After an unexpected weekend win, the ‘Caps get a break from the relentless table watching and the harsh reality of the MLS regular season to take on Sporting Kansas City in CONCACAF Champions League action tonight.
That surprise victory for Vancouver in Columbus meant that an eight game winless streak was snapped, lightening the mood in a club that is going through an unprecedented barren period. They even scored, after having been blanked in six of their last seven league games. Three times as well, including Erik Hurtado. We’re still not sure what mushrooms we ate over the weekend.
The Whitecaps have won both of their Champions League games so far: 1-0 in Trinidad, followed by a convincing 3-0 home win against the same SKC. A win on Tuesday will guarantee progression into the knockout phase of the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history. A draw will pretty much guarantee it, with Central FC needing to win both of their remaining games, including a game against Vancouver at BC Place, to upset the applecart.
Both teams will likely rotate heavily for this midweek fixture. There are plenty of players who need to prove a point in the Vancouver squad.
Marcel De Jong is battling Jordan Harvey for that starting left back spot with Brett Levis also in the picture, although Carl Robinson confirmed in a conference call on Monday that De Jong would be getting the start, with Levis on the bench.
While the David Edgar-Kendall Waston partnership was good on the weekend, Tim Parker might have something to say about that. Alphonso Davies could benefit from a start, while Masato Kudo is in desperate need of finding the net, and Erik Hurtado will also be eager to prove that Saturday’s goal was not a fluke. Factor in Blas Perez not being in the gameday squad in Columbus and the battle for the striking spot will be intense for this one.
There are storylines all up and down the team sheet.
I would like Robbo, who will be back on the sideline following his one game suspension, to stick with a 4-4-2 and play Hurtado and Kudo, or even Perez, up front. It looked a bit more fluid than the 4-2-3-1 in recent times.
With the ‘Caps MLS season looking unlikely to survive into the playoffs, and the Canadian Championship ending in heartbreakingly dramatic fashion, the only real success within grasp is reaching the knockout stage of this tournament. MLS teams sadly don’t tend to be too bothered with this competition unless they stroll into the latter stages.
We all remember Montreal’s memorable run a while back and the interest and publicity it generated. It is a chance to make some history in this city. I’m not saying we can win the whole thing, the trophy has never left Mexico, but it would be a great experience and change of scenery, and may even add an aspect of the club that can lure players in the off season.
I am certain the players and coaching staff would love to challenge themselves in those famous stadiums in Latin America against world-famous talent. All these potential boons need to start with getting through the group, which can be achieved by beating a probable second string SKC side on Wednesday.
Not that there are any straightforward games for this Whitecaps team, whose attacking players often look like they can’t hit a barn door with a brick, but my point stands: if we play this right we should be through to the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time on Tuesday night.
History made and solace from a difficult season, but with points determining seeding in the quarter-finals, Carl Robinson is keen to make it 12 points out of 12 in the group games in the hope of possibly avoiding one of the Mexican teams in the last eight (although as things currently stand, they’d be meeting Pachuca).
AFTN’s Man to Watch
With the amount of rotation that is going to happen it is nearly impossible to say who will play, but if Dom Dwyer takes the pitch at any point, he usually plays like a man possessed against this club. He didn’t feature in the first game, so hard to see him coming on this time around, but none of those who did play at BC Place impressed.
The View From 202 Crew’s Predictions
Joe – 2-1 Vancouver
Dan – 1-0 ‘Caps
Nick – 1-1