Following last week’s 3-0 win against the Montreal Impact, the Philadelphia Union’s Canada Week will conclude with a visit to BC Place in Vancouver on Saturday night.
What the Union have working against them: a long cross-continent trip combined with a busy schedule, which has them playing three matches in eight days. The long travel means potentially weary players, and the upcoming midweek match against FC Cincinnati means head coach Jim Curtin may have give thought towards some squad rotation to keep legs fresh. The good thing is that the two matches next week are both at home at least.
They will also be without goalkeeper Andre Blake, who suffered a groin tear in last week’s 3-0 win against the Montreal Impact, and Marco Fabian, who is still recovering from a left ankle strain. Left back Kai Wagner will miss the match due to red card suspension.
What the Union have working for them: The confidence which comes from winning four of their last five matches, and a weary Whitecaps team that is coming off a midweek cross-continental match and is struggling to find ways to score.
The Caps didn’t get their first win of the season until two weeks ago when they shocked MLS leader Los Angeles FC in a 1-0 result at home. The team hoped to ride some momentum into the following match at Orlando City, but they struggled in a 1-0 loss to the Lions.
The Whitecaps are currently in a rebuilding mode, with new head coach Marc Dos Santos trying to transform them from a team that lays back waiting for a counter-attack to a more assertive team that wants to control the ball. It is still very much in work-in-progress. They only have six goals so far, which is good for worst in the Western Conference. The Caps will probably find it difficult to add to that number this Saturday; the Union are only allowing 8.5 shots per match, best in the league.
Defensively, the Whitecaps are allowing a league worst seventeen shots allowed per match. The boys in blue should be able to generate plenty of chances, and hopefully find some finishing touches on them.
It will be interesting to see how Jim Curtin manages his squad for this match, considering they have another match four days later. I can’t imagine he’d sit Alejandro Bedoya, but I could see Curtin resting Haris Medunjanin. I expect we’ll see Jamiro Monteiro and Brenden Aaronson also in the midfield, with maybe Derrick Jones or Warren Creavalle getting a chance to log some minutes. Curtin has lots of options for striker, so it should be easy for him to keep fresh legs up top for these next three matches. Defensively, Mark McKenzie is still out from his appendicitis surgery, but Auston Trusty will be available for selection and a potential pairing with Jack Elliott. Matt Real will probably start at left back to replace Wagner, although Fabinho remains an option here too. With Blake out, we should see Carlos Miguel Coronel get his second MLS start.
Vancouver has some good players, such as left back Ali Adnan, centerback Erik Godoy, midfielder In-beom Hwang and forward Fredy Montero. Before the season started, they acquired Spanish midfielder Jon Erice who had played well for La Liga 2 side Albacete Balompié. But even with those players, it can be said that the Whitecaps are not a very good team.
Dos Santos isn’t afraid to take chances with his lineups and his formations, so it’s hard to predict what the Whitecaps will look like. One thing that’s not hard to predict: a Union victory on the road against a team that is still trying to find its identity.
Prediction: Union 2, Vancouver 0