There’s absolutely no point in denying that last week happened, the 9-man, 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Sporting Kansas City. Thankfully, the season is a long one and there’s plenty of time to recover, but the true test will be in the aftermath that is the first match after the last, as the resolution and resolve of the Vancouver Whitecaps (3-4-1) will be on full display as they play host to Real Salt Lake (3-3-1) Friday night.
Where: BC Place, Vancouver, BC
When: Friday, April 27th, at 7:30 pm PST
How: TSN1, TSN4 (TV); TSN 1040 (Radio); ESPN+ (Internet)
Aside from last week’s pummeling, Vancouver’s run of form as of late as been dire. The club has lost three matches on the trot, by a combined score of 10-1. Yes, six of those goals came last week, but the other two losses consisted of a dreary 2-0 loss to Los Angeles FC at (the formerly impregnable) BC Place, and a heartened, yet ineffectual, 2-1 loss away to this very same Real Salt Lake side.
Meanwhile, Salt Lake handed out their own walloping last week, turning away a 10-man Colorado Rapids side by the score of 3-0. Though Salt Lake had the man advantage for nearly 70 minutes, the Rapids could only hold firm for sixty, as Joao Plata, Damir Kreilach, and Albert Rusnak all tallied within the final ten minutes.
All-time, the Whitecaps hold a narrow head-to-head advantage, with a record of 8-6-4. However, seven of those wins have come in Vancouver, suggesting that history will favor the home side tomorrow.
Well, uh, we know exactly why Yordy Reyna and Efrain Juarez won’t be available...
But who else will remain on the sidelines? Both Kei Kamara (adductor strain) and Jordon Mutch (left hamstring) remain on the MLS Injury Report.
While Salt Lake will not be absent any poorly behaved players, their injury list has only grown longer since the two teams met at the beginning of the month.
Tony Beltran (right knee surgery), Jordan Allen (knee), and Taylor Peay (knee) all remain out, while Shawn Barry (hamstring), Luke Mulholland (hamstring), Demar Phillips (ankle), and Marcelo Silva (groin) are all currently listed as Questionable on the Injury Report.
Incidentally, both Phillips and Silva were injured during the April 7th match with Vancouver, so is there retribution to be had for the cobalt & claret? An early clash between Jake Nerwinski & Phillips led to this...
12' Early first sub for RSL as Adam Henley comes on for an injured Demar Phillips— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) April 8, 2018
...and subsequently this...
Uh, yeah, bud you can't do that...— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) April 8, 2018
Adam Henley goes in the book for a yellow.
(Don't worry, guys, Jake's ok) #VWFC pic.twitter.com/2VaWFvG7S2
...while Silva, you may recall, had some gnarly hang time when going in for a tackle on Kamara. This isn’t to say Vancouver was blameless in April 7th’s shenanigans...
Apparently punches are allowed after the keeper has the ball? #RSLvVAN pic.twitter.com/bRp8tjb51t— Kyle Warner (@KyleWarner88) April 8, 2018
...but with Phillips and Silva, respectively a victim and perpetrator of said shenanigans, it’s difficult to gauge just how testy tomorrow’s match will get.
Who’s Worth Watching?
Russell Teibert vs. Luis Silva
This will certainly be dependent on whether or not Teibert gets the start, but if he does he’ll undoubtedly be the key in either clogging the middle of the park outside the Whitecaps’ penalty area, or preventing balls to get through to the high-sitting Silva.
The prime example of what to watch out for would be Silva’s goal to opening the scoring in the previous match:
With Jose Aja drifting over to mark Albert Rusnak and Kendall Waston keeping an eye on the offside Jefferson Savarino, Silva is allowed to drift in between Nerwsinki (who’s marking Corey Baird) and Waston, where he finds time to bring down the cross and fire on net.
Admittedly, his strike was aided by a redirection, but the scrambly defending of Juarez and Nerwinski in trying to block the shot exemplifies how Silva cannot be given space to drift in between players.
It won’t be Teibert’s task to win balls in the air, but it fall on him to do everything else in blocking the passing lanes that lead to Silva’s feet.
Who’s Going to Win?
Before the April 7th match, Vancouver were riding high on their away successes, while Salt Lake were still recovering from injuries and an away loss to Toronto.
Reality absolutely did not meet pie-in-the-sky expectations of the day, and the Whitecaps were soundly brought back down to earth by a stout defensive performance. The Whitecaps are yet to recover from that loss, having also lost their next two matches (in seemingly uninspired or horrendous ways), leading up the “return leg” against Salt Lake tomorrow night.
It’s far too early to sound the death knell on the 2018 season (we’re not even a quarter of the way through), but four losses in a row would NOT be a good look for Vancouver, or the team’s outlook, particularly after last week’s blow-up & blowout.
So, against a travelling, even-more-injured-than-last-time Real Salt Lake side, I feel like Felipe’s remarks on Monday after training will have truly hit home for the club, and the Whitecaps will start a new undefeated streak at home, with a 2-0 victory, with Felipe backing his own words & Anthony Blondell opening his MLS account.
Vancouver Whitecaps - Marinovic; Nerwinski, Waston, Aja, de Jong; Ghazal, Teibert; Techera, Felipe, Davies; Blondell.
Real Salt Lake - Rimando; Lennon, Glad, Besler, Henley; Beckerman, Kreilach; Savarino, Rusnak, Plata; L. Silva.
Referee: Sorin Stoica; AR1: Jeff Hosking; AR2: Chris Wattam; 4th: Daniel Radford; VAR: Alex Chilowicz.