After a rough week, where they got waxed down in Los Angeles, before making their way over to Calgary, where they were held to a draw by the Canadian Premier League leaders Cavalry, the Vancouver Whitecaps make a return home to BC Place to face Sporting Kansas City on Saturday. Away for 4 games, they will certainly be excited to make a return to the place they call home, as they look to get back into the win column after what can be best described as a rough trip, where they drew twice and lost twice over the 3-week span. They have a great opportunity to bounce back from that, however, as they play a floundering Kansas, who is playing much below their usual standard, as they sit only 2 points ahead of the Whitecaps for 10th place in the West. Both teams have had a rough go of things this season, so they will both use this match as a springboard as they attempt to salvage their seasons before things go too far to the wayside.
Injuries: Jhesser Khemiri (Day-To-Day, Knee) David Norman Jr (Day-To-Day, Foot)
Record: 4W-8L-8D (20 Points)
Manager: Marc Dos Santos
A lot of lineup questions heading into this one, as the Caps are coming off a busy couple of weeks of late, as the midseason fixture congestion has certainly hit the team hard. After playing quite a few of their starters both midweek in the Canadian Championship and last week at LAFC, one would have to think that at least a bit of rotation would be in order. In goal, Max Crepeau likely stays in, while his back 3 will definitely include Erik Godoy and Doneil Henry, with the third man beside them being one of Derek Cornelius or Andy Rose, who have both had good runs in the team. In the midfield, we will see a return of Hwang In Beom and Jon Erice, who both missed out against Calgary, but alongside them, it will either be Russell Teibert, Andy Rose or Felipe, who all featured against Cavalry. Up front, Yordy Reyna will probably stay in, with one of Joaquin Ardaiz, who’s been out for a while, or Theo Bair, who would make his MLS debut, featuring alongside the electric Reyna. There are a lot of lineup questions, but the Caps have decent depth, so they should be able to put out a good assembly of players no matter what kind of lineup they decide to go for. It will be important for the Caps to bounce back in this one, as the results have been tough of late, making it paramount that they find a few goals at home and build up some confidence as they try to salvage any hopes of a playoff spot.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Yordy Reyna
The Whitecaps have been under the gun as of late for their lack of creativity, but Reyna has not been to blame, as he has been electric since his return from injury. If Vancouver is to create any sort of chances and have a dominant attacking performance, their tricky #29 will be front-and-centre for them in doing so.
Midfield questions? The Whitecaps have had a rough go of things in the midfield of late, so they will be hoping for some strong performances from their men in the middle, with many fans clamouring for a big signing in the position. While that need for a new mid will remain even if the midfielders play well in this one, performances need to be better than they have been the last few games.
Rotation? In the middle of a tough stretch, coach Marc Dos Santos has been surprisingly reluctant to rotate, going with a stronger XI as much as possible. Playing a SKC side that has been hit by injuries of late, this may be a good moment to bring in some fresh faces, bringing some energy into what looks to have been a tired Caps side of late.
Striking? With Fredy Montero suspended, due to his late red card last week, it is unsure who will end up replacing the Colombian in the lineup, with Ardaiz recovering from injury, while youngster Theo Bair has yet to make a start in MLS,. Either way, it will make fans happy, as they have been hungry to see more minutes from both options, as they both try to prove that they can belong in the starting 11 more long term, instead of sporadic appearances off of the bench.
Sporting Kansas City:
Manager: Peter Vermes
Record: 5W-7L-7D (22 Points)
A usual heavyweight in MLS, it has been a surprise to see Kansas so far down the standings this season, especially considering their strong run last year, where they ended up winning the MLS Western Conference crown. They have been hit tough with injuries and the like, creating a storm of bad luck that has lead to their plummet down the MLS table. It certainly adds a lot of intrigue to this encounter, as both teams could certainly benefit from a win, adding stakes to what could have otherwise been a pretty uneventful match on the MLS calendar. Despite their injury woes, Kansas still has a few guys that can make some noise, with Tim Melia, Graham Zusi, Matt Besler and Yohan Croizet who have all shown to be capable of influencing matches, especially against Vancouver, where they have found a lot of success over the years. The big wild card will be Johnny Russell, who is by far SKC’s best player, but he has been injured lately, making his status unclear for this one, but if he does feature, watch out, as he has feasted on the Caps over the seasons.
Things kick off tomorrow at 7:00 PM at BC Place, so you might not want to miss one if you’re a fan of footy. While both teams are struggling, they’re still two quality sides, and they will be desperate to get their seaons back on track. After a tough road trip, Vancouver will want to bounce back, so no better time than in front of the home fans, who’ll be expecting a good show.
Whitecaps FC vs SKC, July 13th, 19:00 PST, BC Place.