The Vancouver Whitecaps (13-9-5), who have been turning out a number of successive results, play host this weekend to the Columbus Crew (13-12-4), who are also rounding into form as the playoffs approach.
Where: BC Place, Vancouver, BC
When: Saturday, September 16th at 4:00 pm PST
How: TSN2 (TV); TSN 1410 (Radio); MLS Live (Internet)
Saturday’s match will be a meeting of teams who are both coming off good results, and overall are respectively in their best form of the season.
Despite playing through a short week, the Whitecaps are coming off a solid 3-0 home defeat of Minnesota United, with goals scored by Yordy Reyna, Erik Hurtado, and Brek Shea. Over the last five games, the team is 4-0-1, only dropping points in a draw to Seattle. Similarly, have not lost over their last five either, having gone 3-0-2. Most recently, the Crew came back to earn a draw against a tough Sporting Kansas City side.
Head to Head, Vancouver holds the advantage over Columbus with a 4-2-1 record, including last season’s 3-1 victory, which incidentally included a straight red card for current Whitecap Tony Tchani, who was traded to Vancouver for Kekuta Manneh earlier this season.
It’s worth noting that Columbus has won in Vancouver previously, but that came during the Whitecaps inaugural MLS season in 2011. In fact, both Columbus wins occurred in 2011, meaning they’ve gone 0-4-1 against Vancouver in the time since.
Similar to the short week the Whitecaps had towards the end of August, there’s a reasonable chance that any players who started on Wednesday will either be unavailable or will start from the bench. That may include any combination of Jake Nerwinski, Marcel de Jong, Russell Teibert, Alphonso Davies, Reyna, Shea, or Hurtado.
As for the wounded, both teams have players who are out indefinitely, David Edgar and Matias Lab for the ‘Caps and Gaston Sauro and Ben Swanson for the Crew, and players who are listed as questionable for Saturday. Christian Bolanos, who picked up a knock while on international duty, may miss his fourth game on the trot, while defender Waylon Francis, who was subbed early due a hamstring injury in an August 23rd victory over the LA Galaxy, may not be ready to return.
The Crew will also be missing defender Jonathan Mensah due to yellow card accumulation, which is something the Whitecaps should be wary of: Kendall Waston, Fredy Montero, and Tony Tchani are each sitting on four yellow cards.
Who’s Worth Watching?
The Vancouver backline will need to know the whereabouts of Ola Kamara for the entire 90 minutes. The Norwegian striker has 15 goals on the season, 4 of which have come in his last 5 games. Though one of those came off a late PK, the other three goals were a result of Kamara being on the move and finishing in front of the net, whether it’s with his head, a sneaky run with a deft touch, or dragging one home from inside the six. You lose the guy for a second and he’ll bury you.
And a special shout out goes to Kekuta Manneh. Though he may not make an appearance in this match, as he’s only seen action in two out of the last five Columbus matches, starting once, I’m certain he’ll receive a warm reception from the crowd at BC Place the moment he pops up on the big screen.
Vancouver have had their own spark plug as of late in Yordy Reyna, who’s scored in three of his last five matches. Like Kamara, those goals have been scored in a variety of ways: a perfect curling shot, a diving header, and a slight touch to control before a clinical finish. His play has been critical to the results Vancouver has earned over the past month, and I’m sure it will be no different on Saturday.
Who’s Going to Win?
I can’t back down from my prediction from yesterday, can I?
The Crew have had a tough time on the road this season, with a 3-9-2 record, earning those away wins at D.C., Montreal, and Minnesota. By comparison, however, the combined distance traveled to those parks is still less than the distance it took to get to Vancouver (1,368 nautical miles vs. 1,782).
Of course, travel isn’t everything. Columbus is in good form over the past 5 matches, collecting points in each, and there’s not necessarily a reason why that can’t continue. The team can definitely hold their own.
This match can very easily end in a draw. In fact, it most likely will, but like I said, I can’t go back on my previous prediction. Vancouver takes this one 2-1; Kamara scores early, but the blue and white rally.
Vancouver - Ousted; Williams, Waston, Parker, Harvey; Ghazal, Tchani; Techera, Reyna, Ibini; Montero.
Columbus - Steffen; Jimenez, Abubakar, Williams, Raitala; Trapp, Abu; Santos, Higuain, Meram; Kamara.
Referee: Silviu Petrescu; AR1: Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho; AR2: Anthony Vasoli; 4th: Alex Chilowicz; VAR: Matthew Franz.