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Match Preview: Whitecaps vs. Sporting Kansas City

The next one. Just as important as the last one.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps at Sporting KC Peter G. Aiken

For what feels like a record 32nd week in a row, the Vancouver Whitecaps (12-12-7) find themselves in a do-or-die match, as the club scrambles to get into the top half of the Western Conference and back in the playoffs. Standing in the way is Sporting Kansas City (15-8-8), who will certainly do everything they can to win out and escape the playoff knockout round.

A win Wednesday night won’t entirely leave Vancouver on the right side of comfortable, but anything less will all but end the campaign.

Match Information

Where: BC Place, Vancouver, BC

When: Wednesday, October 17th, at 7 pm PST

How: TSN1, TSN2 (TV); 1040 AM (Radio); ESPN+ (Internet)

All-time, Kansas City hold a fairly sizable advantage against Vancouver, with a 7-3-3 record and 25 goals scored, and have even gone 2-2-2 at BC Place.

If those stats weren’t grim enough for Vancouver, they absolutely do not want a repeat of their indica-esque performance from April 20th, in which SKC laid a 6-0 smack down on the ‘Caps.

It wasn’t just six goals; it was playing fifty minutes with only nine men on the pitch, after both Yordy Reyna and Efrain Juarez were sent off. Utterly embarrassing, and the boys knew it:

Let’s just hope they remember.

Who’s Available?

Let’s get the simple stuff out of the way: neither team has anyone suspended, nor is anyone sitting on a potential suspension due to yellow card accumulation. Of course, its the matches against one another where these two earn their suspensions, with four red cards handed out in the last two games alone.

For injuries, Sporting Kansas City will continue to be without midfielder Cristian Lobato (quad injury) and defender Jimmy Medranda (knee surgery). Both of have been unavailable for most of 2018, and it sounds like additional surgeries will keep Medranda off the pitch until Summer 2019.

Less indefinite is the status of Aaron Maund (right hip flexor strain), who’s presently listed as Questionable for the match.

I get the feeling he’ll find a way to be forced to tough it out, however, as the Whitecaps will be without six players this Wednesday, including centerbacks Kendall Waston and Doneil Henry. Waston’s Costa Rican national team is in a Tuesday night friendly with Colombia, while Henry will be joined by Alphonso Davies and Russell Teibert in a CONCACAF Nations League qualifier against Dominica. Rounding out the six is Aly Ghazal, who’s been called up to the Egyptian side for an African Cup of Nations qualifier against Swaziland, and Yordy Reyna, in a Peruvian friendly against the United States.

Yeesh. Meanwhile...

Sporting Kansas City will most likely be without Gianluca Bosio, Felipe Gutierrez, Krisztian Nemeth, and Johnny Russell due to their own respective call-ups. I say “most likely” because neither Nemeth nor Russell saw the pitch in their matches, so who’s to say if either will make it to Vancouver and be ready to play.

Worth noting is how, in Russell, Lobato, and Medranda, SKC will be without three of their goal scores from the previous match. Of course, there’s a fourth remaining...

Who’s Worth Watching?

Brek Shea vs. Yohan Croizet

The easy line would have been Kei Kamara & Ike Opara, the Whitecaps leading scorer versus arguably the best centerback in MLS, but I’m looking at the randomness we’re drawn into due to international absences.

In his first season with SKC, Felipe Gutierrez has certainly been a quality left midfielder, starting in 16 of 18 matches, scoring 7 goals on 16 SOG. He’s started on the left side in 10 of the club’s last 11 matches, with the exception being how he started on the right. And in the match prior to this streak? Croizet started instead and was subbed for Gutierrez.

With the exception of Bosio (who’s unavailable, anyway), Croizet was the last player not named Gutierrez to start at left-mid for Kansas City, and the absence of both players may mean the SKC left flank will be mighty thin.

And if that side of the pitch is going to be a gong show, might as well throw Shea into the mix! To be fair, he’s had some quality moments this season, but there’s always a lingering worry that some WTF moment is right around the corner.

Nevertheless, despite how depleted the Whitecaps’ bench will be, Shea has an opportunity to own that side of the pitch (if he starts, natch). For this to happen, of course, we need Shea to keep from acting like his shinguards, and be on.

Who’s Going to Win?

A curated history against Kansas City, from this season and beyond, does not favor Vancouver tomorrow night. Nor does a diminished roster, or the time running out on a season that once held reasonable promise (or, arguably, pie-eyed expectations) for a club that’s faced a figurative “now or never” for weeks on end. Now, it’s quite literal: lose, and the season is over.

And yet, it’s not as though there the club is without quality. Is it too much to think that, for once, it’s our side that fields the thinned bench at BC Place, and plays up to and beyond our opponent? I can think of Portland and Seattle having done it to Vancouver just last season. Plus, we’ll have a moderate home team bias on our side:

If anything, the club is no longer restrained with the need to play it safe. It’s a result or nothing.

Unfortunately, it’ll be nothing. Or, at the very least, a 1-1 draw, where the club can technically still qualify for the playoffs, thereby dragging out the misery for the rest of us. Kei Kamara: you’re gonna net one, but I sure as hell hope you make it two.

Potential Lineups:

Vancouver - Marinovic; Nerwinski, Aja, Maund, de Jong; Hurtado, Felipe, Mutch, Shea; Mezquida, Kamara.

Kansas City - Melia; Zusi, Opara, Besler, Sinovic; Espinoza, Sanchez, Croizet; Fernandes, Rubio, Salloi.

Officials:

Referee: Armando Villarreal; AR1: Ian B. Anderson; AR2: Chris Wattam; 4th: Joseph Dickerson; VAR: Tim Ford.