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Match Preview: Whitecaps at Real Salt Lake

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Can the Whitecaps put forth a strong effort on the road, or will the club lose more valuable points in the ultra-tight Western Conference?

The Vancouver Whitecaps are coming off a disappointing match versus Toronto FC in which they played well on the road, but still couldn't finish the job, ending in a 1-1 draw. You could argue that both sides deserved the win, but with the Whitecaps conceding the lead in the second half, the goat horns are primarily on their heads.

Now they have a chance at quick redemption thanks to a compacted MLS schedule. They'll march into Rio Tinto Stadium looking to squeeze some valuable points out of RSL, and perhaps move back into a playoff position while they do it.

Whitecaps last match

The Whitecaps tied with Toronto FC 1-1, despite holding a 1-0 second half lead. A poor challenge from Nigel Reo-Coker lead to a Jermain Defoe penalty kick, and the Whitecaps limped out with just one point.

Real Salt Lake last match

RSL conceded an early goal to the LA Galaxy, and were unable to mount a comeback, falling 1-0, and allowing the Galaxy to leapfrog the Whitecaps into fifth spot in the Western Conference.

Where is the offense?

The Whitecaps have struggled to score goals lately, with the 'Caps youngsters disappearing for large stretches of time. Darren Mattocks snapped a slump with a goal against TFC, however more is still needed from players like Erik Hurtado, Kekuta Manneh, and Sebastian Fernandez.

One constant for the Whitecaps attack is Pedro Morales, who had another good match against TFC. Morales has been worth every penny of his high salary this season, and you shudder to think where this club would be without his creativity in midfield.

Players to watch?

First off, how good has David Ousted looked? While his first season in a Whitecaps kit seemed to be more miss than hit, Ousted has had several stand-out matches for the club in 2014, including a stellar first half against Toronto FC a few days ago. Ousted looks more confident in the 'Caps cage, and is starting to make me forget that we gave up a pretty good player to make room for him. (Just kidding, we could never forget Alain!)

If Sam Adekugbe can get back into the lineup, he's another choice. The kid looked pretty good in his season debut against Toronto, and I'm interested to see how he could evolve if given more playing time. I'm not saying Sam is ready to be a regular MLS player, but perhaps Jordan Harvey should be peeking over his shoulder just a bit given Carl Robinson's penchant for putting his trust in young players.

Projected lineup?

Instead of trying to predict what Carl Robinson is going to do, I'm throwing what I'd like to see him do out there instead. I quite liked the diamond employed by the Whitecaps in the last match, although I'd like to see Omar Salgado paired up top with Mattocks instead of Erik Hurtado.

I thought Hurtado and Mattocks had some burgeoning chemistry up top, but I have a soft spot for Salgado and would like to see the kid get some playing time. Hurtado has started the last five matches and doesn't have a goal in any of them. He needs to produce more if he's going to be getting prime-time minutes, so why not give another kid a chance?

I also banished Reo-Coker back to the bench, and switched him out for Gershon Koffie.

Ousted, Bietashour, Mitchell, Leveron, Harvey, Laba, Koffie, Morales, Teibert, Mattocks, Salgado

Predicted score: 1-0 RSL. In addition to fighting mental cramps the past few weeks, the 'Caps have historically been an abysmal road squad. RSL scores, and is able to hold off a tired Whitecaps attack.