Let’s hope that the Whitecaps rested up well enough on their time of because the next two weeks could decide their season. Four matches in 12 days, all on the road, two against teams currently directly above them in the standings. Up first is the second to last Eastern Conference team the ‘Caps will face this season: their Canadian rivals Toronto FC.
It’s a homecoming for Richie Laryea, as mere months after his last appearance for Toronto he’s back in the city to face them for the first time since moving to the west coast. He’s part of the ‘Caps ever-growing contingent of Canadian players, now joined by Junior Hoilett who signed as a free agent this week. Hoilett doesn’t have much time to get up to speed if he’s to contribute to the playoff chase and it’ll be interesting to see whether he’s been brought in to be a regular starter or as more of a super-sub up front.
With one incoming came an outgoing, as in a surprise twist Sergio Córdova has left the club to join up with Alanyaspor in Turkey. Apparently, the big forward was ready to move on and reports indicate that the ‘Caps recouped the majority of the transfer fee they paid for him during the offseason (although there was also the GAM and 2024 first-round draft pick they traded to RSL for his MLS rights).
Córdova’s departure means that a lot rests on the shoulders of Brian White as the unquestioned number one striker on the team. He has 14 goals in all competitions this year (a career-high) and also has five assists which is just one back of tying his career-high in that category too. This move should also open up more opportunities for Simon Becher, who has seen just 110 minutes of game time since the beginning of June.
Shifting Ryan Gauld to more or less a second striker position alongside White has paid dividends as the Scotsman has been in blistering form through the summer and is starting receive greater league-wide attention. If Hoilett is to start matches at some point soon there could be more of a shift back to the 4-3-3 that the ‘Caps played to begin the year, but for the time being I expect them to stick with the 3-1-4-2.
While Laryea should be a lock to start against his former team, Sam Adekugbe is a question mark as he’s been dogged by a minor knee issue that he was dealing with before arriving in Vancouver. If he can’t go then Ryan Raposo should get the nod, flanking Andrés Cubas and some combination of Alessandro Schöpf, Pedro Vite and Ali Ahmed in the middle.
At the back the only question mark as of late has been whether it’s Javain Brown or Mathias Laborda filling in on the right side of the defence, with Ranko Veselinović and Tristan Blackmon holding nailed down starting spots in front of Yohei Takaoka.
Looking at the hosts, Toronto FC are coming off a surprising 3-1 win over Philadelphia that snapped an absolutely horrible run of form which saw them compile 10 straight losses in all competitions, where they were outscored 23-3 in that span. It’s been an absolute disaster of a season for the Reds, now dead-last in the East.
John Herdman has not yet taken the reins so it will be Terry Dunfield on the sidelines as the interim head coach. Oft-maligned forward Lorenzo Insigne found the back of the net against the Union for the first time since early June, and while he and his countryman Federico Bernardeschi have had some very publicized struggles, they’re still the only players besides Jonathan Osorio with more than five goal contributions on the season.
For the Whitecaps, this match presents a golden opportunity. TFC have a middling home record, plenty of dysfunction, and are still waiting for their new manager to arrive. With stiffer tests coming up in the next week and a half, continuing their current three-match unbeaten streak is a must.