Following their 3-0 thumping of Real Monarchs, the Vancouver Whitecaps are looking to exorcise the demons of the past by translating that success onto an MLS level stage right before the first kick-off of the 2021 season. In an exciting double header, the Whitecaps will face Chicago Fire before taking on USL’s Indy Eleven in for what will be a busy morning for fans on the west coast.
Teams: Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs Chicago Fire/Indy Eleven
Location: SeatGeek Stadium, Bridgeview, Illinois
Date and Time: April 10th, 9:30 am/12:00pm PST
What to expect
These are the final opportunities for any player to make a name for themselves, and given the back to back nature of the matches on the day, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see nearly everyone on the roster get at least a couple of minutes in. A 4-4-2 formation would not be a surprise, given that is What MDS went for in the previous game, along with that being the formation Vancouver closed last season with. As players are facing Visa issues along with other key players quarantining or not being fully match fit, one shouldn’t read too deeply at into the personnel chosen for either of these two matches, as the team won’t be at full strength for at least another couple of games.
From a fan perspective, it is that wonderful time of season again when one is able to see whether promises have been kept by providing a first glimpse into how this team might perform come the full season. Chicago should provide ample proving grounds- as they finished around the same area on the table, while the Indy Eleven match should be used as a benchmark to see at what level the sub/reserve players are at.
Looking at the Enemy
Chicago had an underwhelming 2020 season, and much of the same can be said about their winter transfer window. The Fire have signed three players, none of which look particularly revolutionary for the team. Raphaël Wicky seems to be quite pleased with the roster that he finished the season with and must believe that he can achieve better results this season. This faith could have some backing, as Chicago have lost just one of their preseason matches, beating Forward Madison, NYCFC, and crucially, Supporter’s Shield holders Philadelphia. The Whitecaps will look to join Cincinnati as another team to have beaten this interesting looking side. Outside of obvious candidate Robert Beric, Whitecaps fans can look out for Przemysław Frankowski, who has been very productive during the preseason and could prove a thorn in their side.
Indy Eleven are kicking off their first friendly of the season against the Whitecaps. Having finished 9th in the previous season, a strong performance by the USL side will show that they could be hoping for a playoff push, despite losing Canadian star striker Tyler Pasher to the Houston Dynamo in January. For Whitecaps fans, keep an eye out for Gershon Koffie, Aboubacar Sissoko, and Jordan Hamilton. Koffie should be a familiar name to most Whitecaps fans, as he played four seasons for the Vancouver-based team as a key player on the squad. Sissoko may be a little harder to place, but if one casts their mind to the hopeful preseason before the COVID stricken 2020 season, then they may remember as Sissoko being a notable target for the Whitecaps’ centre back depth as he was on trial with the team after strong performances with Halifax Wanderers. Lastly, Jordan Hamilton is a player who has had his best form playing for TFC II, but has always been a rotational striker option at MLS level, so it will be interesting to see how he fares with his new team, having had his option declined by the Columbus Crew last year.
Predicted Starting XI
VS Indy Eleven:
(Keep in mind, subs could mess this prediction completely)
The optimist in me sees the Whitecaps putting in a classic gritty performance and getting a 1-0 victory, with Cavallini bagging the goal that makes the difference between the two MLS sides in the first game. In the second game, I could see Kamron Habibullah getting a brace and forcing MDS to hand him a first team contract ahead of this season. (Which would be great for those who have kept up with him throughout the youth system!) A 2-0 final victory against the USL side is my final prediction.
What are your expectations for these friendlies? Sound off in the comments below!