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Playoff Match Preview: FC Dallas vs. Whitecaps FC

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A preview of the upcoming playoff match between the Vancouver Whitecaps and FC Dallas, including my keys to the win and players to watch.

Montreal Gazette

For the fourth time this year, the Vancouver Whitecaps will face FC Dallas, with the victor playing Supporters Shield winner, but Cascadia Cup runner-up, Seattle Sounders next weekend. The Whitecaps and Dallas have split their three games: 2-2 (July 27th at BC Place), 1-2 (September 14th at Toyota Stadium), and 2-0 (October 4th at BC Place).

FC Dallas have played very well at home with 12 wins and only 4 losses (Seattle, New York, San Jose, & Portland) with a goal differential of +11. Conversely, the Whitecaps have only 3 road victories (Columbus, Portland, & Seattle) and a -6 goal differential. Luckily, one of those victories was two weeks ago in hostile Seattle while FC Dallas lost at home this weekend 2-0.

The Whitecaps have been stellar defensively over the last month with 4 straight clean sheets. However, FC Dallas have shown plenty of firepower this season, scoring 55 goals for 4th in the league. On Wednesday night, a 0-0 road tie will not be enough and so the Whitecaps will have to maintain their defensive form while finding some way to score.

Here are my 3 Keys to the Win:

1) Weather: The weather will not be that bad at kick-off (about 22 degree) so the temperature should not be a major issue for the team. However, despite the moderate temperature, the air will be very dry and thus hydration will be a key.

2) Set-pieces: FC Dallas is one of the better teams in the league at set-pieces while the Whitecaps have always been one of the worst. The Whitecaps have been improving on corner kicks of late with goals this season from Mitchell and Waston (2). For the Whitecaps to be successful on Wednesday night, they will have to defend set-pieces very well in the box and ensure that when they have their chance, the Whitecaps bury it. Morales was brought in as a set-piece specialist but has yet to score through one. Wednesday needs to be the night for the first.

3) Blas Perez: This season, Perez has scored 11 goals. 3 of those goals have come against the Whitecaps. The Whitecaps have been sound defensively in September, thanks in large part to Waston. It will be up to Waston to keep tabs on Blas Perez and ensure that the Whitecaps are not undone again by Perez.

While a win in Frisco will require strong play by the entire team, including its Designated Players Laba and Morales, Here are my 3 Players to Watch that will need to have a strong game if the Whitecaps are to advance.

1) Fullbacks: Okay, that is two players, however, they will be important in this game. With the strong play of Ousted, Waston, O’Brien, and Laba, the fullbacks have the opportunity to go forward knowing that they are covered. After a strong goal-scoring campaign last season, Harvey has been unable to find the back of the net as often this season. Although steady on defense, I believe that this is a game that Harvey will have to return to his offensive prowess of last season and pick up one of his typical poacher goals or setup a goal.

2) Waston: Waston has been a monster addition to this team and can be credited with securing the Whitecaps position in the playoffs because of his defense and offense. Waston will have to have another big game at both ends of the part, especially on the back-end where he will be responsible for Blas Perez. Waston will have to fend off the attack with his size and strength and avoid getting two yellow cards.

3) Erik Hurtado/Kekuta Manneh: Again, I place two players together. With the lack of showing this weekend by Mattocks, I believe Robbo will go back to Hurtado. If Hurtado wants to be (heavily) in the mix next season, after the Whitecaps shore up their striker position, he will need to show that he can do it in the clutch. Hurtado has not been without his chances as Morales has, multiple times, put it on a platter for him. He has yet to capitalize at a consistent rate, however, scoring on Wednesday night will help fans forget that. At the same time, Manneh was suppose to be one of the breakout stars of MLS this year. However, that stardom has yet to arrive. In fact, you could say he has taken a step back. Yet, his play the past month has been much closer to what we expect. Should Fernandez fail to perform in the first half, I believe bringing in Manneh at halftime or at 60 minutes could be crucial as Manneh has the skill and speed to change the game.

Final Score: FC Dallas 2-1 Whitecaps FC

What are your keys to the game?  Who will shine for the Whitecaps?  You can add your voice to the discussion by leaving a comment in the section below!

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