Despite the fact that the Vancouver Whitecaps are drawing ever closer to a return to BC Place, a second matchup with their temporary hosts in Real Salt Lake remains unavoidable as they get set to face off Wednesday night in Sandy, UT (7PM Pacific).
MLS teams return to Canada latest:#TFCLive & #CFMTL are planning returns to respective home cities after Wed games. Will train + await fed approval for home games#VWFC had already committed to playing July 7 & 17 in Utah. Have been told Van planning a return later in July— Kelcey Brade (@KelceyBradeTSN) July 5, 2021
While the Whitecaps are still at the bottom of the Western Conference, they did earn points in their last two matchups, a series of 2-2 draws, so there is some confidence to build off of before the upcoming ten day break.
Salt Lake, on the other hand, is 0-2-1 since facing the Whitecaps on June 18th, and have now slipped to 9th in the West following a strong start to the year. Although RSL was thoroughly outclassed by Seattle a few weeks ago, their past two matches, first a draw against Houston, and then a loss to LAFC, left them feeling relatively hard done by.
In those two matches, RSL had more of the possession and created the better chances, but was simply unable to capitalize in key moments. Much like in Vancouver, supporters and pundits in Salt Lake have been questioning Freddy Juarez’s in-game management (or lack thereof). So it will be interesting to see what these two coaches are able to draw up for a midweek fixture.
Last time out, the end phase of the match played a key role, as Salt Lake scored twice in extra time to crush the Whitecaps’ hopes of vanquishing their losing skid. While the Whitecaps have been able to earn some points, those late game issues have remained.
Vancouver was only barely able to stay alive in Seattle, and Marc Dos Santos’ late game tactics in Frisco on Sunday left a lot to be desired. In particular, the choice to inject another centreback late in the match proved costly, as miscommunication between Andy Rose and substitute Ranko Veselinovic directly contributed to the game-tying goal. If you can draw your mind back to the 3-1 loss against RSL, something very similar took place, as Derek Cornelius replaced Deiber Caicedo in the 86th minute, and things fell apart from there on out.
Albert Rusnak and Damir Kreliach remain the players to watch for Salt Lake, although Cuban national and former Real Monarch’s winger Maikel Chang has been in form of late. In terms of tactics, Juarez has started every match RSL has played this season in a 4-2-3-1 shape.
On the injury front, Bruno Gaspar and Michael Baldisimo are both expected to miss this one. This will also mark the first match where the Whitecaps are without Maxime Crepeau and Lucas Cavallini, as the pair have left to represent Canada at the Gold Cup. This will set the table for Thomas Hasal and Brian White to seize the opportunity over the coming weeks - Wednesday will likely be the first time Whitecaps fans have seen Hasal start a match since his unfortunate injuries late last year.
On the flip side, Real Salt Lake has no injuries of note.
With the table set, it’s time for predictions. Despite Marc Dos Santos’ suggestions that the Whitecaps have been hard done by recently, the past two draws, if anything, have flattered this Whitecaps team, who have realistically been second best in all their matches since a 2-1 win against CF Montreal back on May 8th.
With that in mind, and especially given the interesting circumstances surrounding this match, I’m picking a 2-1 victory for Real Salt Lake.