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Jun 28, 2024 10:09 pm

Whitecaps face St. Louis City as both seek to end recent downturns

Ryan Gauld

The Vancouver Whitecaps and St. Louis City will try to reverse recent struggles when they meet on Saturday night in the Pacific Northwest.

Vancouver (7-7-4, 25 points) has lost back-to-back matches and won only twice in its past 10 after a promising start to the season.

Ryan Gauld leads the team with nine goals and four assists after scoring five times and picking up two assists in his past five matches.

But perhaps the Whitecaps have been too predictable in relying on the Scotsman.

Brian White, who has five goals, hasn’t scored since late April after his club-leading 15-goal effort in 2023, and no one else has found the net more than three times this season. The absence of central midfielder Andres Cubas — who is on duty for Paraguay at the Copa America — doesn’t help, either.

Even so, the Whitecaps have been competitive in most games, and manager Vanni Sartini believes the recent struggles are mostly about the margins.

“It sounds very easy to say,” Sartini said this week. “We just need to be a little better. And a little better means a lot of things. It means our performance didn’t go down dramatically. (But) the efficiency of our performance did go down dramatically.”

St. Louis (3-6-10, 19 points) is stuck in a textbook sophomore slump after defying the odds — and some of the analytics data — to finish first in the Western Conference regular-season standings in their expansion 2023 season.

Head coach Bradley Carnell’s side is one of two in MLS still winless on the road, and it begins the weekend three spots beneath Vancouver — which holds the ninth spot in the Western Conference.

Scoring is the issue for City: Joao Klauss is its leading scorer with five goals in 19 appearances. But Carnell’s team will play five of its next six against teams ninth or lower in the West, providing a critical chance to make up ground.

“We have to get points on the road and we have to look for a win,” Carnell said this week. “We need that three-point buffer. At some point, we need to catch up. And it starts with the next game against Vancouver.”

–Field Level Media

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