The Whitecaps host the Colorado Rapids tonight in a game they need to win. A pummelling last weekend at the hands of the LA Galaxy saw the Caps slip closer than ever towards seventh place. Now, only their number of wins (one more than Portland) is keeping them above the playoff line.
Octavio Rivero is finally, completely, gone to Colo Colo, so the unlikely duo of Erik Hurtado and Blas Perez are now our only hopes up front. While both have big strengths (Hurtado's speed and stamina, Perez's guile and finishing), neither have been able to cement a place atop the Caps' 4-2-3-1 and score the goals the team has been so desperately lacking. Masato Kudo is on his way back from injury and has begun participating in training again but after such a horrific injury it will likely be weeks before he's able to contribute again.
One potential source of offence (and striker option, though Carl Robinson seems vehemently against using him as anything but a winger) will be back amongst the squad this evening: Kekuta Manneh. The Caps labelled the odd exclusion of Manneh against LA as a "coaching decision," which could be interpreted any number of ways. Most likely, his attitude/effort wasn't up to par in recent training sessions. It can't help that every time the young lad scores a goal like his recent one against Philly, the U.S. Soccer fans waiting for him to get his citizenship blow it out of proportion and proclaim him one of MLS' top youngsters.
Unfortunately for the Caps, inconsistency hasn't been limited to the attack. Defensively, the team is still clutching at straws. The games-without-a-clean-sheet run has reached depressing proportions and potential solutions are hard to come by. Fraser Aird, a lone bright spot through the first half of the season, is still missing through injury; Kendall Waston is continuing his quest to break MLS's card-total records, and Tim Parker has been good, but not quite great.
The visiting Rapids have exceeded everyone's expectations this year and are battling for top spot in the Western Conference. Beginning with the under-the-radar February signing of Shkelzen Gashi, the Rapids have quietly, and then not so quietly (see Jermaine Jones and Tim Howard) revamped their previously sputtering team. Perhaps their most dangerous quality is their lack of a single world-beating player. Goals and assists have come from all over the park. Now, with the added motivation of a big arrival in the form of a world-class goalkeeper, Colorado are a more formidable opponent than ever.
At this point in the season, with the Caps floundering from exciting win to deflating loss, week after week, they're due for a dull draw. Prediction: Whitecaps 1-1 Rapids
Comments, thoughts, predictions? Comment below!