Vancouver Whitecaps are going to be taking on the team that have been the surprise league-leaders for most of the season this Saturday. The Whitecaps are already going through a tough time this July, with a tough, packed schedule still to come all through the summer. If they want to get into the playoffs it will be imperative to get as many points as they can out of the home games.
Colorado Rapids have been the surprise package this season, propelled by a number of ‘unknown’ workhorses and more experienced faces like Jermaine Jones in attacking midfield. They will be looking to come into BC Place and take points to continue their run to the top.
The Whitecaps are in a bit of a transition period right now.
First choice striker Octavio Rivero has finally left the ‘Caps to go back to Chile. He seemed to be a good player, but it never just clicked for him. His departure means that the options for striker that we have are thin right now with Masato Kudo still injured.
We have the speed and strength of Erik Hurtado. However he has never been able to find the net consistently. The other option is the master of the dark arts, and an intelligent footballer, Blas Perez. The choice for me as to who should start really comes down to who has scored more this season, so I say give Blaz Peres more minutes. If he can start for Panama why not let him start for the Caps? When he plays he can hit the back of the net. Bring on Hurtado as a substitute when he can use his pace against some tired legs.
Could we see Robbo go with something tricky ? Like Kekuta Manneh up top ? Or even Nicolas Mezquida starting up top? Sure they’ve attacked well this season, but they usually never play like that unless we are playing with two strikers up top. I think we’ll start with one because we need the midfielders to get forward to break down Colorado’s league-leading defence.
With that said, Manneh and Christian Bolanos should be starting on the wings. Especially with Manneh having been ‘rested’ last game. That way the Rapids will have to respect his speed and hopefully make more space for the creative midfielders.
The next argument is where Pedro Morales should start. I have always liked the more deep role for him. He is bringing lots of upside when he sits deeper. He can spray the ball around right when Matias Laba gets it, or when he wins it back (his defensive work has been much better).
If he sits deeper, Mezquida can start as well. He brings lots of useful pressure on the defence of Colorado. He has also been able to crop up with timely goals recently (and we certainly need those), so I would like to see him start in that central attacking midfield area.
The ever popular destroyer Laba should be starting beside Morales. He can do most of the dirty work, but it is nice to see Morales roll up the sleeves and do some alongside him.
As for the backline it seems to Robbo is going with Jordan Harvey, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, and Jordan Smith. They have been okay, but really we need Waston to be stepping up. It seems like recently he has been making some silly mistakes. He needs to cut that out and keep it simple. That is when he can do great things. Smith has also been improving and I hope to see that continue.
Andrew Jacobson’s play of late has been excellent, so there is also an argument for having him partner Waston in the middle, allowing Parker to slide out to the right back role with Fraser Aird still injured.
David Ousted will naturally get the start in goal. He has shown the will to learn. Hopefully he can give us some of the magic he and steal a game, ideally earning a rarity this season, a clean sheet.
Colorado have been doing well. Jermaine Jones has been a force. He can get back, he can make a pass, and he seems to have an ability to run over the entire field. If the ‘Caps can limit his touches they will have a better chance to win this game.
They have an excellent backline led by Axel Sjoberg. He can also pass the ball well. In front they have had a good defensive midfielder setup. Micheal Azira has been underrated this season, helping win the ball back in the right places and right time.
It’s a strong all round unit and one which they have reinforced further with the addition of the USMNT great Tim Howard in goal.
With just 11 goals given up all year, the addition of a top goalkeeper, and up against a team who has just lost their main striker, this game will certainly be a tough go for the ‘Caps.
Who will start up top for the Whitecaps? It’s a decision that could define the result.
Will Vancouver’s scoring by committee work this game?
Can we eliminate those individual errors in defence?
AFTN’S MAN TO WATCH:
Jermaine Jones – He has been driving this Colorado team forward. He is a dervish in winning the ball back in midfield and is creative going forward. Any sloppy play by a mistake-ridden Vancouver defence is going to be heavily punished if he’s not picked up properly.
THE VIEW FROM 202 CREW’S PREDICTIONS:
Dan: 2-1 ‘Caps
Joe: 1-0 Colorado