Match Preview: Canadian Clash in Toronto for Vancouver Whitecaps

After a (seemingly) long break to the Whitecaps season just as they were picking up steam, the ‘Caps head over to the next destination of their extended road trip: Toronto.

The two Canadian teams are looking a stark contrast from where they historically stand. Toronto is at the bottom of the East and in turmoil, whereas the Whitecaps are three points from taking second place in the West. Whether bad management or misspending of funds, Toronto is in a hole that they have tried many different approaches to fix. Throwing a bunch of money at Italian stars, or more recently, hiring the Canadian Men’s national team manager as their coach, their experiments have yet to bear fruit in a meaningful way.

The Whitecaps, on the other hand, have surprised the majority of the MLS with their play and have made signings that have improved the team in subtle but important ways (a particular player non-withstanding). Even with the sale of arguably their most consistent performer this season in Julian Gressel, the Whitecaps have done surprisingly well and replaced him with a Canadian trio that harkens back to their old mission statement of being the “Athletico Bilbao of Canada”. These signings have impressed so far, and with Junior Hoilett as a backup option with Premier League experience, the Whitecaps aren’t looking to just fight for a spot in the playoffs, but to cement one.

A road game isn’t easy for any team, and all of Toronto’s victories have come in their own backyard. But that isn’t to discourage the ‘Caps at all, as Toronto has only managed to win on their home turf four times. With Vancouver’s recent form on the road, hopefully this can translate to the same when going to their fierce Canadian rivals’ stadium. To Toronto’s credit though, they have won their most recent game in impressive fashion, taking out the Philadelphia Union by a score of 3-1. After a goalless run that spanned from July 1st to August 20th, Toronto have scored five goals in three games coming into this match.

Of course with Toronto, one must always be wary of their Italian duo of Insigne and Bernardeschi. The duo have combined for 9 out of the 23 goals Toronto have scored this season. If there’s anyone who can derail Vancouver’s ambitions for a victory, it will be those two. Luckily, the Whitecaps now have an inside man in the form of Richie Laryea, who was a star for their opponents this weekend in years gone by. Whether returning to his former home gives him confidence or the fans make it especially difficult is hard to say, but the match will be an interesting one for sure.

Speaking of individual players, with Sergio Cordova transferred away in the Whitecaps’ worst DP deal in recent history, Brian White is the centre of attention as the American looks to continue climbing in the MLS scoring charts, and the DP focus is mostly on Gauld, who is quietly having a mercurial season. The duo of White and Gauld have 20 goals combined between them, almost catching up to TFC’s entire output. With players that suit Sartini’s style, this team could make a case to settle in the top reaches of the Western Conference. Now it’s time to see if their form away from home is fairytale magic, or whether they have a case for doing something in the playoffs and beyond. The Whitecaps, in my view, have what it takes, thus a 2-1 Win for Vancouver would not be surprising.

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