All the lead up to this game has concentrated on travel plans, as the Whitecaps returned to Vancouver midday Thursday with some rocky tales of their voyage to La Belle Province, while New York took it a little easier, arriving in Vancouver on Tuesday, taking in what the city has had to offer, as well as taking the time to properly train ahead of today.
So, looking at that, it would suggest that there would be a heavy favourite to consider when making betting lines. Anyone who follows sport would suggest New York, who are 20 points ahead of the Whitecaps, are rested, and are fresh off a huge derby win over their crosstown rivals, to completely dominate the Caps, and I’d tend to agree with them on that point.
But the beauty of MLS™ is that sometimes that isn’t how the cookie crumbles. Vancouver is at home, they are coming off a strong performance to Montreal and they are continuing to integrate some fresh faces into the squad. With only 5 games remaining on their 2019 schedule, this game represents a good chance to test themselves against a top side, and if they can out and play a strong match, win or lose, it will be a victory for them heading into next year.
Injuries: Jhesser Khemiri (Knee), PC (Lower Body Injury), Erik Godoy (Lower Body Injury, Questionable)
Record: 6W-14L-9D (27 Points)
Manager: Marc Dos Santos
This lineup may be the biggest question mark we have seen ahead of a game all season. Given how late it is in the campaign, that this is the 3rd game in less than 8 days, not to mention how late the Whitecaps made it back to Vancouver, it means that the lineup for tonight remains completely up in the air.
Will we see some fresh faces in the squad? You would certainly expect to, but Marc Dos Santos’s rotation has certainly been particular, so it’s unclear where the new blood will come from. At the back, it’s a guessing game, with the backline looking decent, but with Ali Adnan looking exhausted at the end of the Impact game, Doneil Henry and Derek Cornelius looking a bit fatigued after two games that were noticeably hard on them, Jake Nerwinski having played a lot of games lately, not to mention Crepeau, who had a nice workout both against Montreal and against San Jose, suggesting that a change will need to be in order.
The centre backs will likely stay the same, with options Jhesser Khemiri, Erik Godoy and Brendan McDonaugh all either injured or out on loan, and one would think the Andy Rose at centre back experiment has long concluded, but at left-back, right-back and goalkeeper, Brett Levis, Scott Sutter and Zac MacMath are ready to claw in if needed, which they may just end up doing.
In the middle and up top, things remain murky, with the lone guarantees being Jon Erice, who has had a lot of rest the past month, and Michaell Chirinos, who is auditioning for next year. In Beom Hwang and Russell Teibert will likely join Erice in the middle, but Rose is also a possibility, not to mention Michael Baldisimo, who would be well-served to make his debut in a match like this. On the other wing, Lass Bangoura, Theo Bair and Yordy Reyna remain options, while up top Bair, Reyna and Fredy Montero look to be the main choices there, barring something completely unforeseen. We won’t truly know until 18:00 PST, so until then, we’ll be left to speculate, but it would be good to see some fresh faces after a long week.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Michaell Chirinos
Chirinos looked great against Montreal, running all over and nearly scoring 3 goals. If he has 5 more games like that, expect him to be back next year without a doubt. On a Whitecaps team lacking for wide depth, he appears to bring something that they have sorely lacked, so it will be good to see it on display in front of the BC Place faithful for the first time.
Goals on Tap?: The last two games these two played against each other? 3-2 and 2-2, for a combined 9 goals. These Caps aren’t as fertile as those past editions, and New York is a well-balanced side, but maybe they’ll find some of that offensive magic tonight, stirring up the BC Place crowd.
International break looms: Caps players will have a busy international break, with Max Crepeau, Derek Cornelius, Rusell Teibert, Doneil Henry (all Canada), Michaell Chirinos (Honduras), Yordy Reyna (Peru) and In Beom Hwang (South Korea) all selected for their various national sides. For a team at the bottom of MLS, it’s an impressive list of call-ups for Vancouver.
Flight Plan: The Whitecaps flight plans captured the interest of MLS this week, as their miseries were just yet another mishap pertaining to travel in this league. Ahead of a crucial CBA negotiation, the players continue to prepare to fight for their demands, with flights looking to be a big piece of their agenda, amongst many other important things, such as lifting budget restrictions.
New York City FC:
Record: 13W-5L-8D (47 Points)
Manager: Dame Torrent
Dame Torrent’s crew have been on a warpath this season, becoming one of the top sides in MLS. Due to some smart investing in players like Maxi Moralez, Heber and Alexandru Mitrita, Anton Tinnerholm and Alex Ring, they have built up a solid spine for their squad. Add in competent depth pieces, a great adjustment to MLS by Torrent, who used to be Pep Guardiola’s long-time assistant, and tight defensive posture (3rd best in MLS), it shows why New York looks to be one of the favourites to come out of the Eastern Conference. Well rested, with most of their first-choice squad available, they will give Vancouver a lot to handle, making a blow out likely. While they don’t have the same star power they used to have with names like Frank Lampard, David Villa and Andrea Pirlo once upon a time dotting the baby blue, they are way more balanced and well organized, and in MLS 3.0, that’s exactly what you need.
Things kick off later today. Will the Caps get blown out by New York? Is there an upset in the cards? Will they combine for another 4 or 5 goal thriller? Find out tonight. At best, you’ll be treated to a good match. At worst? One step closer to the end of 2019.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs New York City FC, Saturday, August 31st, 19:00 PST (BC Place, Vancouver)