Teams: Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs Sporting Kansas City
Location: Disney’s Wild World of Sports Complex, Orlando, FL
Date and Time: June 15, 9:00 pm EST, 6:00 pm PST
Watching: TSN (in Canada) & MLS Live on ESPN+ (in US)
What to expect
After a four-plus month layoff, the Caps will return to action Wednesday night in a battle against their one true rivals: the San Jose Earthquakes.
Joking aside, the match is a bit of a wild card. Seattle’s struggles fully underscore how wonky this tournament is going to be—which leaves an opening for both San Jose and Vancouver. Both sides are working back to full fitness and while San Jose ha the benefit of a full, competitive 90-minute match to help with that, the Caps have the benefit of a few more days of rest to help them cope with the Orlando humidity.
San Jose weeks out a draw in their first match of the tournament, though it was a relatively lackluster 0-0 one against Seattle. The Quakes actually had the better of possession and chances created, though Seattle had the best two chances of the game. The match was notable in my mind because it was the first one where teams were clearly feeling the effects of the weather/four month layoff—players from both sides were cramping all over the place and the final whistle blowing was almost a relief for everyone involved.
The general rule for San Jose right now is stout at the back yet lacking creativity going forward. Friday night their attack flower through attacking midfielder Magnus Eriksson, to some degree of success. Matias Almeyda is excellent st getting the most out of his players, as evidenced by last season when he rode a team without any real stars to the brink of a playoff berth, before collapsing under its own weight late on. Thus the Caps will need to expect a well drilled team that they will be asked to break down.
They will have to do this without their top three strikers, Lucas Cavallini, Fredy Montero and Tosaint Ricketts, all of whom remain in Vancouver. I talked through the question of who will lead the attack in depth in Coffee with the Caps yesterday and think it will probably fall to Yordy Reyna as a false nine.
It is likely that both Ryan Raposo and Theo Bair will see significant minutes regardless, however. Raposo’s strong shift in the LA Galaxy match will be instructive for MDS and give fans plenty of reason for optimism. And while Bair missed the bench in one of the team’s two prior games, he should be back with a vengeance here.
The other question I explored in CWTC yesterday is what the midfield will look like. Here MDS has all his options available to him and it will come down to whether he will want to favor new blood (Janio Bikel and Leonard Owusu) or old faces (Russell Thibert). I expect a bit of both, though it is possible Bikel will be shifted over to RB, as he was in the Galaxy match and where he performed admirably.
In defense, no Erik Godoy or Andy Rose, meaning MDS again has some choices to make. It could be the debut for Ranko Veselinovic or it will be the safe option in Derek Cornelius. I suspect it will be the latter unless Ranko has really come out hot in training in Orlando. Either way, the absence of Godoy and Rose will present a real opportunity for someone to state their case for the starting XI when (if?) we have a normal regular season.
Predicting this is basically impossible (see: Seattle taking one point from their Chicago/San Jose matches), as the usual MLS parity has been exacerbated even more. I have a hard time feeling confident given the lack of attacking depth but San Jose is probably the best possible opponent to kick the tournament off against. This seems like a match with a scoreless first half as the two teams feel each other out, with a barrage of goals late. I’d peg this one as a 1-1 draw