After another match that finished with them on the wrong side of the desired scoreline, the Vancouver Whitecaps make their first trip out East, flying to Chicago to take on a longtime MLS side in the Fire, a team that has struggled a lot of late. Despite having World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger, as well as some solid MLS talent like Dax McCarty and Nemanja Nikolic, they have struggled the last season and a half after a surprising resurgence in 2017 had seemingly established them as a team to watch in MLS. Vancouver has traditionally done very well against Chicago during their time in MLS, sporting a 5-2-2 record for a total of 17 points taken from a possible 27 during those 9 matches, a very positive return. With wins being very hard to come by in the early stages of this season, the Caps hope to find some of that magic they have had against Chicago so far in MLS, picking up that crucial first victory of the season.
Projected Starting XI
Injuries: Jhesser Khemiri (Knee, Week-to-Week), Andy Rose (Facial Fractures, Week-To-Week), Micheal Baldisimo (Ankle, Week-To-Week), David Norman Jr (Foot, Week-To-Week)
After experimenting with a staggered 4-3-3 with midfielder Hwang Inbeom tucked inside as a withdrawn attacking midfielder of sorts, Marc Dos Santos will likely continue with something similar after finding success in that first half against LA. It allowed the creative Hwang some freedom, as the Caps looked to give him some space to score some goals. While it did not work out in terms of getting goals in the back of the net, they were able to get chances, just unable to convert. Hwang was shyer than usual at shooting the ball, so if he is able to get more of his deadly shots towards goal, it’s not a stretch to imagine him scoring in this game. Up front, Fredy Montero and Yordy Reyna likely draw back in, giving a chance to the pair to find some magic and get back to the heights that they were at before, especially when they played together for 3 months at the end of 2017. Reyna was spectacular at the end of last season, providing bright moments going forward, but has been non-existent so far this campaign. If he were to get going, it would answer a lot of questions as to where the goals are going to come from, as he has the ability to provide and finish chances. Besides the changes up front, the midfield will likely remain the same, with Teibert and Felipe remaining in alongside regulars Erice and Hwang. Teibert was good against both Seattle and LA, and Felipe looks a lot better so far than he did in the opener against Minnesota. While it would be nice for Felipe to find some of the offensive form that made him such a coveted player for Vancouver when they acquired him last year, it was positive to see him passing the ball and putting a solid shift in defensively. At the back, Ali Adnan looks to continue his strong play, panenka aside. He has been immense at shoring up the back, as he provides a lot going both ways. Erik Godoy and Doneil Henry look to chase that second clean sheet of the season after some Zlatan Ibrahimovic magic and some defensive miscues robbed them of doing that last week. Godoy and Henry have been really good so far, with Henry looking a new player after some rough play last season. Scott Sutter will likely slide in alongside them at right back after Jake Nerwinski had another rough outing defensively. He has been decent going forward, but some wandering on the first goal left the Caps in a tough spot as Daniel Steres nodded home at the back post. A solid performance from Sutter might leave Nerwinski on the outside looking in, as he has been really good in his few appearances so far. Dos Santos has tried to give Jake a few chances, but if he does not seize them he may watch Sutter get an extended run the next few weeks. Maxime Crepeau looks to stay in the sticks, as he has been MDS’s guy so far and has done nothing to remove him for veteran Zac MacMath. While I wonder if MacMath will pick up the start against either LAFC or Orlando next week, Crepeau looks good to go for this one. Joaquin Ardaiz, Lass Bangoura and Lucas Venuto will likely come of the bench, as they have all looked better as substitutes in the various matches.
BTSVancity Player to Watch:
For this one, we are going to go with Doneil Henry. He has been much improved this season, finding some of the form that had once secured him the move to West Ham. He struggled with injuries while in England but is starting to look like the player that his potential suggests that he can be. He has formed a good partnership with Erik Godoy, winning tackles and making the Caps box a hard place to play around. He kept Ibrahimovic in his pocket for a lot of last game, with Ibrahimovic scoring his lone goal when he and Joe Corona overloaded Godoy on a cross. If Henry can do the same to the dangerous Nemanja Nikolic, it’s not unrealistic to imagine another clean sheet for the Caps.
