Wednesday night at BC Place, the Vancouver Whitecaps will take on CF Montreal with the mission of defending their Canadian Championship title and earning a spot in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League.
Coming into this match, neither of these teams is likely to be 100% satisfied with the way their season has gone so far. Currently, the Vancouver Whitecaps sit 6th in the West but only two points from being out of a playoff spot. Meanwhile, CF Montreal has turned around a bumpy start to the year, but they still sit down in 10th in the East, with a -12 goal difference.
While Vancouver’s underlying numbers are very good and show signs of untapped potential, for CF Montreal it’s been a bit of a different story. Admittedly, Montreal has been a bit unlucky defensively, but their chance creation, when you break it down, just isn’t where it need to be in order to be a consistently good team. Chinonso Offor, the 23-year-old Nigerian, co-leads the team in goals with four, and is the only player on the roster with more than 2.0 xG so far this season. That being said, watching Offor’s play can be frustrating to watch, with a myriad of missed chances and poor touches at times.
Montreal’s best stretch of 2023 came at the end of April into early May, where they rattled off four straight 2-0 wins in the league. In the midst of this, they added two Canadian Championship wins over Vaughn Azuri and Toronto FC. Needless to say, when things click for CF Montreal they have some potential, but it also goes to show how poor the rest of their season has been, with all those results condensed in one stretch of play. Vanni Sartini noted on Tuesday that he thinks the Canadian Championship really helped Montreal find a tactical identity, as they’ve looked much more organized and committed to Hernan Losada’s game-plan since the beginning of that run.
One position which has actually been rock solid for Montreal is in between the sticks, where James Pantemis and Jonathan Sirois have provided consistent play. After Pantemis went down with an injury early in the year, 21-year-old Sirois has been very reliable for Montreal, building on two impressive campaigns with CPL side Valour FC back in 2021 and 2022.
Elsewhere for Montreal, Victor Wanyama is a inescapable midfield presence, while Aaron Herrera, who moved over from Real Salt Lake in the off-season, holds down a wing-back spot and can always provide an assisting threat from that position. Given how narrow Vancouver can play at times, this kind of chance creation will probably be key to Montreal’s prospects in this match. Joel Waterman and Rudy Camacho have been relative constants at the back for Montreal without Kamal Miller in the side, but Camacho was stretchered off against DC United and was not available against Philadelphia (their most recent match), so his status may still be up in the air for the final.
Turning to Vancouver, the big question leading into this match is who will occupy that third Canadian starting spot on Wednesday. Vanni Sartini confirmed that Ryan Raposo and Russell Teibert will start on Wednesday, but held his cards close to the chest in terms of that final spot. I would say that it is likely down to either Karifa Yao or Levonte Johnson. Of those two, Johnson looks like the easier one to start, given his position and the flashes we’ve seen when he played in this competition. If Johnson starts, then it would not surprise me if Brian White plays underneath him and one of the attacking mids (either Gauld or Vite) moves back into the midfield.
Overall, the combination of home pitch advantage and the form of these two sides leaves me reasonably confident the Whitecaps have what it takes to get this one over the line, so I’ll predict a 2-0 Vancouver Whitecaps victory.