With their season now entering its final third, the Vancouver Whitecaps (9-9-4) play host to the Houston Dynamo (10-7-7), needing to make up ground with their games in hand in order to get back above the red line and into the playoff picture.
Where: BC Place, Vancouver, BC
When: Saturday, August 19th at 7 pm PST
How: TSN1, TSN4 (TV); TSN 1410 (Radio); MLS Live (Internet)
The Whitecaps return to BC Place this Saturday in a relatively steady form, with a record of 2-2-1 over their last five matches, four of which were on the road. Meanwhile, the visiting Dynamo hold a record of 2-0-3 in their last five, while securing points in their last six matches.
However, Houston only recently picked up their first win away of the season, at D.C. United on July 22nd. With an overall road record of 1-7-4 this season, and an all-time record of 0-5-1 when playing away to Vancouver, the Dynamo seem to suffer greatly from travel in the MLS .
Earlier this season, the Whitecaps fell to the Dynamo 2-1 in Houston, where an 85th minute header from Brek Shea was not enough to overcome earlier goals from Alberth Elis and Erick “Cubo” Torres, the latter scoring off a PK. This will be this season’s second and final match between the two teams.
Aside from defender George Malki being unavailable for the season, Houston will also be missing Honduran striker Alberth Elis this weekend, due to yellow card accumulation.
For the Whitecaps, David Edgar remains out of the lineup, but the biggest absence on Saturday will be that of Matías Laba, as the Whitecaps’ defensive midfielder sustained a torn ACL during last week’s loss to New England.
His tackling will unquestionably be missed, but, as AtlantisB suggested a few days ago, could this injury and the signing of Aly Ghazal be the beginning of the end of Laba’s time in Vancouver?
Who’s Worth Watching?
Going back to his days with Chivas USA, Cubo Torres has been a never-ending headache for the Whitecaps, notching 5 goals and 1 assists on 26 shots in eight matches. If he starts on Saturday, which should be the case as he’s done so in 10 of the Dynamo’s 14 matches since last playing the Whitecaps, Vancouver’s backline will need to pay close attention to the striker, or else they’ll end up watching him do the robot.
Now that nearly all Whitecap centerbacks are present & accounted for, it’ll be interesting to see how well Andrew Jacobson performs once he moves back to his regular spot at the center of the pitch. Laba’s injury will most likely leave him to play deeper alongside Tony Tchani, rather than in their positive 4-1-4-1 pairing from earlier this seasons, but Jacobson is far more effective when he’s not having to pass out of the back.
Who’s Going to Win?
I hate calling attention to trends and past performances when naming a winner. For example, look what happened when the Whitecaps rolled into Dallas three weeks ago? They clobbered the Hoops 4-0 in a state, let alone a park, where the club has barely notched a draw. It feels like pointing out these one-sided results only leads to ironic consequences.
But for this weekend, I can’t help myself. Travel for the Dynamo will again prove to be too much, and the Whitecaps will take this match 2-1.
Vancouver Whitecaps - Ousted; Williams, Waston, Parker, Harvey; Tchani, Jacobson; Techera, Reyna, Bolanos; Montero.
Houston Dynamo - Deric; DeLaGarza, Machado, Leonardo, Beasley; Clark, Cabezas, B. Garcia; Wenger, Torres, Manotas.
Referee: Drew Fischer; AR1: Michael Kampmeinert; AR2: TBD; 4th: Daniel Radford; VAR: Allen Chapman.