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Match Preview: Whitecaps vs. Houston Dynamo

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The Vancouver Whitecaps are going to get their dose of Vitamin C in Rain City, as they play host Friday Night to the “Forever Orange” Houston Dynamo

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a frustrating road loss to 10-man Minnesota, the Vancouver Whitecaps (4-5-1) return home for a quick two-game home stand. First up on Friday night: the Houston Dynamo (3-3-2).

Match Information

Where: BC Place, Vancouver, BC

When: Friday, May 11th at 7:30 pm PST

How: TSN1, TSN4, TSN5 (TV); TSN 1040 (Radio); ESPN+ (Internet)

The Whitecaps return to BC Place following last week’s away loss to Minnesota, where Vancouver managed to prove that it doesn’t matter if you generate 58% possession (for the first time in who know’s how long) and 19 shots on net, if none of them bulge the onion bag.

Contrasting that most unfortunate of thuds, the Dynamo pulled out 3-2 a home victory over the LA Galaxy last week, conceding a lead twice before Memo Rodriguez buried a winner in the 90th minute. I’m sure its the happiest Romell Quioto has ever been while smashing his ribs into the post.

The teams have already met once this year, almost two months exactly, where the Whitecaps ran out of Houston with a 2-1 victory. Kei Kamara opened the scoring off a penalty, notching his 100th goal in the MLS. Though Alberth Elis equalized before the firsdt forty-five was complete, Brek Shea bagged the winner early in the second half off a long run from center.

All time, the Whitecaps hold the head-to-head advantage against the Dynamo, with a record of 7-4-2, with 6 of those wins coming from home victories at BC Place.

Who’s Available?

With Cristian Techera coming back from suspension (who’ll undoubtedly have his shirt tucked into his socks this weekend), the Whitecaps will only be absent Jordon Mutch (hamstring).

Meanwhile, the length of the Dynamo’s wounded has only gotten longer since the March 10th match. A.J. DeLaGarza (torn ACL), Juan David Cabezas (quad), and George Malki (knee sprain) all remain out, while Philippe Senderos (right hamstring), Kevin Garcia (hamstring), Dylan Remick (concussion), and Jared Watts (hamstring) all are unavailable. All told, that’s six defenders currently unavailable for the Dynamo.

Strangely, it was Senderos who was subbed at half time due to injury during the previous match against the Whitecaps, and has not since returned. His replacement at half? Kevin Garcia, who subsequently has not seen action since the match that followed against D.C. United.

Who’s Worth Watching?

Kei Kamara vs. Leonardo

Before the match on March 10th, my focal point was on the potential battle between Alberth Elis and Marcel de Jong. Elis is sure to once again be electric along the wing, but it’ll prove worthwhile to focus on the Whitecaps’ plans for attack instead (and how Houston will counter it), particularly after last week’s “much ado about nothing” goose egg. Because, if there’s anything to be learned from Ned Flanders, or anyone who loves beating a dead horse, it’s that you won’t get by on good intentions alone.

If Kamara is back to full health, he’ll most likely be the focal point of the Whitecaps’ attack, whether it’s through punting balls straight up the pitch, or having him flag crosses from the wing. Not that that’s the worst case scenario, because he can certainly make do.

But if this is the general plan of attack, he’ll have to deal with the de facto leader of the Dynamo backline, Leonardo.

Since signing with the Dynamo, Leonardo has remained a staunch constant for the club. In 2017, the Brazilian appeared in 31 matches, starting 29 of them for the Dynamo. And in a 2018 encore, where an injury-riddled defensive core has already seen 5 different centerback pairings over 8 matches, Leonardo has made 6 starts and 7 appearances overall.

For what it’s worth, Leonardo has always struck me as a understated, savvy defender. He’s only conceded eight fouls so far this year, and over his entire MLS career has only received eight yellow cards across 122 matches (compared to, for example, Kendall Waston’s 35 in 98).

The point being is that it’s unlikely for Kamara to draw another generous penalty this time around, adding to the intrigue of how creative & contorted the Whitecaps’ striker will need to be to find the back of the net.

Who’s Going to Win?

As it easy it can be to go with the “Houston Doesn’t Travel Well” storyline, the wonkiness of the Whitecaps’ season thus far does not easily instill confidence.

Sure, they’ve had their impressive road wins (at Houston & Columbus), but the club keeps finding a way to step on its own toes, particularly against clubs with seemingly depleted rosters (at Salt Lake, vs the Galaxy, at Minnesota), like the one Houston will most likely have tomorrow night.

That said, I feel like the Whitecaps will have a handle on a team they’ve already beaten once this year. It certainly won’t be their first convincing victory of 2018; rather, it’ll have the air of a stagnant, “I guess that just happened, but we’ll take it,” victory, to the tune of a 2-1 victory. It’ll be the visual representation of The 5 Second Rule: you’ll eat food you dropped on the ground because you’re hungry, but you won’t truly be proud of yourself or entirely confident in your decision making.

Potential Lineups:

Vancouver Whitecaps - Marinovic; Franklin, Waston, Jose Aja, de Jong; Ghazal, Felipe; Techera, Reyna, Davies; Kamara.

Houston Dynamo - Willis; Wenger, Machado, Leonardo, Beasley; Alexander, Ceren; Elis, B. Garcia, Quioto; Manotas.

Officials:

Referee: Hilario Grajeda; AR1: Jeffrey Greeson; AR2: Cameron Blanchard; 4th: Drew Fischer; VAR: Jorge Gonzalez.