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Pre-Match: Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto FC (Episode III: Cavallini’s Revenge?)

The Vancouver Whitecaps will look to dish out some home cooking on Saturday, as they defend their own turf for the first time since February.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Toronto FC Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

This Saturday, the Vancouver Whitecaps will host a home match for the first time since February. A lot has changed since the home opener, and after two demoralizing defeats at the hands of Toronto FC in August, the Whitecaps will be out for revenge (and to keep their Canadian Championship hopes alive) in this one.

If the Whitecaps are going to produce a reversal of fortunes, they’ll need contributions from their top players as well as their unheralded youngsters.

At striker, perhaps no one on the Whitecaps is under more pressure right now than Lucas Cavallini. Some of this pressure is not deserved, as the team has been very poor around him, but missing two penalties (poorly taken ones at that) is not what is expected from the highest profile signing in Vancouver Whitecaps history.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Michael Baldisimo will look to take advantage of another opportunity, if he is indeed given one. In his MLS debut against the Impact, the youngster was notable for his sharp passing and confident play, something Whitecaps fans aren’t used to from one of their midfielders. Baldisimo will be a terrific feel good story for the Whitecaps Academy if he can build on his debut, as he struggled mightily to stay fit over the past couple of years, and it was easy to wonder at times if he was ever going to get his opportunity. It’s great to see that all his hard work behind the scenes is finally starting to pay off.

In terms of the match itself, Marc Dos Santos needs to keep his plan as simple as possible. Jumping from formation to formation over the past few matches has not been effective, and if the Whitecaps want a measure of success going forwards, each player on the pitch needs to be confident in their role.

In terms of players available, it appears as though Erik Godoy may be ready for action, but likely only in a substitute role, while Janio Bikel continues to move closer to match fitness, although it’s unlikely he’ll be in the eighteen against TFC.

Additionally, the perplexing Fredy Montero saga in Vancouver continues, as he’s been a “full participant” in training, but Marc Dos Santos was very cryptic when prodded to provide details as to whether or not we could expect the Colombian attacker to make an appearance any time soon.

On the TFC side of things, Michael Bradley is out (as of earlier this morning) with an MCL sprain, which opens the door for young Canadian International Liam Fraser to feature prominently.

Meanwhile, Toronto’s unbeaten regular season run came to an end back on Tuesday, as the Reds dropped the home contest 1-0 to Montreal, despite the run of play being very much in their favour. If the Whitecaps are going to produce a similar result on Saturday, they’ll likely have to replicate that same formula: soaking up TFC pressure and countering when TFC is most vulnerable.

Ultimately, it feels like the Whitecaps need a lucky break to go their way at this point (own goal, defending or goalkeeping mistake, etc.) to get back on the score sheet, but if that happens, who knows, maybe the floodgates will open and Lucas Cavallini will open his Whitecaps account in earnest.

As far as predictions go, I’m very tempted to hedge my bets for this match. The Whitecaps will win a match eventually, and I’d like to be on the winning side with my predictions when they do. As much as this match could be another casual 3-0 rout for TFC, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that everything will go right for the Whitecaps in this one, leading to a 3-1 victory. The combination of home field, the absence of Bradley, and a lucky early goal could easily see this match go the right way for the home team, and you have to figure that Lucas Cavallini will find the back of the net eventually.

That’s a whole lot of “ifs”, but what’s there to lose at this point?