MATCH AT A GLANCE
If you're hoping for a close-fought battle between the Cap and Union this weekend, you're probably in luck. The two sides have clashed three times thus far in MLS play - with both teams earning 1:0 victories at home, to go with a scoreless draw at PPL park last year.
Just past the halfway mark of the 2013 season, the Caps (9W-5D-6L) are 4th in the Western Conference with 32 points. Philadelphia (8W-7D-6L) occupy 4th in the Eastern Conference, on 31 points.
While points and table position are pretty much the same - they're not the only similarity:
Goals for: Caps 33, Union 32
Goals against: Caps 28, Union 30
Average match rating: Caps 7.0, Union 6.9
Both have lost only one match in their last six outings, but the Caps sport the better form: 4-1-1 as opposed to 2-3-1.
- Caps have scored at least 2 goals in their last 7 matches at home, and remain the only MLS team undefeated at home.
- The Union have never played at BC Place stadium.
- When playing on the road, 35% of the Union's goals have come from set pieces. At home, only 4% of Vancouver's goals have come off set pieces.
- The Union tend to attack from the wings: 37% Right side, 35% Left side. In contrast, Vancouver concentrates its attack on the right: 42%.
The Union generally play out of a 4-4-2 scheme with their top scorer, Jack McInerney (10 G), usually paired up front with the imposing 190 lbs Conor Casey (7G, 4A). Unfortunately for the Union, Casey will miss the match due to accumulated cautions. Union coach John Hackworth could call upon the even more imposing Aaron Wheeler (6'4", 197 lbs) to fill in, or reunite Sebastien Le Toux (3G, 9A) with McInerney up top.
McInerney, in his fourth MLS season, is having a career year - including selection to the US team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Not bad for a 20-year-old. In fact, some are questioning why he wasn't selected to the MLS All-Star team. He'll undoubtedly be defensive assignment number one for the Whitecaps.
Caps fans will be familiar with Le Toux, who has settled in nicely to the City of Brotherly Love for his second go round there, but perhaps not so used to seeing him leading the league in assists. He'll be a threat that Vancouver can't afford to ignore if they wish to remain undefeated at home.
The Union midfield has usually consisted of a combination drawn from either Danny Cruz, Brian Carroll, Michael Farfan, Keon Daniel, and/or Le Toux, depending on how Hackworth has deployed him. Cruz generally plays wide right, but has been recently moved over to the left. He leads their midfield in shots, with 33, the second-highest total on the team, behind McInerney's total of 59. Carroll, an 11-year veteran of MLS, is their key holding mid, while Farfan (not to be confused with his twin brother, Gabriel, who also plays midfield for the Union) and Daniel have split time in the midfield.
At the back, the Union feature two quality CBs: 4th-year man Amobi Okugo, a converted DM, and GA signee who went 6th overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft; and the very experienced Jeff Parke, who played with the Caps in 2009. Okugo and Parke lead the Union in overall match rating with 7.29 and 7.23 respectively. LB Raymon Gaddis is relatively inexperienced. He's in his second year of MLS, having been selected in the second round of the SuperDraft last year. RB Sheanon Williams is a regular - to such a degree that last season he passed Sebastien Le Toux as the all-time leader for the Union in games played and games started.
Zac MacMath is a rangy keeper with a tendency to punch the ball clear when in doubt, and has struggled at times to command the box. He's played every match so far this year, following on from the 32 starts he got last season. His 1.43 GAA and 66 SV%, puts him 16th in the league among keepers who've played at least 10 matches. At only 21, MacMath's the youngest starting keeper in the league, and already has six clean sheets to his name this season.
Plenty of speculation that recent acquisition David Ousted will get the start in goal for the Caps on Saturday.
Kekutah Manneh might also get a start following his run of impressive play as a late sub and in reserves matches.
Interesting potential matchup: LB Jordan Harvey vs Union F/M Sebastien Le Toux. The two are former teammates from their time with the Union in 2010, and then again afterward with the then-expansion Whitecaps.