2019 Match Preview #16: Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs Toronto FC: Battle of the North

After a key victory last week over Dallas, the Vancouver Whitecaps look to continue their strong run of form as they take on cross-country rivals Toronto FC in a big clash at BC Place. With points in 6 of their last 7 matches, and 7 of the last 9, the Caps come into this one flying high after a slower start to their season. Standing in their way for this one is a struggling Toronto FC team, as the one-time MLS champs limp into this one with 1 point to show from their last 5 matches. While on paper this matchup seems to skew in Vancouver’s favour, if there is anything to know about MLS it’s that form and records can be thrown out the window in any given game, especially in one like this against a team like Toronto, who holds difference makers like Alejandro Pozuelo, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. With the Caps seemingly having done enough to repair some of the damage done off the field the last week with a statement, expect a great crowd for a rivalry match as they also officially celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1979 NASL Soccer Bowl Championship.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC:

Projected XI:

Injuries: Jhesser Khemiri (Knee, Day-To-Day), Micheal Baldisimo (Ankle, Day-To-Day), Lass Bangoura (Hamstring, Week-To-Week), , Doneil Henry (Hamstring, Week-To-Week), David Norman Jr (Foot, Month-To-Month), Joaquin Ardaiz (Lower Body Injury, Day-To-Day), Jake Nerwinski (Questionable, Day-To-Day)

Record: 4-6-5

With the 3 (5?) at the back formation proving successful against Dallas, we will likely see its return in today’s affair. Used on a few occasions this season, it has mostly backfired, primarily due to a lack of cohesiveness within the system, along with some poor execution from players. Against Dallas, it finally lived up to potential, as the back 3 proved stout and mobile and it allowed full backs Jake Nerwinski and Ali Adnan to get forward and attack space. Along with the solidity of a 3 man midfield, and the flexibility shown by Lucas Venuto and Fredy Montero up top, it can provide the attacking prowess of a more classic 4-3-3 while allowing for defensive solidity. With a week off after last week’s match, and a few players remaining out due to injury, the Caps will likely field most of the same starters as against Dallas, with some changes here and there as Marc Dos Santos sees fit. Yordy Reyna is a strong candidate for selection, as he appears to be recovered from his hamstring injury, so his return should provide a boost as the Caps could use his offence, especially if he can find anything that resembles the form he showed before he was injured just under a month ago.  

BTSVancity Player to Watch:

Photo Taken by: Keveren Guillou

In this match, we tip our player to watch to be the fantastic Ali Adnan, hot off his goal in the Dallas match. While he limped off in that one with a bit of an injury scare, he looks to be back to full strength in time for this one, so he will definitely be one to watch if the Caps are to trot out the same formation as they did last Saturday. With his future being so uncertain, good performances this next month would likely be best for all sides as they sort out his contract situation.

Storylines:

After putting out another statement that finally seemed to steer their ship in the right direction as it pertains to their various off-field issues, the Caps hope to bring in some big numbers for this one as they officially celebrate the 40 year anniversary of the 1979 NASL Soccer Bowl Championship. With many of those former players in attendance, and cheaper tickets, this match should provide a good time for plenty of fans searching for one on a Friday Night in Vancouver.

This is also a derby of sorts, with Toronto and Vancouver always teaming up for good, spirited matches no matter the competition they participate in. With Toronto being on a bad run of form, and Vancouver looking to continue their climb back into the playoff race, there should definitely be lots of emotion out on the pitch for this one.

Toronto FC

Manager: Greg Vanney

Record: 5-6-2

Toronto have a decent assembly of players, but are going through a bit of an injury/form crisis, with all sorts of names having to feature of late for them. With Jonathan Osorio and Micheal Bradley missing out last match due to injuries, their midfield was a bit disorganized against San Jose, so it will be interesting to see if either of them are able to return in time for this one. The two main players to watch for this one will be on the attacking side of the equation, with the prolific Jozy Altidore and the creative Alejandro Pozuelo looking to start, after Pozuelo missed out against San Jose due to suspension. While Toronto has been rather disorganzied defensively this season, Pozuelo has proven to be a top talent going forward, doing well to replace the massive gap left by Sebastian Giovinco. While the Caps have been able to nurture some top players who came through BC Place this season, including Carlos Vela, Josef Martinez, Diego Valeri and Raul Ruidiaz, Pozuelo may be one of their toughest challenges to date. A proper attacking midfielder, he is the kind of player to dicate the tempo and pull the strings from the middle, occupying the space between the defensive and midfield lines, either operating on the space given to him out of fear from defenders or freeing up space for his teammates if defended tightly. How the Caps defend him may very well decide the result in this one.

Outlook:

As mentionned, lots going on for this one so should be definitely one to tune in for. From the anniversary festivities, to the classic Canadian rivalry and everything else this occaison offers, it should have something for all to enjoy. For the Caps, it’s a crucial home test before heading out on a tough road span, including the likes of LAFC, Seattle and Dallas, so some points on this home cooking could go a long way to ensuring good spirits and good results on that road swing.

Friday June 1st 2019, 19:00 PST, BC Place

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