The Vancouver Whitecaps are set to face the expansion NYCFC Saturday evening at BC Place. The Whitecaps are coming into the matchup on a bit of a down-note, having alternated between win/loss in their previous 6 MLS matches and having suffered two embarrassing 3-0 defeats at the hands of the Seattle Sounders earlier this week. Conversely, NYCFC have won their previous two matches, 3-2 versus San Jose and 2-0 versus Toronto FC. However, it is important to note that NYCFC are a different team on the road. Away from the VERY comfy confines of Yankee Stadium, NYCFC have averaged less than a goal a game, are 3-8-3, and have not won since July 4th against Montreal. If history stays to form, and we know it can easily not, the Whitecaps should win this game, after losing to Seattle on Saturday. If they do win, and several other results come through, the Whitecaps will also clinch their berth in the MLS playoffs and remain atop the Supporters Shield standings.
NYCFC’s first season in MLS has not gone to plan thus far, with the team spending large sums of money on designated players and most likely not reaching the playoffs. Unlike the Whitecaps, NYCFC tried the quick-to-success method, which has never seemed to work in this league, signing up globally recognizable names David Villa (age 33), Frank Lampard (age 37), and Andrea Pirlon (age 36). While it can be argued that the team was forced into this team structure, given its locale and need to compete with other sports options in New York, their signings have not turned out the way that they would like. Many can agree that the Lampard signing, even from the beginning, has been a cluster-****, while Pirlo has been effective at times, but certainly not at the level needed. It is possible that we are seeing from those two the same issues that came with Pedro Morales last year, having been playing for more than a year straight; at a considerably greater age than Morales. Despite the flops of Lampard and Pirlo, those same words cannot be said for David Villa who has been a great leader for the team and third in the Golden Boot standings with 16 goals.
For those attending Saturday’s game, at 7pm, you are in luck. Unlike previous ‘stars’ (e.g. Henry) who refused to play on the BC Place turf, Villa, Lampard, and Pirlo have made the trip to Vancouver and are set to be in the Starting XI. Unfortunately for the Whitecaps, the health of their team is a little more up-in-the-air. It is possible that the ‘Caps will be without their first and second choice starting #10, with Pedro Morales and Nicolas Mezquida both being banged up. If neither can go, look for Mauro Rosales to take up that role. Vancouver is probably still without the services of backup striker Darren Mattocks –although he has not looked good his last few games anyway.
While the Whitecaps ‘should’ pull out a decisive win Saturday night, their recent scoring woes, the lack of their two primary #10’s, and the wildcards that are Villa, Lampard, and Pirlo, this match is anything but a sure thing. A win, especially a decisive one, would go a long way to cementing the Vancouver Whitecaps current position in the standings. However, lose at home against an inferior team (in the standings this season), after a few poor results of late, and…well…let’s just hope that is not the focus of fans Sunday morning.