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Week 31 Match Preview! Whitecaps vs. Real Salt Lake

One more match and then we’re finally done with 2019!

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Decision Day! And what decisions are left to be made for the already eliminated Vancouver Whitecaps (8-15-10)? Why, whether or not they’ll muck up the home playoff match aspirations of visiting Real Salt Lake (15-13-5).

Match Information

Where: BC Place, Vancouver, BC

When: Sunday, October 6th at 1:00 PM PST

How: TSN1 (TV); TSN 1040 (Radio); DAZN, MLS Live on ESPN+ (Internet)

Real Salt Lake needs more than a draw this weekend to make any noise in the standings: barring an LA Galaxy victory in Houston, the first tiebreaker is Total Wins, meaning a single point won’t do RSL any good. With MLS adopting a single-knockout format for this season’s playoffs and knowing that home matches are EVERYTHING in this league, I get the feeling that this will be a wily, wide open match on Sunday.

In terms of form, RSL are 2-2-1 in their last five and 6-4-1 in their last ten. In their MLS history, Salt Lake holds a slight edge in the match-up, with a 9-8-4 record, but in Vancouver it’s been all Whitecaps, who have a 8-1-1 record against Real.

What Happened Last Match?

Remember when the season began and, following the massive roster overturn, we were all wide-eyed with the reserved hope for a possible seventh-place finish that quickly turned into an 0-4-1 start, a burning hatred for VAR, and a penchant for the club handing out PKs like Halloween candy? That’s when we last played RSL. Damn, this season has dragged on...

If memory serves, the Whitecaps played fairly well at Rio Tinto and were deserving of at least a draw, despite Albert Rusnak burying a PK in the 21st minute. To be fair, it was still early at that point in the match and anything that came after could have been entirely different than the outcome we were given, particularly when the Whitecaps held a majority of the possession after the 25th minute.

But when that outcome happens as a result of what the PRO referees admit was a botched call, it becomes tough to stomach. Per their Video Review analysis from March 16th:

“Although lacking clear angles, the VAR had sufficient evidence to recommend a review as the contact was not due to a foul by (Jake) Nerwinski and this is more a case of simulation by (Corey) Baird (who should’ve been cautioned). The VAR should have recommended a review as the penalty award was clearly wrong.”

Nevertheless, the Whitecaps still lost. There could have been an equalizer, but there wasn’t. At the end of the season, the missing points are the only real take away; it’s just bunk that it happened like this.

Who’s Available?

Out for the Whitecaps is Michael Baldisimo, with defenders Jasser Khmiri (quad) and Jake Nerwinski (calf) both listed as Questionable after last week’s match in LA, per the MLS Injury Report. Worth mentioning is that Erik Godoy is a yellow card away from an accumulation suspension, though that clearly won’t matter until next season if he draws one.

But do you know who isn’t suspended? Ali Adnan! Back from a single-match ban for accumulation, Adnan’s presence (hopefully) in behind Michaell Chirinos should make for a good run in the last match of the season.

For RSL, midfielders Jordan Allen (knee) and Nick Besler (foot) are both out, while Luke Mulholland (hamstring) and Douglas Martinez (hamstring) are respectively listed as Questionable and Probable.

Who’s Worth Watching?

Scott Sutter vs. Albert Rusnak

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Real Salt Lake Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Really, this is Rusnak vs. Whoever The Whitecaps Have At Right-Back, with Nerwinski pulling up limp against the Galaxy and the Godoy-on-the-outside experiment possibly on hold as Khmiri being listed as questionable may force the Argentine back to the middle. That leaves Sutter getting the start.

And he better be ready to go: Rusnak leads RSL in both Goals (10) and Assists (5, tied with Jefferson Savarino and Damir Kreilach), while averaging 2.5 Key Passes per Game. Though four of those goals were off PKs, Rusnak has bagged six goals away from Utah. He must handle the lack of chartered flights rather well.

Sutter does a decent job of blocking passes without diving in on tackles, so as long as no dumb fouls are made in or around the penalty area (that goes for the entire backline), the Whitecaps will hopefully hold Rusnak off the scoresheet.

Who’s Going to Win?

Real will be playing for the win; though they’ve already qualified for the playoffs, a draw won’t do the club any good in securing a home match in the opening round. They’re going to want goals and lots of ‘em, so they’ll get up the pitch with the quickness, leaving their backline potentially vulnerable to counterattacks.

Also worth noting is the run of form the Whitecaps have held since their cup elimination, ironic in the sense that they could be trying to run out the season, but are clearly not. That, and the club’s recent penchant for disrupting opposing teams’ playoff aspirations, gets me thinking that Vancouver will be a late season, last minute speed bump for the Claret & Cobalt.

Since the August 31st loss to NYC FC, Vancouver has crippled Houston’s playoff push with a late Fredy Montero goal, ended Columbus’ cup dreams with a late Montero equalizer, and put the possibility of a Galaxy home playoff match into question with an injury time winner from Michaell Chirinos. All extra late goals in “mEaNiNgLeSs gAmEs” against clubs that still had something to prove.

So why not roll with what’s trending? I mean, both clubs are 2-2-1 in their last five, but sandwiched between each RSL point-generating result during that streak has been a loss, so stands to reason last week’s win will be followed up with a big ol’ L tomorrow.

I don’t care if it becomes cliche when it happens again, but I’m sensing a late Montero introduction, where he creates some last minute shenanigans, sending RSL to Los Angeles for the first round of the playoffs. Forget the draw: let’s just greedy and call it a 2-1 win for the Whitecaps.

Potential Lineups:

Vancouver - Crépeau; Adnan, Henry, Godoy, Sutter; Teibert, Rose, Hwang; Chirinos, Ricketts, Bair.

Real Salt Lake - Rimando; Toia, Onuoha, Glad, Herrera; Beckerman, Luiz; Rusnak, Kreilach, Savarino; Johnson.


Referee: Ted Unkel; AR1: Kyle Atkins; AR2: Corey Rockwell; 4th: Ramy Touchan; VAR: Joe Dickerson; AVAR: Rene Parra.