Sporting Kansas City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps Prediction, Preview and Odds -5/16/21
A pair of Western Conference foes will look to bounce back from mid-week losses when the Vancouver Whitecaps visit Sporting Kansas City on Sunday afternoon at Children’s Mercy Park. Vancouver faltered late in a 1-0 road loss at Minnesota United on Wednesday as a +454 underdog, and is now 2-1-2 for the season. Kansas City is also 2-1-2 after losing on the road on Wednesday with a 1-0 defeat to the Houston Dynamo as a +214 underdog.
These teams met twice last season, with Kansas City winning 3-1 in late February before advancing on penalties following a scoreless draw in the Round of 16 in the MLS is Back Tournament. Kansas City has dominated the head-to-head series 10-5-3 all-time.
Whitecaps can’t hang on for a point on the road
Vancouver looks much improved from a miserable 2020 season where it went 9-0-14 and generally played well on Wednesday night in Minnesota before getting undone by a late goal. The Whitecaps generated several dangerous chances throughout the game but couldn’t beat Minnesota goalkeeper Tyler Miller, and Vancouver’s defense finally faltered in the 72nd minute when Ramon Abila’s header found the back of the net.
It was a fairly even match, as Minnesota held a 55% advantage in possession while Vancouver had a 5-4 advantage in shots on target. Vancouver goaltender Maxime Crépeau made multiple strong saves early in the second half but it wasn’t enough as the Whitecaps’ offense couldn’t do much.
Wednesday’s game continued a trend of shaky offense for the Whitecaps, who are averaging just 1.2 goals and 8.6 goals per game. Vancouver’s big improvement from 2020 has been on the defensive end, with opponents putting up just 0.8 goals and 13.6 shots per game, with the Whitecaps keeping two clean sheets.
Cristian Dajome has scored three of Vancouver’s five goals this season, with Lucas Cavallini and Andy Rose also finding the back of the net. Cristian Gutierrez has chipped in two assists for an offense that is roughly matching its goals per game output from a year ago.
Starting center back Erik Godoy, one of Vancouver’s best players, is yet to appear this season due to an undisclosed injury and it's unclear when he will be back. Defensive midfielder Ali Adnan is away from the team as he competes in World Cup qualifiers with Iraq. Forward Tosaint Ricketts is expected to be fit soon after dealing with a hamstring injury.
Sporting Kansas City drops road match despite dominating
It’s been an uneven start for a Kansas City team that returns nearly the whole roster from a squad that finished first in the Western Conference last season, and it lost again on Wednesday night at Houston even while carrying the run of play. Kansas City put a lot of pressure on the Houston net yet couldn’t solve Houston goalkeeper Marko Maric, and Maxi Urruti’s goal in the 56th minute proved to be enough for the Dynamo.
That was the only shot on target Houston had all match, and Kansas City led in total shots 16-5 while carrying 56% of possession. Gadi Kinda and Alan Pulido each had great chances for Kansas City late in the second half, only to be denied.
After ranking as one of the most prolific offenses in MLS last season, Kansas City is off to a slower start in 2021 with an average of 1.2 goals and 13 shots per game. Opponents are putting up 1.4 goals and 9.8 shots per game on Kansas City, which is yet to keep a clean sheet this season.
Kinda is the only Kansas City player to score twice this season, with Daniel Salloli adding one goal and one assist. Khiry Shelton has provided two helpers, while Pulido has graded out as Kansas City’s most productive player by the expected goals plus assists metric.
To make matters even worse for Kansas City on Wednesday, star winger Johnny Russell left the game in the 20th minute with an apparent leg injury and it seems unlikely he will be ready for Sunday. Starting center backs Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Roberto Puncec have both missed the last two matches with hamstring injuries and are questionable for Sunday. Goaltender Tim Melia was removed from the injury report last week, but still didn’t play in either of the last two matches.
Side prediction: Sporting Kansas City -1.5 (+110)
Total: Under 2.5 (+135)
While these two have the same record so far, Kansas City is the far more talented roster and will start to get going soon enough. Kansas City should start to convert some of the dangerous chances it has consistently been generating into goals, and the Whitecaps haven’t shown enough firepower to keep up.
Vancouver’s problems on the offensive end finally came back to bite the Whitecaps on Wednesday, as they couldn’t generate anything against a bad Minnesota United defense that allowed 10 goals in its first four matches. Three of Vancouver’s five goals this season have been from the penalty spot, and the Whitecaps have only generated 4.4 expected goals in five matches this year.
That’s compared to an expected goals mark of 6.4 for Kansas City, which has largely been carrying the run of play against opponents and has a lot of playmakers up front such as Pulido and Gianlucia Busio who are going to be rewarded for generating so many scoring chances soon. Kansas City’s superior depth will help coming off a short week, and it should roll to a win at home here.
The good news for the Whitecaps is that their defense looks much improved after a miserable 2020, thanks in large part to Crepeau being on a roll in net. Crepeau can help neutralize some of the pressure Kansas City is sure to put on, and the loss of Russell to injury looms large as he is a very important creative playmaker in attack.
Kansas City’s injury situation could be turning the other way defensively, as its two starting center backs plus one of the best MLS goaltenders in Melia appear close to returning. Even if they don’t, Kansas City’s defense has been terrific with its current lineup, making a 2-0 win the most likely result here.