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Major League Soccer
Feb 26, 2023 at 3.30am UK
BC Place Stadium

1 - 2
Salt Lake

Brown (24')
FT(HT: 1-0)
Glad (70'), Kreilach (73')
Loffelsend (15')

Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Real Salt Lake - prediction, team news, lineups

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

After being a game away from making the postseason in 2022, the Vancouver Whitecaps open the new MLS campaign on Saturday by welcoming Real Salt Lake to BC Place Stadium.

A 2-0 defeat at Minnesota United on Decision Day last year eliminated the Caps from postseason contention, while RSL squandered a 2-0 lead in their opening-round playoff encounter versus Austin FC, eventually falling 3-1 on penalties.

Match preview

Just like in 2021, the Whitecaps came to life down the stretch of their previous campaign, but it was not quite enough to earn them a playoff spot.

In his first full season as manager a year ago, Vanni Sartini saw his side struggle mightily in the opening stages of the campaign, losing six of their first eight matches before going on a run down the stretch.

Over their previous four regular-season campaigns, Vancouver have started slowly, winning no more than three matches in each of their opening 10 games over that stretch.

Last year, this team lacked a quality shot-stopper who could steal them some matches, conceding the second-most goals in the Western Conference (57).

The addition of midfielder Andres Cubas around the halfway point of 2022 brought more stability to this group through the middle, but heading into this season, the big question surrounding the Caps is whether they have a number nine with the composure to finish off the chances that playmakers like Cubas can create.

Home field was a massive advantage for Vancouver in 2022, as 10 of their 12 victories came at BC Place, which is also where 33 of their 43 points were claimed.

The 2022 season may have ended on a sour note for Claret and Cobalt, but there were still plenty of positive signs for them to take away from that campaign.

Pablo Mastroeni has instilled a grit and grind approach with this group since taking over in 2021, an approach which may not be all that appealing but has been successful nonetheless.

If they can make the playoffs again this year, it would mark the first time this franchise qualified for the postseason in three consecutive campaigns since appearing seven straight times from 2008-2014.

Their opening two regular season games will be on the road, where Salt Lake struggled throughout 2022, winning just three matches and conceding in all but two of their encounters.

Like the Caps, there are questions about where the goals will come from, though Real Salt Lake were strong on the break last season, creating lots of width and chances, while also playing solid defensively.

RSL have lost their previous two visits to Vancouver by a combined score of 6-2, with their last victory at BC Place coming in 2021 (4-0).

Vancouver Whitecaps friendlies form:
  • L
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W

Real Salt Lake friendlies form:
  • W
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • W

Team News

Vancouver recently signed goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka from Yokohama F. Marinos in the Japanese top flight, where the 26-year-old helped them win the domestic title in 2022 and was named to the best 11, while the Caps also acquired former RSL striker Sergio Cordova.

As part of that deal, the Whitecaps sent Salt Lake their first-round pick in the 2024 MLS SuperDraft and up to $300,000 (£249,093) in General Allocation Money (GAM), while the Venezuelan has committed to Vancouver until 2025 with an option for 2026.

Those were the most significant off-season acquisitions made by the Whitecaps, but the club also got rid of their share of veterans, declining options on Lucas Cavallini, Marcus Godinho and Leonard Owusu, among others, while Florian Jungwirth retired.

After Cavallini, Ryan Gauld was the next-highest Whitecaps goalscorer, netting eight times last season, while Cristian Dajome found the back of the net on four occasions in the preseason.

The leading goalscorer for RSL in 2020 and 2021, Damir Kreilach, appears to have recovered from a back injury which kept him out for most of last season, and the club might desperately need him following the departure of Sergio Cordova, who led them with 11 strikes in 2022.

Aaron Herrera transferred to CF Montreal, Bobby Wood joined the New England Revolution, while Salt Lake declined an option on Nick Besler and Johan Kappelhof.

Zac MacMath was outstanding between the sticks for Claret and Cobalt last season, maintaining 10 clean sheets, fourth among MLS goalkeepers, while Andrew Brody and Justin Meram contributed plenty of chances, finishing with six assists each in 2022.

Vancouver Whitecaps possible starting lineup:
Takaoka; Blackmon, Laborda, Veselinovic, Martins; Gressel, Cubas, Schopf; Gauld; Cordova, White

Real Salt Lake possible starting lineup:
MacMath; Brody, Glad, Silva, Vera; Savarino, Ruiz, Ojeda, Gomez; Kreilach, Musovski

We say: Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Real Salt Lake

Adding a quality goalkeeper like Takaoka should allow the Caps to be a little more aggressive and take chances going forward, while the man between the sticks has shown he can make big stops when needed, something sorely missing for Vancouver last season.

RSL have a solid collective group, but staying with an up-tempo team like the Caps on that artificial turf could force them to chase the game and leave their defence exposed in transition.

How to watch

You can watch Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Real Salt Lake 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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Read more about Vanni Sartini Pablo Mastroeni Andres Cubas Yohei Takaoka Sergio Cordova Lucas Cavallini Marcus Godinho Leonard Owusu Florian Jungwirth Ryan Gauld Cristian Dajome Damir Kreilach Aaron Herrera Bobby Wood Nick Besler Johan Kappelhof Zac MacMath Andrew Brody Justin Meram Football
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Premier League Table

Eastern Conference

1Inter MiamiInter Miami16104238211734
2FC CincinnatiCincinnati1510322314933
3New York City FCNY City158251916326
4Columbus Crew146622113824
5New York Red BullsNY Red Bulls146532521423
6Charlotte FCCharlotte FC156451413122
8Philadelphia UnionPhiladelphia144642521418
9DC United154652125-418
10Nashville SCNashville143741720-316
11Orlando City144461522-716
12Atlanta UnitedAtlanta143471717013
13CF MontrealMontreal143471731-1413
14Chicago Fire152581427-1311
15New England RevolutionNew England132110926-177

Western Conference

1Real Salt LakeSalt Lake1585230171329
2Minnesota UnitedMinnesota Utd137422417725
3Los Angeles GalaxyLA Galaxy156722722525
4Los Angeles FCLos Angeles147342519624
5Austin FCAustin156542018223
6Colorado RapidsColorado156452726122
7Vancouver WhitecapsVancouver145452017319
8Houston DynamoHouston145361315-218
9Seattle SoundersSeattle154561818017
10Portland TimbersPortland154472830-216
11St Louis City143742022-216
13Sporting Kansas CityKansas142572226-411
14San Jose EarthquakesEarthquakes1532102334-1111
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