It’s Gameday Number Nine! And boy are we in need of a win!
It’s been three matches and just over a month since the Vancouver Whitecaps (1-6-1) have secured any points whatsoever. So what’s the best cure-all for that kind of drought? Why, by playing host to a club that’s presently just as snakebit, of course! That’s what the ‘Caps will be facing when they host Toronto FC (3-5-2) Sunday afternoon for the first time since September 2020.
Where: BC Place, Vancouver, BC
When: Sunday, May 8th at 1:00 pm PST
How: CTV, TSN2 (TV); AM730 (Radio); TSN App, CTV App (Internet)
In all fairness, Toronto FC are in much better shape than the Whitecaps at this point of the season, in that their table position is far more favorable and can still catch whiffs of a potential playoff spot.
Nevertheless, this has not kept the Reds from recently joining Vancouver in an early season spiral as each club is, for the moment, the reluctant owner of a three-game losing streak. The key difference for the Whitecaps is that, hopefully and ideally, they may now be emerging from the horrors of an injury-plagued bench as Toronto only begins to suffer from one.
Of Toronto’s three recent losses, two came from a pair of home (2-1) and away (2-0) matches against Wooden Spoon holders FC Cincinnati, who incidentally are playing with swagger and confidence for the first time since joining MLS. The third was a wild 5-4 loss to New York City FC, owners of the World’s Smallest Championship Banner, where Toronto went up two, conceded five in a row, and pulled back two before ultimately coming up short at the final whistle. Don’t let anyone tell you nothing exciting happens in the short & narrow of Yankee Stadium.
All time, Vancouver has gone 5-6-3 against Toronto in MLS play, with a Goal Differential of -4. However, in matches played at BC Place the Whitecaps are 3-2-1 with a GD of 0. So we got that going for us, which is nice.
What Happened Last
It’s weird to think about now, but remember when all the Canadian MLS teams were stuck playing in American stadiums? These have been a long two years.
In any case, the last Vancouver/Toronto matchup treated us to a 2-2 draw just over a year ago in the classic Torontonian confines of Exploria Stadium in Orlando, FL.
Luke Singh opened the scoring in the 7th minute with a goal mouth scramble tap-in. The Whitecaps jumped ahead in the second half with goals off a Cristian Dajome penalty and an Andy Rose header, before Jonathan Osorio levelled late with an absolute clustercuss of a goal. Following a Michael Bradley cross, the ball made eight wacky bounces off players (including Michael Baldisimo’s face) and inanimate objects before finally trickling into the net. Yeesh.
Per ‘Caps Club Reporter Sarita Patel, Caio Alexandre (broken hand), Tristan Blackmon (knee sprain), Cristian Gutierrez (calf), and Leonard Owusu (foot contusion) all remain out and unavailable for Sunday afternoon.
However, Ryan Gauld will be back!
#VWFC’s Ryan Gauld has been back to full fitness and training with #WhitecapsFC for over a week.— Har Journalist (@HarJournalist) May 6, 2022
He cleared concussion protocols on April 27 and was back fully training on April 28.
Caps will have Gauld and also Erik Godoy back vs #TFCLive on Sunday. #VANvTOR #MLS https://t.co/rI8zgataTt
I’d share the same sentiment and excitement about a potential Erik Godoy return, but I’ve been hurt before. For now, let’s remain cautious about his inclusion in the starting eleven.
No disciplinary absences to mention this week, as the ‘Caps have been relatively calm in that regard since Jake Nerwinski’s dismissal to open the season, but following the close of the transfer window, it’s worth mentioning two recent Whitecaps signings: Andres Cubas and Luis Martins.
With Cubas, the Whitecaps are getting a solid ball-winning center midfielder from Ligue 2 side Nimes. Or, they will be, once the Ligue 2 season is complete next week & Cubas completes his visa process. For now, pour over Caleb Wilkins’ thorough deep dive into Cubas’ playing style.
As for Martins, the left back has been brought in on a free transfer. Released at the end of last season by SKC, he’ll undoubtedly help a backline that’s sorely missing Gutierrez. Another deep dive by Caleb (he’s really good at those, by the way) describes a fullback who can do wonders with the ball (hooray!), but is a bit below average defensively (uh oh). Without knowing the status of his International Transfer Certificate, I doubt we’ll see him in the lineup this weekend.
Fun fact about Martins, he was knighted with the Order of Prince Henry along with other members of the Portugal side that finished as runner-up at the U-20 World Cup in 2011. When he finally takes the pitch for the Whitecaps, you better call him “Sir.”
Potential Vancouver Lineup - Hasal; Nerwinski, Veselinovic, Jungwirth; Dajome, Berhalter, Teibert, Brown; Gauld; White, Cavallini.
According to this week’s MLS Availability Report, Ifunanyachi Achara and Carlos Salcedo are in the health & safety protocol, while Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Chris Mavinga, Noble Okello, and Jonathan Osorio are all experiencing lower body injuries, making for six players listed as Out as of this writing. Add in Jacob Shaffelburg being listed as Questionable with a lower body injury of his own and you’ve got a solid lineup of players that could win the hospital ward rec league.
Apart from all the injuries, the Reds will also be without Ralph Priso-Mbongue who, in his first start of the season, went in a little high for a tackle on Obinna Nwobodo during the midweek match against Cincinnati:
If this picture is in fact worth a thousand words, one of those words better have been “yikes.”
To be fair, the foul in real time wasn’t nearly as bad as the photo suggests, but it was still pretty bad. Understandably, Priso won’t be playing on Sunday due to suspension.
Potential Toronto Lineup - Bono; O’Neill, MacNaughton, Chung; Nelson, Petrasso, Bradley, Thompson; Kerr, Pozuelo; Jimenez.
What’s Up With The Enemy?
Injuries, injuries, injuries.
Prior to the three-game losing streak, Toronto was on a solid run of 3-0-1, with tough wins against DC United, NYCFC, and Philadelphia. And now? Well, even their replacements are needing replacements. Having to go on the road for the third time in four matches won’t make things any easier.
Who’s Worth Watching?
I mean, he kind of has to be, right? He’s tied for the league lead in goals with 7 in 10 matches and is about to go up against the team with the worst differential in the league. Of course, goal differential relies on a team’s ability to score as much as it does to not get scored upon, but Vancouver could be in for a long afternoon if their defenders cannot track the runs of Jimenez and concede an early goal.
Kind Of Related But Absolutely Hilarious
That’s not Terry Dunfield.
Who’s Going To Win?
Toronto has travelled cross-continent, lost three in a row, and will be missing eight players against a club coming off a two-week break. That has all the markings of a bad situation getting worse.
But, it’s the 2022 Whitecaps.
The start to this season has been a rough one, so it’s hard not to succumb to pessimism despite all the positives listed above. Add in the historical oddity of Vancouver’s inability to secure points against Toronto in three consecutive matches, and you may as well pencil in a win for the Reds.
That argument aside, with their current negatives stacked up against ours, I’m willing to go out on a limb and call for a strangely nervy 2-0 win for Vancouver, despite the fact that two-goal shutouts should never be strangely nervy.
But, again, it’s the 2022 Whitecaps. I’m so not comfortable with this prediction.
Eighty Six Forever Predictions
Andrew: 2-1 Vancouver
Caleb: 2-1 Vancouver
Luis: 2-0 Toronto
Sam: 2-1 Vancouver
Referee: Victor Rivas; AR1: Jeremy Hanson; AR2: Stefan Tanaka-Freundt; 4th: Alain Ruch; VAR: Malik Badawi; AVAR: Jonathan Johnson.