The Vancouver Whitecaps play the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against the New York Red Bulls. Entering the match tied 1-1 and with an away goal firmly in their back pocket the ‘Caps hold the slightest of advantages. Add to that the home field advantage of more than 15,000 amped up fans anxiously waiting to see their team in competitive games again with a chance to move on to the semi finals against a top Mexican team. It’s a good way to start the season.
I think this is a game the ‘Caps can win, but it won’t be easy, and even with home field advantage it is certainly not a foregone conclusion. It was fortunate for the ‘Caps to play another MLS team also in preseason form. The Red Bulls played a competitive first leg, but their final third play saw a number of shots from dangerous positions sail past the goal. After a week of training I expect more of those shots to hit the target.
But the ‘Caps have significantly improved their team since last Wednesday. We can expect new DP signing and career goal scorer, Fredy Montero, to suit up at some point in the game. Montero claims he is ready to go despite not being 100%. Thursday’s game will be his first since October, so the question is, do we see him start or come off the bench? An even more tantalizing question is, just what do the Whitecaps look like with a proven MLS scorer on the field? We haven’t seen that since you-know-who, and this is an improved midfield since then (If-you-don’t-know-who, mention it in the comments and PLarue will fill you in). Does Fredy with his MLS experience come out scoring, or does it take him a few games to get used to his new team?
Another major piece since last week’s first leg is the addition of winger/forward Brek Shea. Shea arrived in the Giles Barnes trade and is a timely addition with the suspensions to Techera and Hurtado, and the injuries to Bolaños and Mezquida. Shea was a potent offensive weapon early in his career in Dallas. His momentum was interrupted by a stint in England that saw him bounce around a couple Championship clubs on loan. Last season he split time between LB and the wing in Orlando with few goals to show for it. Shea has stated he prefers to play on the attack further up field, and that seems to be right where Robbo wants him. We can bet he will play Thursday, but does he start or come off the bench. It is an important game for sure, but Robbo is also pretty loyal to the players that have been with him to now, so I think we see De Jong start and Shea come off the bench.
Those are the question marks. We can be sure Ousted will start, and likely be stellar in goal. The front line has to regain their solid form of two seasons back. I think we see the usual suspects with Williams at RB. Nerwinsky had a good preseason, was rewarded for it with first leg minutes in his hometown, but now its time to get down to business and that’s what Sheanon was brought in for. Laba will be strong and I feel pretty good with either Teibert or Jacobson beside him. You know Manneh will be in the game, likely in his new central position and hopefully with a goal in him.
It will be a fun night against strong opposition. We will see if the ‘Caps can pull together all these new pieces and put out a cohesive unit. Either way, it’s our turn to be there and cheer them on to victory.