What: Real Salt Lake vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
When: Saturday Aug. 20, 7:00 p.m. PST
Where: Sandy, UT
How (to watch): TSN (TV), ESPN+ (streaming)
What to Watch For
It sounds like a broken record but the Caps have another big match, loaded with playoff implications, as they head back to their former home-away-from-home to duel with Real Salt Lake.
They do so with a bit of wind at their back, beating Colorado Rapids 2-1 in the midweek in a result where they were pretty good value for the three points, bolstered immensely with a nearly full strength starting XI.
Whether Vanni Sartini elects to try and get another match out of that starting XI, however, remains to be seen. Cristian Dajome will return from suspension and will likely find a home in the lineup and Javain Brown’s apparent ankle injury seems likely to keep him out at the expense of Jake Nerwinski. The Caps never seem to go long without calling on Russell Teibert (don’t shoot the messenger) and Alessandro Schopf and Sebastian Berhalter seem to be building back to full fitness so those guys are uncertain as well.
They well be bolstered by some much improved road form (never mind the tendency to concede early goals). Whether Sartini lets his guys keep up the more controlling, possession-oriented game that they took to the Rapids also remains to be seen but they will be going up against a much more defensively solid team that is fine playing without the ball.
Indeed, RSL doesn’t necessarily hold a ton of possession, nor do they batter the opposition with a ton of shots. But they are good at creating some very, very good chances and converting them, while also possessing an above-average defense. Basically, they are a better version of what the Caps aspire to be.
Their surprising run to a playoff spot has been bolstered by the contributions of a few elite attackers in Sergio Cordova, Anderson Julio and Jefferson Savarino, as well as the strong performances of deep-lying midfielder Pablo Ruiz.
But its their defense that has been among the top in the league, led by Justen Glad. Even though he got turned around by Gareth Bale a couple games ago, he has capably led the backline. Andrew Brody has been a capable two-way fullback in his first season in MLS. And old friend Zac MacMath is turning in perhaps the most capable year of his career.
And RSL is coming off a good result of their own, besting Seattle Sounders 2-1 on Wednesday away, a much needed win as their form has been uneven as of late. Barring that result and a win over Sporting Kansas City, they haven’t won a match since mid-June.
One could argue that represents a regression to the mean for a team that has punched above its weight and outperformed their underlying numbers. And RSL is one of the many teams to fall prey to a late Caps winner.
But RSL represents a unique challenge for Vancouver. They are good at taking risks and making them pay off offensively, something that will worry the Caps after a rocky final half hour defensively on Wednesday. And they will need another blistering performance from Ryan Gauld to break down the RSL defense.
This game has the potential to be a bit messy but I think the Caps can get a result out of it all the same.
Andrew: 1-1 draw
Ian: 1-1 draw