The result wasn’t ideal, but the Whitecaps opened up their 2019 campaign with a well-fought match in front of the faithful at BC place last Saturday, falling to fellow Western conference foes Minnesota United. Despite coming out of the starting blocks flying, their lack of cohesion and chemistry ended up being their undoing, leaving the Caps to succumb to the magic of Minnesota starlet Darwin Quintero Jr, starting out the Marc Dos Santos era on a disappointing note. All things considered, it was a decent performance for the Caps, with many new players being integrated into the team rather late (and more reportedly on the way!!). We saw a lot of debuts, a couple of firsts, and many other positive signs that point to good things to come. Fresh off a week of training, the Caps head to the city that has given them some tough matches over the years, visiting a familiar foe in Real Salt Lake. Real is coming off an opening match 1-1 draw with Houston, so they will look to chalk up their first victory of the season in front of their home supporters in their home opener. Look for another good match between two opponents that have provided their fair share of them over the years.
Projected Starting Lineup:
Injuries: Brett Levis (Lower-Body, Week-to-Week), Jesser Khemiri (Knee, Week-to-Week)
It looks like there will be minimal change to the XI trotted out against Minnesota, with the likely changes to be in the midfield with Felipe likely coming out for Andy Rose, out wide with Lass Bangoura making way for Lucas Venuto and at left back with PC possibly making his way in for Derek Cornelius. Rose did not feature last week but did feature in every match during preseason, so he would have some familiarity there. Felipe did not have the greatest of matches, so it is likely Dos Santos takes him out for this match, giving a chance to Rose at a position that has good competition for places, especially with Russell Teibert recovering from his injury and making this trip.
Out wide, the carousel of wingers that will likely go on all season begins with Bangoura coming out for Venuto. Bangoura did very well on Saturday, but faded out of the match for periods and gave away the ball on the second goal, so look for Venuto to have a chance to make his mark, with Bangoura likely coming in for a 20-minute cameo. At left back, PC looks to slot in, as despite his disappointing play at the position last season for his former club in Orlando, he still provides more experience than Cornelius, and performed well in his short cameo in the position against Minnesota. Cornelius looked painfully out of his element in the match, with his shaky play highlighting the Caps need for a new left-back. Until that possibly materializes, it looks like the Caps will have to choose between Cornelius and PC, so look for PC to come in and assist his team in building up the play, something Cornelius struggled with.
BTSvancity player to watch:
We continue with the theme of new guys this week, with our player to watch for this match being Jon Erice. He did rather well in his role against Minnesota, getting on the ball a lot and moving it rather well, save for a few ambitious over the top balls that were unnecessary. Despite that, he had a mixed reception for fans, with many blaming his positional mistake on the second goal and giveaway on the third for the match falling apart. While those fans were a vocal minority, it made for a trying night for someone getting used to a new league and a new system. Look for Erice to have a statement game against a team that should give him a lot of space to operate.
Honourable Mentions: Hwang In-Beom, Erik Godoy
After playing the first match in the MDS era in front of a good crowd, the Caps take their talents on the road and take on a team that has given them some tough matchups over the last few years. Last years 2-1 loss away was very disappointing considering the defending, and the less said about the 3-0 snow game debacle in 2017 the better. We may see how flexible the Caps tactics really are under Dos Santos, as he mentioned in interviews before the season that he does adapt the game plan to the circumstances around him. He will likely not come out with the pragmatic approach that Carl Robinson often employed to gain results, but look for a cautious start from the Caps as they look to get that first victory out of the way before it becomes too big of a storyline.
Real Salt Lake:
Manager: Mike Petke
Real Salt Lake have toiled along in the 10 years since their lone MLS triumph in 2009, 2013 final appearance aside. They have been all over the map, usually making the playoffs, but with some poor finishes sandwiched in. They still employ former US internationals Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman, as they continue to play key roles under Mike Petke. Rimando may not be saving balls as he did in his heyday as arguably one of the best keepers MLS has seen, but he can still play at this level and has been a regular for the club. They are solid at the back, marshalled by solid internationals Marcelo Silva and Nedum Onuoha. Their main threat is the creative Albert Rusnak, who is highly unpredictable having pulled out some crazy volleys last season en route to their appearance in the quarter-finals in the MLS Cup playoffs. Besides that, they may not exactly inspire confidence, but Petke is experienced and knows MLS very well, so look for RSL to be neck and neck with the Caps in the playoff race come July and August.
What they’re saying:
After beating Houston: “Continue with the mentality we have, we feel comfortable at home. Guys have good attitudes and good spirits right now after a good result on the road.”
On the Caps: “They do have a lot of new guys, which is maybe a good opportunity for us, this is a strange league for players from the outside to come in and get used to right away, but they’re a talented team with an excellent coach”
On avoiding complacency after a good home record last season: “Well on all aspects I think we want to improve, on the road, at home, we did have a solid body of work last year, but we can still improve”
At being at home: “Obviously the fans being here in force and loud, kind of helps that initial part of the game, obviously you get some goals gets them involved even more, it helps out but I think overall we started to get comfortable here”
On the Caps: “We’re gonna watch as much video as we can and try and get an idea of what they like to do, but a lot of the focus will be on what we do”
Alexandre: 3-2 Whitecaps, Venuto, Rose and Ardaiz scoring for the Caps, Rusnak and Savarino replying for RSL
Karim: 2-1 Whitecaps, Reyna and Montero for the Caps, Kreilach for RSL
Keveren: 2-1 Whitecaps, Reyna and Hwang for the Caps, Kreilach for RSL
Jan: 1-1 Draw, Montero and Rusnak the goals.