After a prolonged hiatus for the Gold Cup, the Whitecaps are back Saturday, as they play host to the Colorado Rapids at BC Place.
As always, the pertinent details are below:
Kick off: 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT
Streaming: MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US
- Officials: Referee: Fotis Bazakos
- Assistant Referees: Brian Poeschel, Matthew Nelson
- 4th Official: Ramy Touchan
- VAR: Ricardo Salazar
Initially thought to be not only the worst team in the league but one of the worst in recent memory, the Rapids canned ex-manager Anthony Hudson in April. Ever since, they’ve been on fire, winning four of their last five league matches (they were, however, dispatched by New Mexico United in the US Open Cup). Former Whitecaps Nico Mezquida and Kei Kamara have tallied three goals in that timeframe, as the Rapids have roared to life and subsequently have risen out of the cellar in the west.
The Caps were, incidentally, Connor Casey’s first opponent two days after being named interim manager. Vancouver prevailed thanks to a late winner from Andy Rose (Fredy Montero and Lucas Venuto also tallied). The major problem for the Rapids earlier in the season was on the defensive end, something that was on full display in the first match up between these two teams. The Caps were able to effectively use pacy wingers to cut through the Rapids’ backline, swinging in passes which created a multitude of chances.
The Rapids have slowely gotten stingier, however, with two clean sheets in their past five league matches. New centerback Lalas Abubakar has helped strengthen the defense and keeper Tim Howard, so often a shadow of his former self, has looked more like the DP that he is in recent games. Left back has been somewhat problematic, however, has neither Deklan Wynne nor Sam Vines has thrilled at the position.
The biggest problem for the Rapids will be the absence of Jonathan Lewis, who has been the team’s best player since arriving from New York City FC in April. The 22-year-old has parlayed that good run of form into a spot on Gregg Berhalter’s Gold Cup roster. The Caps, however, will not be untouched by the ongoing international competitions. Donneil Henry and Derek Cornelius will be John Herdman’s first choice defensive pair in Gold Cup play and Russell Teibert and Max Crepeau will also be missing. Lass Bangoura will not feature either, as he was named to Guinea’s African Cup of Nations squad.
This means a few things will likely happen. Andy Rose seems certain to shift back to centerback, as Jasser Khemiri’s status remains unclear. Meanwhile, Zac MacMath will slot in at goal, proving Marc dos Santos was playing the long game in giving MacMath a couple of starts earlier this season. Joaquin Ardaiz remains unavailable, meaning the offense will again run through Yordy Reyna and Fredy Montero.
This match is a tough one to predict, given the sheer number of players on international duty. On one hand, the Rapids’ hot run has been cooled by the pause in play, as well as their US Open Cup defeat. The friendly confines of BC Place have been relatively kind to Colorado, however, with them managing three wins in Vancouver all time and the Caps will dearly miss Henry and Crepeau. All in all this smacks of a draw to me, with neither side wanting to drop points under the circumstances.