Where: Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, FL
When: Saturday, August 26th at 4:30 pm PST
How: TSN2 (TV); TSN 1410 (Radio); MLS Live (Internet)
The Whitecaps are coming off a two-game homestand, having defeated the Houston Dynamo last weekend and coming from behind for a mid-week draw against the Seattle Sounders. With those last two results, Vancouver is now 2-1-2 in their last 5 games. The team presently sits in 6th place in the Western Conference, with a Games Played advantage on all teams ahead in the standings, save for FC Dallas.
Though if recent form were the sole indicator for future results, Orlando may be in for a rough weekend, as the team has gone 0-3-2 in their last five while collecting only 2 points in their last 6 games. To the Lions’ credit, they did nab a difficult away draw to Atlanta United FC late last month, and they sit only five points removed from the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, making every remaining match a crucial one.
With that in mind, you can toss “recent form” out the window and expect a hard fought match.
Head to head, the teams have only met twice since Orlando’s inception into the league in 2015, with the Whitecaps stealing an away win that season, and earning a return draw the following year at BC Place.
Aside from the injured (David Edgar and Matias Laba, who yesterday underwent a successful surgery for his torn ACL) and the suspended (Tony Tchani, for his two yellow cards on Wednesday), it’s a bit of a crapshoot in determining who will play this weekend.
Considering the short amount of time that’s passed since the draw against Seattle, Carl Robinson could field an entirely different lineup compared to Wednesday, especially when considering how some regulars had not even traveled with the team in previous road matches.
I’m guessing we won’t see a start (or even a bench appearance) out of some combination of the following: Andrew Jacobson, Jordan Harvey, Cristian Techera, Christian Bolanos, Sheanon Williams, or Yordy Reyna.
By comparison, Orlando will have been a full week removed from their last match, and their next one won’t be for another week, so it stands to reason they’ll field their strongest lineup.
That said, the Lions will be without both Jonathan Spector and Will Johnson (yes, THAT Will Johnson) due to an injured knee and ankle, respectively.
Who’s Worth Watching?
Orlando City have a number of players worth keeping an eye on, such as Brazilian legend Kaká (who’s fresh off a suspension for his “friendly face-grabbing” of Aurelien Collin) or Canadian sharpshooter Cyle Larin. For this match, however, I’m going with Dom Dwyer for two reasons: the striker is still trying to find his place in his return to Orlando since his trade from Sporting Kansas City, but moreso because of his history with Kendall Waston. If this match gets chippy, Dwyer and Waston will certainly be in the thick of it.
Again, given the short week and my theory that we’ll see a large turn over in starting players, the Whitecaps will certainly need someone to step up and stand out. For me, I believe that will be Bernie Ibini. He played well in both of his last road starts, also scoring his first goal for the Whitecaps away to Dallas on July 29th. Something tells me he’s going to have quite a battle with Donny Toia this weekend.
Who’s Going to Win?
When combining the short time frame between games with the longest road trip of the season, I think it’s fair to guess that Vancouver will have a trepidatious game plan for Saturday. It’s obvious the team will do everything it can to stay above the red line, and even when that’s not the case the team has a tendency, when travelling, to play somewhat cautiously and wait for a counter attack.
Of course, that’s what I assumed when they traveled to Dallas last month, and the ‘Caps dismantled the Hoops. I also assumed incorrectly that travelling teams with shorter benches (read: the July 23rd match against the Portland Timbers) are a direct indicator for a loss. So who’s to say the Whitecaps cannot pull out a victory against a down-trending Orlando side?
Not me, that’s for sure. Reminiscent of their match two years ago, I say the Whitecaps steal a late goal and hold on for a 1-0 victory.
Vancouver - Ousted; Nerwinski, Waston, Parker, de Jong; Jacobson, Ghazal; Davies, Mezquida, Ibini; Shea.
Orlando - Bendik; Sutter, Aja, Pereira, Toia; Barnes, Nocerino, Kaká; Higuita; Larin, Rivas.
Referee: Hilario Grajeda; AR1: Peter Balciunas; AR2: Kevin Klinger; 4th: Nima Saghafi; VAR: Edvin Jurisevic.