The Vancouver Whitecaps (1-2-5, yikes) come up against the Philadelphia Union (4-1-3) this Saturday. The Union are one of a handful of teams in MLS who are doing what the Vancouver Whitecaps are trying to do much better than the Vancouver Whitecaps are.
Kick Off: 2:00pm PT
The Union are a team that on paper does not look threatening at all. Their top scorers are Corey Burke (one hot steak in 2018 aside, basically just some guy), David Accam (mostly a very good MLS player but only scored once in 2018) and Marco Fabian (Mexican international who’s had serious injury problems). Not exactly a scary looking bunch. Yet they sit a credible 4th in the Eastern conference with a slightly above .500 record. Their team is heavily focused on finding diamonds in the rough and developing players through their academy. Sound familiar? Their stats in 2019 have been very similar to Vancouver’s. The Union have very similar average possession (but slightly better), very similar passing accuracy (but slightly better), very similar average shots per game (but slightly better), very similar goals against (but slightly better) and double the number of goals scored Vancouver has (yikes). They most commonly play a 4-4-2 with a midfield diamond, thought they have also played 4-2-3-1 twice. The backline has been fairly consistent but will be without left back Kai Wagner (who is also tied for the team lead in assists). The exact organization of the midfield varies but generally veterans Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin will be paired with academy graduate Brendon Aaronson and Ilsinho. Usually the strike pairing will be Corey Burke and Fafa Picault.
There are some weak spots in the Union that the ‘Caps could exploit. Philadelphia will likely be without goalkeeper Andre Blake who left the game against the Montreal Impact with a groin tear. This leaves Philadelphia with former Harvard goalkeeper Matt Freese. Freese has a grand total of two professional appearances and 36 minutes of MLS play. He’s a big question mark. He might be amazing, but there’s no real way to know. In those 36 MLS minutes he put up a passing accuracy of 18.2% and played 9 inaccurate long balls. So if the Whitecaps put him under some pressure they might be able to make something happen there. Philadelphia will also be without Kai Wagner who has played every minute so far for them. I don’t even know who the Union’s second choice left back is. As Whitecaps fans know all too well, an inexperienced full back can bring down an otherwise solid defence. This problem will only be compounded by most likely being without a former MLS all star goalkeeper. Despite the important absences, Philadelphia still has a very compact midfield that will be hard to break down, especially for a Whitecaps team that often looks a bit disconnected from each other.
- QUESTIONABLE: F - Sergio Santos (left quad strain) -
- QUESTIONABLE: M - Marco Fabian (ankle injury, it says questionable but honestly I seriously doubt a player who’s already a bit injured and has a history with back issues is making an east to west flight to play on turf)
- GK - Andre Blake (right groin injury, this injury is apparently not as bad as first feared but since he had to leave the last game I assume he’ll miss at least one)
- OUT: M - Michael Baldisimo (left ankle contusion)
- OUT: D - Jasser Khmiri (left knee injury)
- OUT: M - Andy Rose (facial fracture)
- OUT: M - David Norman Jr. (right foot surgery)
Philadelphia: Freese; mystery player, Trusty, Elliot, Gaddis; Medunjanin, Bedoya, Ilsinho, Aaronson; Picault, Burke
Vancouver: Crepeau; Adnan, Godoy, Henry, Nerwinksi; Erice, Hwang, Teibert; Venuto, Reyna, Bangoura
This game is going to be very tight but I think the Union’s injuries will seriously hurt them. I give the Whitecaps about a 60% chance to win this one. I’ll say 2-1 for Vancouver.