Match Preview: Caps look to keep their home success rolling against Sporting KC

The Caps continue their streak of matches in front of the home faithful at BC Place, this time welcoming Sporting KC to town.

2023 has thus far proven to be a disappointment for Peter Vermes and Co. Despite hopes that good league form to end last season would be a sign they could return to the elite of the Western Conference, things haven’t quite worked out that way.

Instead, SKC sit two points adrift from the playoff spot in the Western Conference and it has taken a good run of form to get them there, leaving the door open for a return to their usual place in the postseason, though questions about the side still remain.

If you’ve watched SKC in years past, Vermes’ imprint on the team’s style remains as strong as ever. This is a team that likes to sit in possession and ping the ball around, making lots of passes (7th in the league in accurate passes per match and 3rd in accurate long balls per match) and working crosses into the box.

The problem is, SKC went through a long fallow period and rank towards the bottom of the league in chances created and goals scored. This has started to change in recent matches, with Daniel Salloi and Johnny Russell starting to look like the dangerous attackers that have given the Caps fits in the past (the return of Alan Pulido has supported this). But the jury remains out on if this can be consistent.

Similarly, there are lots of questions about whether the midfield is going to be able to win duels and do what Vermes typically asks of his players. There are some aging pieces here, both in midfield and defense, and this was apparent when St. Louis City ripped them apart a couple of weeks ago. Vermes has also gone back and forth on who he wants in goal given the ongoing absence of Tim Melia, with neither Kendall McIntosh nor John Pulskamp looking entirely convincing.

Meanwhile, Vancouver will be riding high off a big 6-2 win in the midweek, with the attack really starting to hum in recent matches. Of course, this comes with the corollary that the defense has shown some creaks and individual errors that are cause for concern. After Ranko Veselinovic got 45 minutes in the midweek, one imagines he will return to the starting XI to hopefully add some composure.

Vanni Sartini may elect to rest some key players ahead of the Canadian Championship final. Sergio Cordova and/or Simon Becher will thus be on high alert for a start, as will potentially guys like Sebastian Berhalter.

There will be no injury concerns for this one, aside from Ali Ahmed, who Sartini said Friday has resumed some limited individual training and will obviously will be treated with caution after his scary injury last month.

A first choice starting XI would seem a good bet to continue their momentum from the midweek against an SKC team that is trying to stay afloat in the playoff race. Rotation, however, will add a new wrinkle for the Caps in a match they’d otherwise be favoured in.

While SKC has had Vancouver’s number over the years, I still think this is one the Caps can walk away with a win from. Put me down for a 2-1 victory.

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