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Match Preview: Houston Dynamo vs. Whitecaps FC

Fresh off their first ever Voyageur's Cup the Vancouver Whitecaps look to close out an epic August with a win on the road in the Lone Star State.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

August 2015 for the Vancouver Whitecaps and their fans has been a blur.  A wonderful, exciting, but very busy blur.  As the summer wanes and parents everywhere rejoice at the prospect of a new school year, the Whitecaps travel south the Lone Star state to face the Houston Dynamo, and close out one of the most epic months in the club's MLS history.

Honestly, when I looked at the 2015 schedule months ago and saw that the Caps would be playing five MLS matches, two Voyageur's Cup matches and a CONCACAF Champion's League match all in month of August, I feared the worst.  To think that at this point that in spite of being stretched across three competitions, the Whitecaps have lost only one match in August is impressive.  Tomorrow's match against the Dynamo notwithstanding, the results over the past month are a testament to the progress that the Whitecaps have made during Carl Robinson's tenure as manager.

But I digress, and it's time to discuss the matter at hand.  This week the Whitecaps (W14-L9-D3, 45 pts) face Western Conference newcomers Houston Dynamo (W8-L10-D8, 32 points).  With eight matches remaining in the season for both clubs, it seems that their seasons are heading in different directions.  The Whitecaps, who currently sit second in the Western Conference behind the LA Galaxy, need a handful of points from their remaining matches to book their spot in the MLS playoffs for a second straight year.  Houston, on the other hand, are six points out of the final playoff berth in the Western Conference, and need approximately fifteen points from their remaining matches to qualify for the playoffs.  It seems like a difficult, if not impossible, challenge for the Texas club.

In previous years I would have considered the heat and humidity of the Texas summer to be a disadvantage for Vancouver, but the South American players on the Caps' roster are used to, and prefer to play in these conditions.

But who is likely to start this match for the Caps?

There are two thoughts when it comes to predicting Robbo's starting XI for Saturday.  Firstly, the Caps will enjoy a ten day rest before they face the Colorado Rapids at BC Place on September 9th.  Secondly, with so much football played over the past month I've almost given up trying to predict who will see action this weekend, but I think Robinson may already have dropped a few hints this past week.

When the Caps played the Montreal Impact earlier this week in the second leg of the Voyageur's Cup final we saw an XI that was very un-Voyageur's Cup-sy.  The eighteen players chosen by Carl Robinson for that match could be the same group of players for any MLS match, but I would expect a few changes to the midweek version of the Whitecaps.

Midfielders Gershon Koffie and Russell Teibert put in phenomenal performances in the win over the Impact.  Matias Laba, who is the linchpin in the Caps' midfield, played a mere six minutes this past Wednesday.  Koffie has had an extended run in the side, so it's a possibility that Robbo may opt for a holding midfield pair of Laba and Teibert.

As for the rest of the team I do not foresee Robinson making too many changes to his team.  One other position that could see a change is at right back, where the newly signed Jordan Smith may draw into the starting XI for the incumbent Steven Beitashour.  With a ten-day break to look forward to after this match the Whitecaps may not be too concerned with fatigue, as the team will have plenty of time to rest.  In addition, the LA Galaxy, who sit only a single point ahead of the Whitecaps in the standings, lost to the San Jose Earthquakes by a score of 1-0 on Friday evening.  Robinson and co. may be motivated to secure the three points on offer in order to leap frog the Galaxy before the Caps head into their late season break.

The Dynamo's form, when compared to Vancouver's. is somewhat less impressive.  They have won only three matches since the beginning of July, and are currently winless in their past three matches.  Just like the Whitecaps, the Dynamo also played this past Wednesday, but lost by a score of 2-1 to the Colorado Rapids.  With a handful of matches remaining the Dynamo are fading fast from the playoff picture, and will have to play each remaining match with a "cup final" mentality if they are to find the points they need to save their season.

Houston is led by a couple of familiar names in the form of Will Bruin and Brad Davis.  With the Dynamo expected to employ a 4-4-1-1 formation on Saturday against the Whitecaps, one would have to wonder how effective Houston will be if the high-pressing Caps can isolate Bruin and dictate the tempo of the match.

Predicted starting lineups:

Vancouver Whitecaps FC (4-2-3-1): Ousted (GK), Harvey, Parker, Waston, Smith, Teibert, Laba, Manneh, Morales, Techera, Rivero

Houston Dynamo (4-4-1-1): Deric, Beasley, Rodriguez, Horst, Williams, Lima, Garrido, Clark, Boniek, Davis, Bruin

Predicted score: Houston Dynamo 1 - 2 Whitecaps FC