After the midweek setback that was a loss to the Montreal Impact, as well as their knockout of the Amway Canadian Championship that went with it, the Vancouver Whitecaps (5-6-1) return to league action by hosting one of the 2017 MLS debutantes, Atlanta United (5-4-3).
Where: BC Place, Vancouver, BC
When: Saturday, June 3rd at 2:30 pm PST
How: TSN1 & TSN4 (TV), TSN 1040 (Radio)
This will be the first time Vancouver and Atlanta will face off, what with this being the latter’s inaugural season in the MLS. And with the East vs. West scheduling in the MLS, this will also be the only time the teams will play this season (barring any unforeseen post-season shenanigans by each team).
Nevertheless, there are a number of MLS regulars with whom the Whitecaps should be familiar from previous seasons, like Zach Loyd (FC Dallas), Tyrone Mears (Seattle Sounders), or Jeff Larentowicz (LA Galaxy, Chicago Fire, & Colorado Rapids).
In addition to the regulars of the injury report (Christian Dean, David Edgar, Erik Hurtado, Brett Levis, and Yordy Reyna), the you can now include Nicolas Mezquida’s name to the list of the wounded, after picking up an ankle sprain in the ACC return leg.
However, newcomer Bernie Ibini is now merely listed as “questionable” on the report, so we may see him on the bench. Also back is Matias Laba, after serving his suspension due to card accumulation.
As for Atlanta, forward Jacob Peterson remains out, while forward & Designated Player Josef Martinez is listed as “Questionable” for the second week in a row. Despite only playing in Atlanta’s first three games of the season, Martinez was still able to tally five goals, so his potential inclusion in the lineup would absolutely be problematic for the Whitecaps, but only if he’s ready to go.
Who’s Worth Watching?
For Atlanta, it has to be Paraguayan DP Miguel Almiron. He’s already bagged seven goals in eleven games, one of which was voted Goal of the Week in Week 12 (homerism or no, I still don’t understand how Cristian Techera’s goal wasn’t even nominated that week). He’s also been on the MLS Team of the Week four times this season, and has been Player of the Week for the past two on the trot. Atlanta’s offense on Saturday will invariably go through Almiron.
By comparison, it should now be considered cliché to describe the Whitecaps attack as one formed “by committee.” Instead, the question to ask should be, “Who’s Providing?”, rather than, “Who’s Scoring?” That said, pay particular attention to Christian Bolanos on Saturday. Since that questionable first half in Portland on April 22nd, Bola has consistently put in quality minutes for the Whitecaps. If there’s a goal or two to be scored this weekend, he’ll be the one to set ‘em up.
Who’s Going to Win?
On it’s face, predicting a Whitecaps outcome against an expansion side they’ve never previously faced, with only 12 matches of MLS experience, should prove to be difficult, particularly an “expansion side” currently tied for first in the league in Goals Scored with 27.
Regardless, United sits on a PPG clip of 1.5, good enough for fourth in the east (despite technically being seventh in the standings, for now).
But are they in form? Atlanta is 2-2-1 in their last five games, which sounds balanced; still, the team is on the uptick, having won their last two at home against the Houston Dynamo and New York City FC. However, this is also a team who recently lost at home to D.C. United (sound familiar, ‘Caps fans?), having conceded three goals on the night.
To me, that means they’re just as vulnerable as any other MLS side, despite their goal-scoring abundance. Considering this, the away travel, potential hubris from being touted as the fifth-best team in the league, and the Whitecaps coming off what should be a disappointing knockout of the ACC, I’m sensing some West Coast comeuppance. I’m calling it 3-1 for the ‘Caps, with a potential brace from Techera.
Vancouver Whitecaps: Ousted; Williams, Waston, Parker, Harvey; Laba; Techera, Jacobson, Tchani, Bolanos; Montero.
Atlanta United: Kann; Mears, Parkhurst, Pirez, Garza; Larentowicz, Carmona; Gressel, Almiron, Asad; Villalba.
Referee: Robert Sibiga; AR1: Kermit Quisenberry; AR2: Jeremy Hanson; 4th: Dave Gantar.