Honourable Mentions: Felipe, Fredy Montero
The Caps continue to chase that elusive first victory, with nothing to show from 5 MLS matches and 5 preseason matches. With each match providing a new gut punch, from poor penalty decisions from refs to the shocking Panenka last week, the Caps will look to avoid any sort of drama and pick up a no-nonsense victory.
Chicago has struggled as well to start the season, with 1 victory from 5 matches, as Tim Parker gifted them a horrendous own goal in that 1-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls. With Chicago having some quality offensive talent, one can wonder how they have been unable to find some results so far. While they have some glaring holes at the back, they should find a way to win some more games than they have so far.
The Caps have been shutout in back-to-back matches, struggling to convert their chances. A couple of goals in the Windy City would go a long way to lowering tensions ahead of training next week and a key home matchup against LAFC.
Manager: Veljko Paunovic
When looking at Chicago’s potential starters, it is apparent that they got some good options to attack. Out wide, C.J. Sapong is in excellent form, picking up 3 goals so far. He will be a threat, as well as the ever-dangerous target man Nikolic, who picked up 15 goals last year after an impressive 24 the year prior. He can score goals and has hurt the Caps before, picking up a brace in 2017. Below him will likely be Aleksander Katai, a dangerous winger and attacking midfielder that has done pretty well in his year and a half so far in MLS. The real wild card will be if Przemysław Frankowski or Nico Gaitan start, as Frankowski is a 23-year-old Polish international that has 2 assists from 4 matches so far, and is a dangerous threat, while Nico Gaitan is a dangeorus player both wide and in the middle, as he hustles hard and creates a lot of chances. He has played at some top clubs, including Atletico Madrid, and will cause a nightmare if he makes his first MLS start. It is likely that Veljko Paunovic finds a way to fit all those options in, with maybe Gaitan slotting in beside veteran workhorse McCarty in the middle, leaving Sapong, Katai and Frankowski to play below Nikolic up top. It’s at the back where Chicago is a little less sturdy, with the lack of centre back being the main issue. At full back, they are decent, with the youngster Gutjhar and older Kappelhof working well, but at centre back they have employed Schweinsteiger, who is a top midfielder. He has done well in the role, but one can wonder what they could do if they could get an actual centre back and play Schweinsteiger in the midfield, where he belongs. In goal, we see former Caps star, David Ousted, who has done well giving the Fire a veteran presence back there after being Ousted (no pun intended) by Bill Hamid in D.C. last season.
Check out our article for this week’s training soundbites
On being back at home after playing at Toronto: “It’s good to be back home and play in front of our crowd, and we definitely believe that the team is doing well, this week in training was a pretty good performance”
On facing Vancouver: “Before the game, we feel very excited to face a good opponent, and we know in this league there are no easy games, and we have to be at our best”
On the mood heading into this one: “I feel really good, I feel confident. There’s still things to build off of in those games, there’s still work to be done, but we feel confident going into this game”
On facing his former club: “It’s always fun to see your old friends and compare up against them. The most important thing for me is 3 points for us, we need to get on a roll and get points here at home. I’m looking forward to playing them, but it’s all business on Friday”
On making highlight reel saves: “They’re fun, obviously they’re good saves, and getting the recognition is always fun, and those guys have a smile on them, and like they say they help me out, so it’s nice to get that appreciation”
Alex: 3-1 Caps, Felipe, Montero and Reyna for Caps, Frankowski for Chicago.
Karim: 2-1 Caps, Bangoura and Ardaiz for the Caps, Sapong for Chicago.
Keveren: 2-1 Caps, Hwang and Montero for the Caps, Sapong for Chicago.
Jan: 3-2 Chicago, Nikolic, Gaitan and Sapong for Chicago, Ardaiz and Hwang for the Caps.
Bryan: 1-0 Caps, Montero
Weekly BTS Reading: