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Match Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps at SJ Earthquakes

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Can the Whitecaps ride their momentum and exact revenge in San Jose?

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Los Angeles FC Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in a long time, the Vancouver Whitecaps feel like their riding some momentum as they travel down the coast to take on Chris Wondolowski and the San Jose Earthquakes this Saturday night.

With points in three of their last four, the Whitecaps are actually the “hotter” of the two teams, as after being trounced midweek by league leading LAFC, the Earthquakes find themselves on a three game losing streak and winless in their last four. For a team that went on an 11-3-4 run earlier in the season, the Earthquakes (11-10-5) now find themselves just one point above the playoff bar in the Western Conference and dangerously close to being eclipsed by FC Dallas for the final playoff spot. Meanwhile, the Vancouver Whitecaps (6-12-9) still find themselves dead last in the West, but tied on points with the Colorado Rapids, who still have a game in hand.

Match Information

When: August 24 – 7:00PM PT

Where: Avaya Stadium - San Jose, CA

How: TSN 4, TSN 1040 (Radio), ESPN +

Who’s Available?

While the Earthquakes don’t have a single injury to report, the Whitecaps still find themselves without the services of Jasser Khmiri (Left Knee) and PC (right foot). Lass Bangoura (Left Adductor) is questionable and Erik Godoy’s status is in question after taking a slight knock at training earlier in the week.

Additionally, while Michaell Chirinos is going to travel with the team, it doesn’t sound like we’re going to see him on the pitch Saturday.

Who’s Worth Watching?

When heading to San Jose, the answer to this question is (and always has been) Chris Wondolowski. The American International has ten goals on the year and recorded both a goal and an assist when the Earthquakes took down the Whitecaps at BC Place on July 20th. Matias Almeyda’s system puts his players in a position where they have to win individual battles, and Wondolowski has cultivated a legendary career by slipping off his defender and providing a clinical finish.

Beyond the obvious, Valeri Qazaishvili “Vako” has been the straw which stirs the drink for the Earthquakes this season. The Georgian midfielder has eight goals and three assists so far, and averages 1.3 key passes and 3.2 dribbles per match in MLS.

Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos has even gone so far as to say that Vako is pretty much the exact profile of attacking midfielder the Whitecaps will be looking for in January 2020 and beyond. Vako makes great attacking runs, loves to cut inside, takes players head on, and also has a deft touch with his shots from distance. The only knock on the Georgian international is that he’s very passive defensively, but when you drive offense the way Vako does, that’s likely something you’re willing to put up with.

For those not familiar with what Vako can do, check out this 2 goal, MOTM perfomance from July 26th against the Houston Dynamo, it’s worth a watch:

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that former Whitecap Shea Salinas is enjoying his best offensive season in MLS by far - having already scored six goals on the year when his previous best (in 2015) was three. While his usage has dipped slightly, he’s been an Earthquakes stalwart for the last eight seasons and it’s good to see him finding the back of the net in Almeyda’s system.

Who’s Going to Win?

The Vancouver Whitecaps are just (1-3-6) all time visiting the Earthquakes, and with the San Jose side desperate to keep their playoff positioning and bounce back from a tough loss to LAFC, a result for the visiting Whitecaps seems unlikely.

If history between these two teams is any indication, both sides will find the scoresheet. Head to head, there’s been more than 2.5 goals in each of the last 5 matches, and San Jose hasn’t kept a clean sheet against the Whitecaps in 7 straight.

All that being said, I’m going to predict that the Whitecaps find an early goal (Vancouver has scored first in 6 of the last 7 head to head), but are unable to hold on under the mounting Earthquakes pressure led by Vako and Wondolowski, and eventually fall by a full-time score of 3 to 1.