Despite sitting atop the MLS Standings for another week, the Vancouver Whitecaps have something to prove as they ready to battle the Portland Timbers on Saturday. A dismal, mostly Matias Laba-less effort against DC United last week left many fans disappointed, as the 'Caps lost outright for the second time in their last three matches.
However, they can erase those memories with a good effort against their Cascadia Rivals, a team that sits 7 points below them in the standings.
The Last Meeting
The last time the Whitecaps met up with the Portland Timbers, they walked away with three points in very dramatic fashion.
We haven't seen much of Earnshaw since the moment, but perhaps previous success will land him some playing time this weekend.
Cards, Cards and More Cards
While some of the calls have been questionable, the Whitecaps certainly aren't shy about racking up cards. Two weeks ago, they were forced to play without Pedro Morales due to a suspension stemming from a red card. This week, they'll be without arguably their most important player, Matias Laba, as he serves a red card suspension of his own.
The Whitecaps play an aggressive brand of soccer and you don't want to deter their tenacity, but the club obviously needs to have it's best players in the starting 11 to be successful. Whether they need to tone it down or bit or get better luck from MLS referees, officiating will definitely be an interesting storyline to pay attention to.
With Laba out, Gershon Koffie seems to be the logical choice to slot back in alongside Russell Teibert, however, the club may want to see what Deybi Flores can do. Flores has looked impressive in the few appearances he's had this season.
Besides Matias Laba, the Whitecaps website says Diego Rodriguez is still battling a quad injury and likely won't play.
Mini-Slump for Rivero
Octavio Rivero started the season on fire, with goals in three straight and 5 in six weeks overall, but he's now gone three straight matches without finding the back of the net. There is likely no reason to worry, as Rivero is still generating plenty of chances for himself (6 shots against DC United, 2 SOG), but it is something worth paying attention to.
In the meantime, the Whitecaps could use some continued offence from it's cast of supporting characters, including Darren Mattocks and Kekuta Manneh.
On the Road Again
The Whitecaps will be travelling to Portland for the match, and while road matches used to be a death blow for this club, the Whitecaps aren't having much trouble away from BC Place this year. The Whitecaps have only lost once outright in 4 road matches this season, a 1-0 loss to San Jose on April 11th, although going into Portland will be no easy task. Will Pa Modou Kah make the starting lineup?
Though Carl Robinson has rested his veterans before, it's not a long trip to Portland and Kah will have a strong desire to play in front of his old crowd. His hand may have been forced anyways with news Diego Rodriguez is still battling injury.
Prediction: The Whitecaps bounce back with a convincing 2-0 victory