd2596104041-133
10Austin FCAustin2587102837-931
12Sporting Kansas CityKansas2666144152-1124
13St Louis City25411103246-1423
14San Jose EarthquakesEarthquakes2542193161-3014
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