Vancouver Whitecaps FC face a challenge tomorrow unlike anything they've encountered during their MLS existence. Down 2-0 on aggregate to the NASL's Ottawa Fury in the Amway Canadian Championship (ACC) semi-final, the team needs a massive come-from behind win against a lower-league opponent. Two goals are a must, three goals would be better, and one goal against would be game-ending.
David Ousted, Matias Laba, and Pedro Morales have all been brought into the squad for the second leg, but despite their extensive skill and big-game experience, a comeback is by no means a sure thing.
Fans unfamiliar with the non-MLS ACC contingent might have mistaken Ottawa for a pushover heading into last week's match, but NASL is hardly a step down from MLS. Ottawa have quality players all over the park and an excellent coaching staff. The Red-and-Blacks beat out the Caps on every 50-50 ball and made the most of an unusually bouncy artificial pitch. Both of their goals came from lethal attacking play and former Whitecaps players. Jonny Steele and Paulo Jr.
Perhaps most worrying about the first leg was the lack of energy, creativity, and passion in such a Canadian-heavy Caps team. Kianz Froese, Marco Bustos, Ben McKendry, Sam Adekugbe, Russell Teibert, and Fraser Aird all made the starting lineup but most were anonymous throughout the game.
Expect to see an MLS-starter-heavy lineup drastically different from last week's. The "giving youth chances" spiel is always quick to go out the window when results don't go as planned.
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1):
Harvey, Parker, Seiler, Aird;
Techera, Mezquida, Manneh;
Prediction: Whitecaps 2-1 Fury (3-2 aggregate)
After a cagey first fifteen minutes, the Caps will find a goal, but Ottawa will nip one back and the home team won't be able to overturn the away-goal deficit. Prove me wrong, Pedro.
Thoughts? Less/More Pessimistic Predictions? Comment below.