“Home again, home again!” is the rallying cry for soccer fans across the Lower Mainland as Vancouver Whitecaps FC (11W-10L-8D) return to BC Place this Saturday fresh off a three-game road trip and eager to close the gap between sixth and fifth place when Real Salt Lake (14W-10L-6D) come to town in the third and final meeting between the two teams.
Although the Whitecaps managed to pick up four points on this road trip, (and yes, four is better than zero) the situation is far from comforting. A win against Salt Lake, though desirable and worth celebrating, will still leave the team one point back of Colorado and the elusive playoff bracket. That being said, it is dangerous to hope for anything less than a win, adopting the mindset of “there’s always next time” can no longer suffice.
Leaving aside the season-closing away and home games against the Rapids in October, there is much speculation that if the Whitecaps don’t come away with a win on Saturday, it spells the end of the line for the playoffs. It would be in the best interest of the team to have a repeat performance of last week’s game at Montreal if Vancouver wishes to see post-season action.
Know Your Enemy
It is very important for any team not to underestimate the opponent, and nowhere is that more applicable than when looking at the coveted first place. For a majority of the season, Real Salt Lake sat atop the Western Conference with a comfortable multi-point lead over the other teams, recently being dethroned by Vancouver’s Cascadian rival, Seattle Sounders FC.
In a somewhat déjà vu throwback to earlier in the Whitecaps season, the Sounders and Salt Lake have only a two point difference, so expect RSL to be seeking their fifteenth win of the season, which would not only put them back into first place in the West, but the entire MLS league (tying current leader New York Red Bulls).
One of the positive aspects worth noting about on the Whitecaps end is the unlikely defensive pairing of Carlyle Mitchell and Jay DeMerit (who incidentally played his first full ninety minutes of the season last week without any indication of post-injury complications). The two centre backs have helped keep the ball out of the Whitecaps net (along with stellar performances from David Ousted, of course!) for almost three hours of game time. Mitchell has demonstrated good defensive chemistry with the captain, helping to clear the ball out of the Whitecaps end of the field and preventing opponent shots from becoming scored goals.
That being said, the ball is still spending far too much time in the Whitecaps end, being out-possessed and inviting too many key turnovers. The team needs to focus on keeping the ball in the midfield and creating more chances to move up and shoot on net if future high-scoring games are desired.
Line-up & Injury Report:
It is admittedly difficult to predict what Saturday’s starting eleven will look like, after Martin Rennie’s shakeup against the Impact. The only safe bets at this time appear to be David Ousted in net once more, with DeMerit and Mitchell being kept in the defence. There is rumor that Camilo will be re-inserted into the eleven after netting his two goals last week, but it remains to be confirmed.
Brad Rusin (ankle) and Omar Salgado (foot) continue to recover from their injuries with no timetable in place for either’s return, while no word yet on Andy O’Brien’s progress in healing from his back injury.
Kickoff goes shortly after 4:00PM PDT. Fans can watch the game live on TSN 2 or tune into the radio TEAM 1410 for all pre and post-game coverage.