Teams: Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs Toronto FC
Location: BMO Field, Toronto
Date and Time: August 18th, 8:00 pm EST, 5:00 pm PST
Watching: TSN (in Canada) & MLS Live on ESPN+ (in US)
What to expect
After the tournament heroics of homegrown hero Thomas Hasal which ended in unfortunate penalty loss, the Whitecaps are back in action once again, this time not only playing for points in the league, but also for a spot in the Voyageurs Cup final. That’s right, for the first time since it’s rebranding as the Canadian Championship, points gained in the league will decide which team makes the final of Canada’s annual cup competition.
This was made possible by the format the MLS is currently continuing with, where teams will be playing other teams that are geographically close to them home and away for six fixtures before rotating the assortment of teams a total of two times, leading to 18 total regular season games. Due to health and safety regulations, the first group of six matches between the Canadian teams will be played among themselves, making it easy to keep track of how each Canadian team stacks up against each other. This three game series for each team is what is going to decide who makes it to the final and play against the Canadian Premier League Island Games Champion.
Okay, back to the match itself: coming into this fixture, all teams will have had about the same amount of time to rest, given that all of the Canadian teams were eliminated in the Round of 16 at the MLS is Back tournament. With the games being played locally, the team which benefits the most of this is undeniably the Vancouver Whitecaps, as many players had opted out of traveling to Orlando or were nursing recent injuries and could very well be involved in the action after seeing how well the MLS is Back tournament finished up or just trust Canadian travel over international travel.
The Whitecaps could definitely use this boost of personnel, as if they were to play with the players available since the Sporting Kansas City game, they would be left with one DP in their left back Ali Adnan, as Hwang In Beom has transferred to Rubin Kazan in Russia.
❗️ Officially: Hwang In-beom to Rubin— FC Rubin Kazan (@fcrk_en) August 14, 2020
We signed a three-year contract with the 23-year-old midfielder from @WhitecapsFC and the South Korean National Team Hwang In-beom. He’ll join us after all the final paperwork.
Not to mention that the bench was incredibly thin for the SKC game, with Yordy Reyna the only forward among a sea of academy graduate midfielders and defenders. The ‘Caps’ three missing strikers would provide a lot of the depth required and would also bring the firepower that the team needs following a rise in defensive performances to close out their stay in Orlando.
The possible return of Lucas Cavallini, Fredy Montero, Tosaint Ricketts, Andy Rose, and Brian Meredith is definitely a sigh of relief for not only Marc Dos Santos, but the players on the team themselves, as this Whitecaps team looked incredibly young near the latter games, and these players bring the veteran experience and leadership that could turn the things in the favor of Vancouver. This takes off a lot of the pressure from more inexperienced players and gives reassurance to the older players and could provide enough positive momentum to grind out some victories in the coming games. But to do that, they’re going to have to start off strong, as their first opponent is no pushover.
Toronto is going to be coming into this game with a chip on their shoulder as they were favored to get farther in the tournament than they did, and team revelation Ayo Akinola (Who keep in mind, is still eligible to play for the Canadian National Team) will be hungry to prove that he’s the real deal and not a one tournament wonder.
Pablo Piatti seems to have fit in nicely in Toronto after his return from injury and the combined play between him and Alejandro Pozuelo looked very frightening many times during the Orlando tournament. Toronto will be looking to start off strong so that the rest of the league can take notice that their early tournament exit was a fluke and that they’re seriously looking to reach their fourth MLS Cup in five years.
The Whitecaps will look to spoil this party with a squad filled with questions; Hasal or Meredith? Four at the back or five? Adnan in attack or defense? Who will be in the midfield now that Hwang is gone? Who will be attacking? With the return of a lot of players, these answers should come easier, but we won’t know the end result until the 11 players kick off in Toronto. For now we can only hope that they can make the most out of the players they have until that shiny new no. 10 arrives in eight to ten weeks time after he’s announced.
Predicted Starting XI
There are way too many questions for the Whitecaps coming into this match, and with a squad that is shuffling and rotating every match in order to find their identity, picking out clear starters and certainties is a long shot, even for the seemingly safe matches. The frailty of the midfield is a big concern in my opinion and is probably where the Whitecaps will probably struggle in the most (Specifically in connecting play to those front 3). I can’t say that I expect a resounding victory against the MLS Cup Runners-Up, nor a draw even, but I do think that the Whitecaps will find their feet as these games go on and finish strong. I just think that this game will be the first step on that path and it will be far from pretty. A 2-1 victory for Toronto is my prediction, but that will be the worst result they will have against that team for these games.