LAFC vs Vancouver Whitecaps
Saturday, October 28 at 5:00 pm PT
Location: BMO Stadium, Los Angeles California
Radio: 710 AM ESPN, ESPN LA App, 980 AM La Mera Mera
Following a 1-1 draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps on MLS Decision Day, LAFC begins the defense of its 2022 MLS Cup title when it hosts the Whitecaps in Game 1 of a best-of-three series on Saturday, October 28, at BMO Stadium.
Last Saturday in Vancouver, Dénis Bouanga’s 20th goal of the regular season secured the 2023 MLS Golden Boot award for the LAFC forward as the league’s top scorer and provided LAFC with the point it needed to claim the third seed in the Western Conference. Ali Ahmed scored the equalizer in the 58th minute for the Whitecaps, who hold the sixth seed.
Saturday marks the fifth time the two clubs will have played in 2023 across MLS and Concacaf Champions League play, with LAFC holding a 2W-1L-1D record in their prior matchups. All time, LAFC’s record against the Whitecaps is 6W-5L-4D. At BMO Stadium, LAFC has lost just once to Vancouver in eight matches (4W-1L-3D). The lone loss was a 3-2 result in June.
Led by head coach Vanni Sartini, the Whitecaps will need to win at least one game in Los Angeles to advance out of this best-of-three series. (Game 2 is scheduled for Sunday, November 5 in Vancouver. Game 3, if necessary, will be played November 9 at BMO Stadium.)
The two clubs have numerous connections, some of which came to the fore in Saturday’s contentious 1-1 draw in Vancouver. ‘Caps defender Tristan Blackmon was the first player LAFC selected in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft before the club’s inaugural season. Blackmon made 64 appearances for the Black & Gold from 2018 to 2021 and has started 28 MLS games for Vancouver in 2023. LAFC goalkeeper and MLS Cup champion Maxime Crépeau made 61 total appearances for Vancouver between 2019 and 2021. Vancouver’s head coach during that time, Marc dos Santos, is currently an LAFC assistant coach.
This season, striker Brian White led the Whitecaps with 15 goals and five assists in 32 MLS matches. Midfielder Ryan Gauld contributed 11 goals and 12 assists in 32 MLS matches. Goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka (33 MLS starts) made a sprawling 1v1 save in the 90th minute last weekend to preserve the 1-1 result.
THE BLACK & GOLD WILL WIN IF
It can use its speed up top to create chances against a Vancouver defense that conceded 48 goals in MLS play this season. Wingers Cristian Olivera (12 shots on goal and two goals in 7 MLS starts) and Bouanga have proven hard to handle for the back lines tasked with stopping them. Along with captain Carlos Vela (seventh in MLS with 12 assists in 2023), the duo of Bouanga and Olivera have helped LAFC tally 10 goals over its last three matches.
WHITECAPS CAN WIN IF
The visitors create an early 1-0 advantage, or keep the game close and find a late winner (or penalty-kick victory) on the road. Weathering LAFC’s attack (the Black & Gold put seven shots on goal last Saturday to Vancouver’s two) and blocking out the intimidating environment inside LAFC’s home ground will be critical pieces for a Whitecaps side that has shown a willingness to compete from first whistle to last.