VANCOUVER WHITESCAPS vs. LA GALAXY
VANCOUVER: 36 pts (10W-8L-5D)
LA GALAXY: 37 pts (11W-9L-4D)
Supporters' Shield: LA 8th, WFC 9th
Ok let's face it - every game from here on is basically the "Biggest Game of the Year" because of how competitive the MLS Western Conference is this season. The standings will change constantly throughout the weekend, but at the moment the 'Caps find themselves occupying the last playoff spot only ahead of FC Dallas on goal differential. There are countless scenarios that could play out over the course of the next few days and given some help from our Seattle rivals and a win against the Galaxy the 'Caps could find themselves further up the table with Colorado and Portland or if they lose they could be on the outside looking in with the likes of San Jose and FC Dallas. What does it all mean? Not a lot really. This scenario will continue to repeat itself over the course of the next several weeks as the regular season winds down and the key will be not to lose too much ground to the other teams in the playoff hunt.
Vancouver is fresh off a 2-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids which dropped them from 2nd place down to 5th. Although the Whitecaps did not play as bad as the score might suggest there are still plenty of issues that Martin Rennie will have to deal with. Although he has been officially declared fit and included in the game day 18-man roster defender Andy O'Brien still has not played a minute of first team football since he injured his hamstring in Seattle on June 8th. Carlyle Mitchell has clearly benefited from his loan spell at FC Edmonton and has filled in admirably when called upon by Rennie, but as the season enters its final stretch, Rennie does not have the luxury of having too many games left that he can experiment with his lineup. I would expect to see the experienced O'Brien draw back into the starting XI for this match alongside Johnny Leverón. Rennie will need a calm and solid pair of center backs as the Whitecaps will face a Los Angeles attack that will feature the likes of Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Juninho.
Kenny Miller, who did not have a particularly impressive match in Denver due to several matches and international travel last week, has had a week to recover and will look to get back on track and add to the 21 goals that he and attacking partner Camilo Sanvezzo share between them. The big issue will be whether or not Miller and Camilo will see any decent service. The Whitecaps' midfield is a constantly evolving experiment which has seen Daigo Kobayashi reintroduced to the starting XI alongside Nigel Reo-Coker. Gershon Koffie has been moved back into the holding midfielder role vacated by the out-of-favour Jun Marques Davidson. Koffie seems to be adapting well to his new role on the pitch, but Kobayashi continues to frustrate the fans with his below par performances. It seems that Rennie still has not found the ideal player for that creative attacking midfielder role, but based on Kobayashi's contributions in recent weeks he probably is not that player for that role.
Finally, expect to see David Ousted start again in goal for the Whitecaps. This is a player who was highly regarded by the club prior to being brought to Vancouver from the Danish club Randers. In the three matches he has started, Ousted has conceded only three goals (one could argue that Ousted did not have much hope of stopping the two goals in Denver last week) and the club will certainly look to him to make the crucial big-time saves that he is known for.
Based on Vancouver's recent form and the fact that this is a much improved LA Galaxy team compared to the one that visited here earlier in the season, the 'Caps will have their work cut out for them. The recent home loss to the Philadelphia Union is the Whitecaps' only loss at BC Place this season and they are a very good home team. The statistics are also in their favor because the home team wins approximately 75% of the time this season. There are many factors to take into account when assessing this match, which therefore makes it quite difficult to predict. Both of these teams have potent attacks, and previous matches have featured plenty of goals.
Prediction: WFC 2 - 2 LA Galaxy
Predicted Starting XI: Ousted * Harvey * Leverón * O'Brien * Lee * Koffie * Reo-Coker * Kobayashi * Teibert * Miller * Camilo
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