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Match Preview: Whitecaps vs. Sporting Kansas City

More 90th minute goals plz

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Sporting Kansas City Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Caps will hope to recover from a lackluster Voyageurs Cup performance on Saturday, as Vancouver is set to host the similarly beleaguered Sporting Kansas City at BC Place. The pertinent details can be found below:

Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Sporting Kansas City

BC Place

July 13 - 10:00 PM ET

TV: TSN 1/4

Officials:

Referee: Ramy Touchan

Assistant Referees: Chris Wattam, Andrew Bigelow

4th Official: Mark Allatin

VAR: Alex Chilowicz

The first meeting between these two sides this season was not short on drama, as Derek Cornelius leveled in stoppage time to earn the Caps a deserved 1-1 draw. It has been a rough year for SKC, who was riding high after a CONCACAF Champions League spanking of Toluca and the usual high expectations that come with being one of the most consistent teams in MLS.

But a horrific spate of injuries and one of the leakiest defenses in the league have left SKC only two points ahead of Vancouver in the West. Peter Vermes is still one of the best tactical minds in MLS and his roster has no shortage of talent so a playoff run still might be in the cards but the match represents a virtual must-win for the away side.

SKC rebounded from two straight defeats (including their own paddling by LAFC) to see off the Chicago Fire 1-0 at home. The match saw the reintroduction of Johnny Russell, arguably SKC’s best player, who is recovering from injury. There are questions as to whether Russell, who subbed on in the second half, will start against the Caps and it would be a big boon to their chances if the Scotsman starts on the bench, as Kansas City are a much more potent team with him on the pitch.

Other injury news for the visitors: Erik Hurtado will not be making a triumphant return to BC Place (he’s out for the year with a knee injury) and Rodney Wallace and Roger Espinoza are out with long term knocks as well. The Caps have a relatively clean bill of health, with Joaquin Ardaiz making a sub appearance in the Voyageurs Cup match Wednesday night presumably signaling that he is fair game for selection in league play as well. Jasser Khmiri may or may not be alive right now and Thomas Hasal and David Norman also appear to be still unavailable to be picked.

The Caps will have to moderate their lineup somewhat, what with Fredy Montero sitting out in service of his red card suspension from last week’s 6-1 defeat to LAFC. Ardaiz probably is not ready to go 90 minutes and Marc dos Santos doesn’t even appear to want Theo Bair starting cup matches. So it stands to reason Yordy Reyna will be alone up top with Lucas Venuto and potentially PC providing support. It wouldn’t shock me to see MDS stick with three center backs on the pitch either after the return of Donneil Henry and Cornelius from Gold Cup duty.

Irregardless of who makes an appearance up front, the Caps will look to take advantage of uncharacteristically shaky seasons from Tim Melia and Matt Besler, which have caused SKC to ship 34 goals already this season. Offensively, SKC has faired much better—Kristian Nemeth has tallied seven goals this season, including one against the Caps earlier this year. And Felipe Gutierrez, long one of the more underrated players in MLS, has finally seemed to get his due nationally as one of the best midfielders in MLS and containing his influence on the match will be a top priority for Vancouver.

This match is a big one, as both sides attempt to gain traction for a strong finish to the season. Given their proximity to each other in the table, three points one way or the other could be significant come seasons end. I don’t see either team wanting to take the risks necessary to win the match if its level in, say, the 70th minute. Given that Kansas City is still trying to work Johnny Russell back into the picture and the fact that they’re playing on the road, a point probably isn’t a bad result for them either. And for the Caps? Well, a point is better than losing 6-1. I predict a 1-1 draw