Once again, the Vancouver Whitecaps and San Jose Earthquakes meet during MLS’s Rivalry Week, both the third-wheel teams in a set of intense derby matches on either side. While there is yet to be much of a rivalry between these two, maybe this match will be the start of something special.
What will the name of this rivalry be? Yet to be decided. With both cities near major earthquake fault lines, and both clubs having been named after different aspects of nature, maybe there could be something in play there, but many have yet to come up with a name that will define this “rivalry” that MLS is bent on creating. But no matter the circumstances, when these two MLS foes meet in league play, usually a lot is at stake, so the match should be good.
With San Jose doing way better in league play, 11 points ahead of Vancouver, who has floundered around for much of the season, this game could be seen as a write-off. But with San Jose fresh off of a 4-0 humiliation at the hands of the dominant LAFC, they’ll be motivated, and with the Caps less than a week removed from a tight 1-0 victory over a good DC side, they’ll want to continue their good run into the end of the campaign.
Injuries: Jhesser Khemiri (Knee), PC (Lower Body Injury), Erik Godoy (Lower Body Injury, Questionable)
Record: 6W-12L-9D (27 Points)
Manager: Marc Dos Santos
With the Caps having had another full week of training, not much is expected to change from the crew that etched out that victory last week. With new arrivals such as Michaell Chirinos in the squad, as well as the continued integration of Tosaint Ricketts, not to mention the many players already pushing to play, there is no shortage of lineup questions for the Caps. Dos Santos has not been much of one to switch in victorious times, so there won’t be any major changes, but we could see a couple of new faces in the lineup.
The backline and goalkeeper should stay the same, with the only possible change being Erik Godoy, who took a day off training this week with a minor knock. Having played all but 13 minutes for the Caps this season, it’s possible he finally gets some much-deserved rest. The midfield should remain the same, working well together, with Jon Erice sitting out once again, firmly entrenched in Whitecaps lineup purgatory. Up front, Bair, Montero and Reyna will remain in, as they have been excellent, but you would have to think both Ricketts and Chirinos get some time as well, with Lass Bangoura also being a candidate for selection after suffering a couple of injuries. With Joaquin Ardaiz in similar purgatory as Erice, he will be unlikely to feature off the bench.
The Caps have had a decent run of games with this lineup, as they continue to get comfortable with this unique set-up. They need some better offensive performances from the midfield, which has been the lone dark spot for them, but besides that, they have been solid defensively in all areas of the pitch, and have done well enough to generate some chances. Heading into the last 7 games, it will be positive if they can find some improvement in the creative part of their game.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Derek Cornelius
Cornelius put up a great performance last week, doing well to keep DC away from the Caps goal. With 9 clearances and 2 blocked shots, not to mention a great chance at goal off of a corner, he was hard to miss last Saturday. Only 21, the growth he has shown this season reinforces the confidence most have had in the Vancouver backline.
Rivalry?: Will this turn into a rivalry? We’ll find out. There is potential for one, with these teams playing all the time, so maybe this will be the game that people look back on as the kickstarter for an intense partnership. Either way, both teams have plenty to be motivated about, so it should at least be a tight-fought game.
Meet the new guy part 2: After Ricketts debuted last week, it’s now the turn of Chirinos to do the same. He looks to be an exciting piece, with his skillful nature and willingness to run and cut into dangerous central areas. He should add a lot to the Vancouver offence.
Streaking?: The Caps won for the 6th time this season last week. The issue after many of those victories? That they haven’t followed up with much. This would be a good time to rack a few victories together, making the end of the season interesting heading into next year.
San Jose Earthquakes
Record: 11W-10L-5D (38 Points)
Manager: Matias Almeyda
San Jose will likely lineup with much the same formation of players that they used last time that they played Vancouver, with Almeyda rotating his squad ahead of the LAFC drubbing. He must have seen this as a more winnable game, so we’ll see if his game management pays off. He will have some good piece offensively, with Eriksson, Vako, Espinoza and Wondolowski all providing a 4-headed monster of sorts for the Caps to worry about. Defensively, San Jose is no slouch either, with their unique man-marking system a stark contrast to the defend the space approach that the Caps like to employ. In front of their home fans, San Jose will be eager to quickly avenge the midweek, as well as sweep Vancouver in the season-series, returning the favour from 2018.
The game kicks off Saturday at 7 PM at the Ayava Stadium in San Jose. Will the game be exciting? Maybe it won’t, but so far everything suggests that both teams will have enough to give to make fans content for tuning in. With the Caps experimenting with tactics and players, it will be interesting to see what they have to offer, and with San Jose in the thick of the playoff race, they’ll be giving a strong effort themselves.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs San Jose Earthquakes, Saturday, August 24th, 2019, 19:00 PST (Ayava Stadium, San Jose)