After a 3 week break as many international tournaments around the world kicked off, the Vancouver Whitecaps are back in action tomorrow as they will face the Colorado Rapids at BC Place. After going into the break in great form, picking up points in 7 of their last 8 matches, they will look to continue that run as the season progresses towards the business end of things, with the Caps officially playing their last game of the first half of the season tomorrow. With a playoff spot looking more and more like a real possibility now, these matches at home will be crucial if the Caps are to imagine any sort of meaningful games into October and November. It’s also the first Saturday of summer, so look for the Caps to bring the party as the summer season officially kicks off in the Northern Hemisphere.
International Absences: Maxime Crepeau (Canada, Gold Cup), Russell Teibert (Canada, Gold Cup), Derek Cornelius (Canada, Gold Cup) Doneil Henry (Canada, Gold Cup), Lass Bangoura (Guinea, Africa Cup of Nations).
Injuries: Jhesser Khemiri (Day-To-Day, Knee) David Norman Jr (Week-To-Week, Foot)
Record: 4W-6L-6D (18 Points)
Despite missing 5 players due to international commitments, the Caps appear to still be in good shape for this match, with the ability to put out nearly a full-strength squad. This is where Marc Dos Santos’s hunt for depth at the beginning of the season starts to look good, as the Caps are able to absorb absences like that for matches like this, knowing that the MLS schedule is typically unforgiving of international breaks. While defensively the Caps may look a bit stretched, as Doneil Henry and Derek Cornelius will be sorely missed, Erik Godoy has been great this season and Andy Rose has been no slouch of late in that centre back role. Dos Santos has preferred a 5 at the back of late, but he will likely have to shift to a 4 man unit for this one, with the status of Khemiri being up in the air as they ease him back into action. But, besides that, it’s positions of strength all over the field, with Ali Adnan and Jake Nerwinski expected to rule the flanks, Jon Erice, Felipe and Hwang InBeom looking to control the middle and Yordy Reyna, Fredy Montero and Lucas Venuto chasing goals as the Caps return to an early-season 4-3-3. While the 5-3-2 has appeared better suited for the players the Caps currently employ, they got more than enough firepower to dispatch Colorado and climb back into a playoff spot.
BTSVancity Player to Watch:
Our player of the watch for this one is the Brazilian maestro in the midfield, Felipe. A favoured whipping boy of fans, he has had a good season to date, bringing good leadership and ball-moving ability to the midfield, making the criticism he receives seem harsh. Playing a defensively porous team like Colorado, it may be a good chance for him to get some of his counting stats up and win over some fans, getting a goal or an assist and helping the Caps get a valuable three points.
Will the second “Toilet Bowl” live up to the first one? When both teams faced each other back in May, it was a battle of last vs second-last in the West that was (understandably) not that anticipated as they met in a Friday night battle in Colorado. To the surprise of many, it ended up being a highly entertaining game, with some sloppy defence and suspect refereeing led to a match with 5 goals, a cancelled VAR goal and a passionate sideline celebration as the Caps won 3-2 on a late goal from Andy Rose. While this game may likely fail to reach that level of excitement, it should still have a few goals in it and gives fans something to cheer about.
Adding to the excitement is the return of former Caps Kei Kamara and Nico Mezquida, both fan-favourites from their times in Vancouver. Mezquida was here for nearly five years, scoring some spectacular goals and putting in a great effort every time out. Kamara was only here for a season, but his consistent goals and flash celebrations won over the hearts of many Caps fans. With the Caps Zac MacMath playing his former team as well, there should be a little extra from those 3 players in this one.
Manager: Conor Casey
Record: 4W-9L-3D (15 Points)
Colorado have been underwhelming the last few seasons, consistently underperforming despite having a decent assembly of players over the years. After struggling all of last season, finishing 3rd-last only ahead of historically bad units San Jose and Orlando, changes were expected to come for the Rapids. But, instead they made only minor moves, expecting change from the same lineup. Not surprisingly, it backfired, and cost Anthony Hudson is job, and he got replaced Conor Casey. Surprisingly, despite few personnel changes, Casey has managed to turn things around, as they come into this one scorching as well, with points in their last 5 MLS matches, including 4 victories. Despite a setback 2 days ago as they crashed out to USL side New Mexico United in the US Open Cup, they have appeared to figured out things as they make a push back up the Western standings in MLS. With Kamara, Cole Bassett, rookie Andre Shinyasinki and Kellyn Acosta, they have players who can score goals, and Tommy Smith and Lalas Abubakar have shored things up defensively. While the retiring Tim Howard isn’t what he used to be in Between The Sticks(™), he will look to give BC Place one last performance to remember in front of a crowd that has never been too fond of him. With both teams in strong form, something will have to give, so expect a tight-fought, intense match between these two sides, with plenty of goals expected to be on the menu for the evening.
Colorado and Vancouver have combined for all sorts of exciting matches over the years, with the teams usually being pretty evenly matched. With only 3 points separating them, a victory would be huge for either team, with Colorado getting within 1 point of a playoff spot with a win, while Vancouver would be firmly in one if they were to do the same. With some big road games looming for Vancouver, as Dallas, Seattle and LAFC all loom in the span of a week and a half, some confidence heading into that would be much appreciated for the team and their fans.
Saturday, June 22nd, 19:00 PST, BC Place.