Being down two goals against much better opposition is one of the most hapless feelings in football. And that is the task that the Whitecaps face in their CONCACAF Champions League semi-final second leg matchup against Tigres UNAL on Wednesday.
I know that sounds bad, but take a second to realise that the ‘Caps exceeded expectations in Mexico. The fact that there is even a discussion about miraculously equalizing this tie is a success all in itself. The Whitecaps have, for all intents and purposes, a free whack.
It’s almost silly to discuss the tactics a situation like this. But from a gameplan perspective, the ‘Caps have two options: go for it, or avoid humiliation. As with every hypothetical I have raised in my few years writing about the Vancouver Whitecaps, I think that the ‘Caps will seek their answer somewhere in the middle of those two standings.
Avoiding humiliation and going for it do not look too dissimilar in terms of starting XI. The midfield can not be overrun; so I think we will see a 4-2-3-1. The difference will be the mentality. We have already heard that Fredy Montero will start, which is our best option in that position. Montero came on to drag the LA defence all over the place, creating room for others (i.e. Matias Laba) to get into scoring positions. His reputation is an asset.
The defenders need to be stalwarts in the backline. I would like to see a continuing back four of Sheanon Williams, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker and Jordan Harvey. Their experience could be the only thing that keeps us in the game.
With Laba in red hot form, he will clearly start. Tony Tchani looked great beside him. He’s available, fit and healthy, so I would like to see that partnership unleashed. Tchani seemed to give others the freedom to get forward, to devastating effect, but adds a level head in the DM side of the tandem.
The attacking midfield trio could be what makes or breaks this match. Alphonso Davies is the only one who has the x-factor, and his rinsing of Ashley Cole (tweet me) showed that he can do it against the former greats, so hopefully he can do it against the present greats on Tigres’ team too. Christian Bolanos has the creative flair and set pieces delivery that merits a place in the team, but he has played a lot over the past couple of weeks for club and country. Cristian Techera should start on the left wing; he tracks back and works hard.
What should the mentality be? I say we go for it. As improbable as it seems, this has potential to be a historic game. There is no shame in losing to a team like Tigres, but there is shame in cowering in fear while the Tiger roars.
Like that game against Edmonton last year, an early goal wouldn’t hurt. Set pieces need to be taken advantage of. Robbo’s game plan needs to be followed to the letter. And please, no stupid cards.
Will the Whitecaps go for it from the start?
How will the Whitecaps set up?
Will an early goal change the tie?