If you thought the Vancouver Whitecaps (11-10-7) needed a win last week, well, things are even more dire now! With only six matches remaining the room for error is now paper thin, meaning the ‘Caps need to win, win, win no matter what if they want to even glimpse the MLS Cup Playoffs. The first of the six that’s in their way? FC Dallas (14-6-8).
Where: BC Place, Vancouver, BC
When: Sunday, September 23rd, at 4 pm PST
How: TSN1 (TV); 1040 AM (Radio); ESPN+ (Internet)
As of right now (early Sunday morning) the Whitecaps remain in seventh place in the Western Conference and are in dire need of points to ensure a berth in the MLS Cup playoffs. Last week’s 2-1 loss to Seattle certainly did not do the team any favors, with the ‘Caps remaining four points adrift of sixth place.
The good news? With Real Salt Lake’s loss to Atlanta yesterday, Vancouver is five points out on a team on which they have two games in hand, so there’s clearly a chance for the club to slide into the playoffs.
The bad news? They need points like you wouldn’t believe, and the first side from whom they’ll have to claim ‘em is FC Dallas, who until just recently has held first place in the West since Week 18.
The clubs have already met once this year, battling to a somewhat goofy 2-2 draw, where the Whitecaps finished with two goals and only one attempt on net (thank you, Maynor Figueroa). That one attempt? That came courtesy of a Kei Kamara PK in the tenth minute of stoppage time. Any time is a great time to score!
Though the notion of “scoring” was certainly lost in Dallas’ last match, a 0-0 draw at home to Columbus, where both sides each finished with only a single shot on net registered. It may not have been a loss, but it does mean that Dallas lost ground to Kansas City and LAFC, falling all the way to third and potentially into the knockout round.
Miraculously, no one is suspended this week! And there’s very few injuries to boot!
Both teams have an incredibly short list of wounded players this week, as defenders Aaron Maund (questionable: right hip flexor strain) and Kris Reaves (out: left foot stress fracture), for Vancouver and Dallas, respectively, are the only two players appearing on the MLS Injury Report.
By comparison, it’s bountiful number of returning players this week that should make all the difference.
For the Whitecaps, Yordy Reyna is coming off a suspension, while Jose Aja returned to training this week and should be available, though I’d expect Doneil Henry to start once again. As for Dallas, Roland Lamah should also be available after having missed the last four matches, while Mat Hedges, who left last week’s draw with Columbus at halftime, has cleared concussion and is ready to go.
Russell Teibert vs. Max Urruti
Whether it’s been for Portland or Dallas, Maximiliano Urruti has been a pain for the Whitecaps to play against. In 12 league matches against Vancouver, he’s recorded 5 goals on 28 shots and is usually an absolute nuisance to track, which sounds perfect for Rusty!
Teibert is notorious for bulldoggedly tracking and tackling in the center of the park; that drive is precisely how he’s rounded into form this seasons, and into the starting lineup. With the way Urruti relishes in moving into space, Teibert will need to smother the Dallas No. 10 before he can get the ball anywhere near the Vancouver penalty area.
Who’s Going to Win?
For a team that’s holding onto first in the conference, Dallas’ recent run of form is that of a break-even team. They’re 2-2-1 in their last five, for 8 points out of 15. But look back to the start of August and that record becomes 2-2-3, which now includes a loss to red hot Seattle Sounders (not unreasonable) and two(!) to San Jose, a club whose season could arguably be in the running for MLS’s Biggest Chunder Ever.
In other words, Dallas is responsible for 30% of the points the Earthquakes have earned this year, and yet is the same team to have put the boots to clubs like Kansas City and Atlanta this season. It’s a nearly textbook example of playing to the level of your opponent. That plays very well to the diminished returns of the 2018 Vancouver Whitecaps.
And boy are they diminished! I couldn’t find an original source, but when our Caleb is getting this vociferous over Carl Robinson backtracking...
Bullshit! He said many times he thought this was the best team he'd ever had and his previous accomplishments included coming 3rd in the supporter's shield standings. This is total revisionist history.— Caleb Wilkins (@wilkins_caleb24) September 15, 2018
...I can’t help but think that the club performed below expectations this season. Safe bet, methinks.
Nevertheless, the Whitecaps are still fighting for a playoff spot that’s within reach, and are up against admittedly top club that does not usually travel well, is prone to late season lulls, and has proven time and again this season to play down to the level of an opposing side.
All things considered, Vancouver is going to dangle a playoff carrot in front of our noses for one more week by upending Dallas 2-1. Kamara will find a way to get his noggin on a ball, but it’ll be the Cristian Techera stats that will bring home a result.
Vancouver - Marinovic; Nerwinski, Waston, Henry, de Jong; Techera, Ghazal, Teibert, Davies; Reyna, Kamara.
Dallas - Gonzalez; Cannon, Hedges, Ziegler, Pedroso; Ulloa, Gruezo; Barrios, Urruti, Akindele; Badji.
Referee: Alan Kelly; AR1: Matthew Nelson; AR2: Jeffrey Greeson; 4th: Alejandro Mariscal; VAR: Drew Fischer.