After what can be best described as a rough outing on Saturday, the Vancouver Whitecaps look to bounce back in a big way, as they take on the New England Revolution in Foxborough, Massachusetts this coming Wednesday. While it will be no easy task, as it’s a cross-country flight for a midweek match (two deadly combos in this league), and they are missing star left-back, Ali Adnan, they will be looking to grind out a gutsy performance, as they look to redeem themselves after a rough patch of form their last half-dozen or so matches. In facing New England, they have themselves a tough opponent, one that is currently embarked on a run of 8 MLS games unbeaten, thanks to the boost provided by noted MLS coaching veteran, Bruce Arena. While these teams do not have much history in between them, the Caps know Arena well from his stints in Los Angeles, which should add some intrigue to this one.
Injuries: Jhesser Khemiri (Day-To-Day, Knee) David Norman Jr (Day-To-Day, Foot)
Absences: Ali Adnan (Yellow Card Accumulation)
Record: 4W-9L-8D (20 Points)
Manager: Marc Dos Santos
It will be tough to exactly project who will be the 11 that come out of the tunnel at Gilette Stadium for the Caps, but they have some intruiging options. One would think that a return to the 4-3-3 may be in the cards (Read our analysis on why we think that here) after a tough couple outings with the 3-5-2, especially with winger options like Lass Bangoura and Lucas Venuto both available for selection once again, removing the built-in injury excuse that the 3-5-2 was supposedly remedying. In goal, Max Crepeau is the near-guaranteed option, after backup Zac MacMath picked up a surprise start on Saturday, with Dos Santos deciding to rest Crepeau for that one. Derek Cornelius met the same fate Saturday as well, so he will likely slot in at centre back possibly alongside Doneil Henry, as Erik Godoy may end up getting some much-deserved rest after playing nearly every match. At full back, Scott Sutter slots in on the right, as he has handled a lot of the road games at right back, while at left back Brett Levis looks locked into start, after not featuring Saturday, as he will fill-in for the suspended Ali Adnan. In the middle, Hwang and Felipe likely start, with Erice being a strong candidate to join them, unless Dos Santos chooses to rest the 32-year-old Spaniard, who has played a lot of matches this season. If he chooses to do so, Andy Rose and Russell Teibert are good options to fill in for Erice, depending if Dos Santos wants size (Rose) or energy (Teibert). Up top, a front three of Venuto, Bangoura and the no-longer suspended Fredy Montero seems likely, but it’s entirely possible that Joaquin Ardaiz picks up the start, saving both Montero and the hot Yordy Reyna for the weekend against San Jose, as well as the Canadian Championship next week. The options are certainly there for Dos Santos, it’s up to him on how he wants to rotate and select the squad, with an eye on the next few matches possibly influencing a couple decisions.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Lass Bangoura
In a match like this one, it is hard to project a player to watch, as the lineup remains in high flux, but for this one we’re going to go with the Guinean international, Lass Bangoura. After a pretty good trek away to join his national team for the African Cup of Nations, he is back and available for selection, so look for him to do some damage if called upon, with his good cameos for Guinea in his back pocket. He can be dangerous away from home, as he loves to run the channels and wreak havoc, which he will look to do if Dos Santos returns to a 4-3-3 for this one. After an up and down start to the campaign, he will want to prove himself, because as a loan player he will want to avoid being terminated at the end of the season, making each game an audition for him.
Defensive Woes? The Caps have fallen off as of late defensively, failing to keep a clean sheet in MLS for 2 months, and they barely kept one last week in the Canadian Championship, as they white-knuckled their way to a nil-nil against CPL side Cavalry FC. With their offense being Jekyll and Hyde, a return to the defensive solidity they showed in the first 10 or so games will be key if they want to have any chance to bring home 3 points.
The absence of Ali? Luckily for the Caps, this absence will only be 1 match, a lot better than if they lost him permanently when his loan finished 2 weeks ago. With his contract now firmly signed, Vancouver gets to see what their team looks like without him, giving a chance to Canadian Brett Levis, who has certainly been unlucky with having a world-class player ahead of him. Can he take his chance? Hopefully, he does, for his sake, as well as the teams, as it will give Dos Santos confidence to call upon Levis if Adnan slips or gets fatigued, providing him good options to play around with the rest of the season.
Taking Flight? A lot to be made about flying, as the Caps took a long cross-country flight to arrive in New England, but this question relates to the formation, as the Caps may end up returning to a 4-3-3 with wingers. If they do so, the Caps will definitely need some wings to fly, with Lass Bangoura and Lucas Venuto the wings expected to carry Air Whitecaps for this match. They have been two popular whipping boys for Vancouver faithful this season, but have performed well in cameos together, such as the 1-0 win over Portland in May, as well as the 3-2 win away from home against Colorado, providing some hope that they can play together. Dos Santos has been reluctant to do so, but if he does it in this one and they win, there will certainly be some food for thought going forward.
New England Revolution:
Manager: Bruce Arena
Record: 6W-8L-6D (24 points)
New England have been running with a “Bruce Arena Bounce”, as the MLS veteran has certainly been providing them a boost as of late, as noted by their 8 match unbeaten run in league play. They are a decent outfit, with some quality players in attack such as Teal Bunbury, Carles Gil, Juan Aguedlo, Juan Caicedo and Diego Fagundez, as well as solid defenders such as Luis Caicedo, Edgar Castillo, Andrew Farrell, Brandon Bye, Antonio Milnar and goalkeeper Matt Turner, giving them good depth throughout the squad. While there are not many flashy names on their squad, they play well as a unit, as evidenced by their goal scoring, where they have 5 players with 3 or more goals, but none over 5. While they could definitely benefit from a star signing to push them further forward, they have that veteran MLS-side feel to them, where the collective can sometimes be greater than the sum of the parts. Their defence has been up and down, as they have only kept two clean sheets since April, so if Vancouver can get a few goals, it may do wonders for their confidence. Gilette Stadium is a tough place to play, due to their rough turf, so the Caps may struggle in that regard, but besides that this appears to be a matchup between two teams trending in different directions, but two teams that appear to be pretty similar in terms of quality, making this an even affair.
The Caps kick things off tomorrow, at 16:00 PST. It’s an early start, which will make it tough for many people to watch, but hopefully both teams can provide a tough tussle, making it worth it for the people who are able to tune in. The Caps need to bounce back badly, especially after their failure to do so in the “statement game” against Kansas, so there will be a lot for them to play for in this one.
Whitecaps FC vs New England Revolution, July 17th, 2019, 16:00 PST (Gilette Stadium, Massachussets)