After two straight years where the Whitecaps failed to beat a CPL side in the Canadian Championship, they have done so twice in 2022 and now look to do it a third time. A win on Wednesday night will send the ‘Caps to the Canadian Championship final for the first time since 2018.
It’s been seven years since the ‘Caps last lifted the trophy, and six years since they’ve won any hardware at all (the 2016 Cascadia Cup). On top of breaking that drought a win would also book a spot in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League, always a cool tournament to take part in.
Of course, this week is only the semi-final and not the final. Luckily for the ‘Caps it’s at home, where they have for the most part gotten results this season. Coming off the high of a 2-0 road win in Dallas on the weekend, they’ll hopefully have enough in the tank.
To that end, Vanni Sartini had a bit of a rotated squad against Dallas. Érik Godoy and Caio Alexandre were not even in the matchday squad, while Ryan Gauld only played the final ten minutes of action. With the only absences being Thomas Hasal, Cristián Gutiérrez, and Michael Baldisimo, there should be enough fresh legs on hand.
The backline has been boosted by the return of Tristan Blackmon, whose presence was felt especially after he was subbed off just over an hour into his return, at which point Dallas immediately increased their number of good scoring chances. You’d think that Sartini’s ideal starting back three would be Blackmon, Godoy, and Ranko Veselinović, although Javain Brown has done well in the back three (better than as a wingback this season).
Marcus Godinho is someone who has had some surprisingly effective performances as of late, with his and Ryan Raposo’s emergences at wingback (plus the signing of Luis Martins) pushing Cristian Dájome back further up the field. With Gutiérrez out it will most likely be two of those three starting on the outside as they have done the last couple weeks, and also factor in the need to start Canadian players in this competition.
In the middle, Andrés Cubas showed well in his first MLS start, and he stands to be a permanent (standard rotation notwithstanding) fixture in the starting XI going forward. The question of who starts alongside him is an interesting one, with all of Russell Teibert, Sebastian Berhalter, and Alexandre vying to lay claim to a regular spot. Alexandre is still a bit of a wildcard as we have yet to see much of him, while Berhalter has probably had a better season than Teibert to this point, but has a foot injury currently keeping him out.
Up front, Lucas Cavallini has found some strong form in recent weeks and will likely be paired with Gauld and either Dájome or Déiber Caicedo up top. Caicedo found his first MLS goal of the season with a fine free kick in Texas and hopefully he’ll start to find some more end product success as the year goes on.
Looking at the visitors, York United are having a tough season so far, sitting 6th in the CPL with a record of 2-4-5. Their two triumphs in the Canadian Championship are their only wins in the last six weeks, and both of them were in penalty shootouts (which the ‘Caps are no strangers to this season).
This will be the final game in a York jersey for dynamic left-back Diyaeddine Abzi who is heading to France when the European transfer window opens. There are some familiar names on the York side as they are coached by former Whitecap (and Vancouver 86er) Martin Nash, and their leading scoring this season is young Osaze De Rosario, the son of Canada’s former all-time leading scorer.
The Whitecaps were not unduly tested when they beat Valour in the first round of the Canadian Championship. They definitely were in the quarter-finals when they required a penalty shootout to beat Calvary. Now, they face their third and final CPL side of the season, with their best shot at silverware this year hanging in the balance.