The Whitecaps broke their losing skid last weekend, beating RSL 2-0 in a game that went from good to bad to good again very quickly. Three points is three points (no matter the on-field antics) and the ‘Caps will look to follow up that much-needed result with a victory against the Loons. This will be the third-ever MLS match between the two sides, with last year’s trip to Minnesota ending in a disappointing 2-2 draw after the ‘Caps squandered a 2-0 advantage.
Despite the win against Salt Lake, it was still a topsy-turvy weekend for the squad, and Carl Robinson will again be missing a few players to draw from. Kei Kamara is still out of action, while Jordon Mutch has unfortunately hit the shelf again with another hamstring injury. Cristian Techera, meanwhile, will not be making the trip due to a…questionable fashion choice on the field last Friday.
With regards to who will start at the back, Robinson threw us a curveball with his lineup choice against RSL. While Stefan Marinović, Kendall Waston, and José Aja all kept their places in the starting XI, both Brett Levis and Sean Franklin made their first starts of the season in the fullback slots. They both showed fairly well in their debuts, which means Marcel de Jong and Jake Nerwinski now have some strong competition for starting spots both this weekend and moving forward.
In the midfield, last weekend’s match was our first glimpse of an Aly Ghazal-Russell Teibert pairing, and I thought it definitely showed some promise. Ghazal is surely a mainstay in the starting lineup when he’s 100%, while Teibert has done nearly everything he can to try and convince Robinson he deserves a continued spot in the lineup.
Besides those two, the Whitecaps’ options in the middle of the park have increased with the returns of Yordy Reyna and Efraín Juárez from suspension, but neither of them are someone who will automatically walk back into the lineup. Juárez has been disappointing so far in his first year with the club, while Reyna has looked a shell of what he was in the second half of last season. Felipe is another option, but though he started off the year with a lot of promise, he has been slumping recently in terms of providing an attacking spark.
Up front, the absence of Kamara means Anthony Blondell will likely draw his third straight start, especially after he potted his first goal of the season against RSL. The Venezuelan has been a handful for defenders due to his size and strength, and he has created some good opportunities for himself and others, but he will have to start finishing more of his chances if he wants to keep his spot in the lineup when Kamara returns.
On the wings, Alphonso Davies has continued to be the shining ray of hope that drives the attack. He made an immediate impact after he was subbed on against RSL, and after setting up Blondell’s goal he now leads the team in assists with three. On the other flank, Brek Shea has shown he can score on the road, and his three goals are tied with Kamara for the team lead. Bernie Ibini is another possibility, while Erik Hurtado is, as always, an option at striker.
On the side of the home team, Minnesota snapped a losing streak of their own last weekend, ending a four-game skid with a 2-1 win over Houston. They’ve been hit hard by injuries, especially up front: Kevin Molino and Ethan Finlay are both done for the year with ACL tears, while Christian Ramirez exited last weekend’s match with a hamstring injury. Midfielder Sam Cronin is also out, while fullback Tyrone Mears and forward Abu Danladi are both questionable for the match this weekend.
With all those injuries, it will be newly-signed Designated Player Darwin Quintero who will be asked to shoulder the attacking load for the Loons. Signed from Club América just over a month ago, Quintero scored on his debut against Portland and has two goals and an assist in his first three matches. He will be the man to watch on Minnesota, and the Whitecaps will have to make sure they contain him if they are to come away from this match with the full three points.