Two teams going in opposite directions will clash tomorrow, when the slipping Vancouver Whitecaps visit the streaking San Jose Earthquake. The Whitecaps have lost two straight, both on the road, while the Earthquakes will be looking for their third straight home win.
If the matches are anything like last season, then we could be in for a treat. The 'Caps and quakes battled to mostly tight contests in 2012, including a May 5th nail-biter, when Eric Hassli scored with almost no time left in the match. (Best goal/match of the season)
San Jose did lose their last match, but it was on the road against the Houston Dynamo. (Don't they have some sort of home win streak going?)
Chris Wondolowski might not be having the banner year he had in 2012, but he is still one of the most dangerous players in MLS. Wondo has just the two goals so far, but he also has 20 shots, putting him second in the league. Like Darren Mattocks, Wondolowski is getting his chances, he's just not burying them like he did last season. Even still, this will truly be a test for the 'Caps backline, who have for the most part have looked quite solid this year. If the club can keep a struggling Wondo off the scoresheet, that's still a big accomplishment.
It's the story that won't die, but it's for good reason. The 'Caps haven't won a road match in 11 straight contests, dating back to last July. They're 0-2 this season, and it would be a true disappointment if the club wasn't able to snag at least one point from their three match road swing. They've been competitive against Houston and Chivas, and those are good starting points. Now, we're in our third straight winnable match, and another loss will be truly testing the fan's patience.
One of the more refreshing stories of this young season is the play of Kenny Miller, the man left for dead after his abysmal first year in a 'Caps kit. Now, he's been the club's best attacker, even after missing some time for International duty. Unfortunately, Miller looks like he tweaked his hamstring in training this week, so he might not be good to go for duty against the 'Quakes. Head Coach Martin Rennie has said that it's not a major injury, but given it's early in the season, expect Miller to only come on as a sub if his hammy is feeling a bit tight. That would mean some more time for players like Camilo, Erik Hurtado and Kekutah Manneh, all of whom have had their moments, but haven't been overly spectacular so far.
Is this it?
Martin Rennie believes his club is very close to breaking through, and he's said you can expect a similar lineup against the 'Quakes this weekend. Is this the last chance for this look to make an impact? Let me put it this way; if the starting 11 can't get it done against the Earthquakes tomorrow, does that mean we'll start to see some changes? Of course, Whitecaps management was raked over the coals for their many mid-season changes in 2012, so I can't imagine seeing any huge roster shakeups if the 'Quakes prevail. That being said, we could see some players jettisoned from the starting lineup if they can't figure it out. Top candidates to get the axe? Jun-Marques Davidson, who could be replaced by Alain Rochat, or, unbelievably, Darren Mattocks, if he has another lacklustre effort. With Miller playing so well and Camilo getting ripe on the bench, there are other options for Martin Rennie.
I'm 0-2 so far this season, so this portion of the preview is clearly just for show. With the 'Caps desperate for a road win, and the Earthquakes riding a mini win streak at home, I'm going to chicken out and say a 2-2 draw.