2019 Match Preview #27: Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs DC United: Home at last

The Vancouver Whitecaps return home after a lengthy road trip, but things do not get easier for them on Saturday, with a strong DC United side awaiting them at BC Place. 

After falling 3-1 in a rainy evening down in Portland, the Vancouver Whitecaps return home to face DC United at BC Place, taking on a team currently 3rd in the Eastern Conference playoff race. A lot of the buzz before the match will be centered around a couple of names on DC’s squad, with high-profile former England international Wayne Rooney and former Caps midfielder Felipe Martins making the trip to Vancouver. For Rooney, it will be his first and only visit, as he will return to England to join Derby County in the winter, while for Felipe it will be the first since his trade to DC 2 weeks ago, with a scheduling quirk giving him a chance to revisit his old team so soon after the move. 

Last time these teams met was 13 months ago, as they faced off at DC’s Audi Field in the first-ever match at that stadium, with the Caps falling 3-1 on the eve of the 2018 Men’s World Cup Final. A lot has changed for both teams since then, especially the Caps, who’s very different squad will look to avoid a repeat of that scoreline in front of their home fans. It will be interesting to see how many fans turn up for the match, with Rooney’s arrival potentially playing a role in attracting more neutral fan interest, which means this match could have a good atmosphere, despite the Caps being far away from a playoff spot. 

Vancouver Whitecaps:

Injuries: Jhesser Khemiri (Knee), PC (Lower Body Injury)

Record: 5W-12L-9D (24 Points)

Manager: Marc Dos Santos

While it would have been hoped that this lineup could have both included Tosaint Ricketts and Michaell Chirinos, the two Whitecaps signings from the summer, it will be unlikely either of them starts, with Chirinos yet to arrive, and Ricketts adapting to the city after his global travels. Ricketts will surely feature off of the bench, but Dos Santos will likely end up sticking with the same roster. 

The back 4+goalkeeper stays the same, with Adnan originally looking questionable earlier in the week, but appearing to recover in time to face DC, resuming first-team training ahead of the match. With a lack of midfield options, the middle of the park stays the same, with Jon Erice being the lone candidate to be introduced, but with Marc Dos Santos seeming to favour Hwang In Beom in the deep role Erice likes to occupy, don’t bank on it. Up front, things remain the same, with Fredy Montero, Yordy Reyna and Theo Bair sticking as the three frontmen in the Christmas tree. Lass Bangoura, Tosaint Ricketts and Joaquin Ardaiz all remain options off of the bench, with Ricketts just arriving, Bangoura recovering from injury, and Ardaiz looking out of favour with Dos Santos. 

With another week to train, it will be interesting to see how settled the Caps look in this formation, as they use it at home for the first time. They have traditionally looked better at home when trying formations this season, so it is possible they come out strong and look a completely different team from last week. That is not to say they played badly in Portland, where they put up a great fight in a losing effort, but they seemed to lack much control over the match, chasing the game the way that the Timbers hoped the Caps would do, unable to push the initiative against their Cascadia foes. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Tosaint Ricketts

He won’t start, but Ricketts will definitely make an appearance at BC Place. For a team needing goals, his experience off of the bench will certainly give a boost to the Caps, who’s main attacking options last week were a couple of full backs and an out of form Ardaiz. Ricketts should at least provide them with improved depth. 

Storylines:

Homecoming: As mentioned previously, Felipe makes his return to BC Place for the first time since his trade. While he was a bit of a polarizing figure with the Caps, with people being split on the importance he had to the club, you can’t deny he brought fire and passion to each and every game, and you can expect him to do the same for his new club once again on Saturday. 

Meet the new guy(s): It was hoped that it would be plural, but with Chirinos’s arrival being delayed due to visa issue, Ricketts will be the lone debutant on Saturday. If he can keep up his scorching form from Lithuania, the Caps will have a lot to look forward to from the striker, at least for the rest of the season. 

Reshuffled Deck: The Caps reshuffled their deck on Friday, announcing some changes on the footballing side of operations. While it is yet unclear how much they will influence the club (more to come on that later), with the Director of Football yet to be announced, the club took a step to at least try and stem the tide of negativity this year has brought them. Will it work in the long term? We can only find out with time. 

DC United:

Record: 10W-7L-9D (39 Points)

Manager: Ben Olsen

DC have a pretty good squad, as suggested by their strong record. Despite the absence of Rooney last weekend against LA Galaxy, they pulled out a victory, so they come into this one full of confidence. Their two main men, Lucho Acosta and Wayne Rooney, are the ones that come in with the most question marks, with Rooney struggling with the flu last week, and Acosta being benched in a surprise move by manager Ben Olsen. Along with Paul Arriola, they can all hurt teams in various ways offensively, but their squads calling card is defensively, where their 3-4-3 anchored by 3 solid defenders in Steve Birnbaum, Frederic Brilliant and Donovan Pines, with star US goalkeeper Bill Hamid behind them. The midfield is industrious but not flashy, but they get the job done. So while many DC fans would think Olsen is holding them back in terms of exciting play, they are efficient, and the additions of attacking names Ola Kamara and Emmanuel Boateng, they can make some noise heading into the playoffs. 

Looking Forward:

Things kick off Saturday, with the match starting at 7 PM PST. Look for the Caps to bounce back and find some more goals, while DC will look to lock things down and keep their solid run of form going. While a lot of the hoopla will be around the presence of Rooney, DC are a solid outfit, and they will give the Caps a lot to handle. 

Vancouver Whitecaps vs DC United, Saturday, August 17th, 2019, 19:00 PST (BC Place, Vancouver)

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