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Can Caps Withstand Sudden Impact?

On the eve of the Vancouver Whitecaps' second-leg showdown with the Montreal Impact for Canadian Championship bragging rights, and considering the Caps' 10-day layoff, one can't help but harken back to Charles Dickens and the opening to his A Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

Jeff Vinnick

In the four-week period between April 20 and May 18, the Whitecaps played no less than eight matches in all competitions. And throughout that period Caps coach Martin Rennie has had to walk a tightrope of sorts - managing his resources, largely successfully, by balancing form against need, and availability against intuition.

If the Major League Soccer season as a whole is a marathon, the past month has been an all-out sprint. And then: a dead stop. And I'm not wholly convinced that this is a good thing.

On the plus side, those Caps not named Andy O'Brien have obviously had a chance to rest up. And those with niggly injuries have had a chance to heal somewhat. The 10-day break has finally also given Martin Rennie the chance to devote time and attention toward working on problem areas. The Impact enjoyed a 10-day break a little earlier, beginning in mid-May, and followed that up by thrashing the Philadelphia Union 5-3 as a tune-up for their tilt versus Vancouver.

But while the Caps have been resting, they've also fallen well off the tempo that they playing at before the break. Sure they've been practicing, but there's no substitute for game time. Will Vancouver come out tomorrow evening fresh and invigorated, or showing signs of rust? I just don't know.

In the meantime, there's been speculation here and throughout Vancouver's sports media with regard to who Rennie will play, and where he'll put them on the pitch. Nigel Reo-Coker should make a return to midfield, while Alain Rochat should see his familiar LB position once more.

Then there's the Camilo conundrum - does he return to a center forward role, or go back to the wing? Will he be the lone striker, or will Rennie go all-in and put two men up top? If so, does he risk suiting up Kenny Miller, who's just coming back from a long layoff due to a hamstring issue, or take a wholly different risk in penciling in Darren Mattocks, who's been inconsistent at best so far in 2013?

One thing the Caps will definitely need to do is manage a goal in the first half. Vancouver has scored 14 MLS goals this year, but only three of those came in the first half. If the Caps can manage to get on the scoreboard early, and if it's not too much to ask, before Montreal can strike, Vancouver have a good chance of coming out the winner. The Caps still need a great deal of work on their set pieces - at both ends of the pitch. I would hope that Rennie & Co. have worked out at least some of the previous kinks in that department.

Will the Caps be crowned Canadian champions and earn a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League? Or will Vancouver's wait extend to 12 years and counting?