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Match Preview: Whitecaps Face First Road Test at Real Salt Lake

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The Vancouver Whitecaps split their season series with RSL in 2018, can the Caps bounce back from an opening day defeat?

MLS: New England Revolution at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Match Information

When: Saturday March 9th, 3:00 PM (PT)

Where: Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah

How: TSN 1, TSN 1040 (Radio), ESPN +

The Vancouver Whitecaps (0-1-0) head out on the road for the first time this season on Saturday to take on Real Salt Lake (0-0-1). While the Whitecaps handed Minnesota United what was only their fifth MLS road victory in the history of the franchise by a score of 3-2, Real Salt Lake managed to secure a 1-1 road draw with the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Although the Dynamo were handed a red card in the 80th minute after a reckless challenge from midfielder Matias Vera, Real Salt Lake can probably count themselves fortunate to have emerged with a single point from the match.

In the 76th minute (2:08 of the highlight package), the Dynamo’s Boniek Garcia had his goal called back on a tight offside call (it was the right call). However, had Alberth Elis released the ball from his central position a moment or two sooner, Garcia would still have had acres of space and plenty of time to slot the ball home past RSL keeper Nick Rimando.

On both this play and the initial Dynamo goal (1:12 in the highlights), RSL was exposed on the right side of their defensive line, as right back Brooks Lennon found himself caught upfield, causing centre backs Marcelo Silva and Nedum Onuoha to scramble in an attempt to mark multiple Dynamo attackers. This is a weakness that the Whitecaps should look to exploit through Yordy Reyna and Lass Bangoura or Lucas Venuto this upcoming weekend.

Who’s Available?

Vancouver Whitecaps:

OUT: Michael Baldisimo (M) - left knee contusion

OUT: Jasser Khmiri (D) - left knee injury

OUT: Brett Levis (D) - right hamstring strain

QUESTIONABLE: Russell Teibert (M) - left ankle sprain

Real Salt Lake:

OUT: Jordan Allen (M) - out for season

Who’s Worth Watching?

Real Salt Lake’s attack is centred largely around the European midfield duo of Albert Rusnak and Damir Kreilach. Rusnak scored Salt Lake’s only goal in the 2019 season opener and the dynamic duo was responsible for 22 of RSL’s goals and 15 of RSL’s assists in 2018.

The team also boasts the reigning MLS Rookie of the Year in homegrown forward Corey Baird. Despite Salt Lake expecting Baird to be a fringe MLS player heading into the 2018 season, the California native forced his way into the starting lineup, registering 8 goals and 5 assists in 21 starts. Baird also received his first call-up to the USMNT this January, making one start in two appearances.

Potential Lineups:

Vancouver Whitecaps (4-3-3) Crepeau, PC, Henry, Godoy, Nerwinski, Erice, Rose, Hwang, Reyna, Venuto, Montero.

Real Salt Lake (4-3-3) Rimando, Herrera, Onuoha, Silva, Lennon, Luiz, Beckerman, Rusnak, Baird, Savarino, Kreilach

Who’s Going to Win?

In their MLS history, the Whitecaps have 8 wins, 5 losses and 5 draws with Real Salt Lake. RSL has also gone 15 straight matches in MLS play and 3 straight matches against Vancouver without keeping a clean sheet. Meanwhile, after allowing 3 goals on opening day, the Whitecaps have now extended their “no clean sheet” streak to a whopping 18 matches.

Last season, the Whitecaps and Salt Lake split their season series at one game a piece, with each team securing a victory on home soil. On April 7th, RSL dominated the Caps for most of the contest, although Brek Shea did snatch a late extra-time goal to make the scoreline a more respectable at 2-1. Twenty days later, the Whitecaps got their revenge in the return fixture as they won by a score of 2-0 in what was one of the more memorable games of the 2018 season. Cristian Techera scored a goal from the penalty spot in the 76th (and then was promptly sent off for removing his jersey and receiving his second yellow). Just three minutes later, Anthony Blondell tapped home an Alphonso Davies cross to double the lead, his first and only goal in MLS.

All that being said, this Vancouver Whitecaps squad is almost entirely different than the one we saw last season, and therefore past results probably don’t really serve as much of a baseline for predicting this weekend’s match.

I believe that the Whitecaps will tighten up some of their defensive and communication issues from last weekend, but Rio Tinto is a tough place to play, so the best result I can see them achieving is a low scoring draw.

Real Salt Lake ( 1 - 1 ) Vancouver Whitecaps