Friday Night Fight – New Look Whitecaps to be Tested at 2nd Place RSL
by Steve Pandher
After a couple of home games in which they picked up results, the Vancouver Whitecaps head back on the road as they face Real Salt Lake in a battle of second and third in the Western Conference. Last season the two teams split their meetings as RSL won the first 2-0 at Rio Tinto while the return leg went to the Whitecaps 3-0 at BC Place. The second meeting was a replay of the game that was called off due to the temporary grass turf, brought in for Manchester City friendly, getting washed out.
It is highly unlikely that there will be any changes to the lineup that beat the Earthquakes on Sunday as Joe Cannon will most likely take his spot in goal. Three of the four spots on the backline will definitely go to Lee Young-Pyo, Martin Bonjour and Alain Rochat.
If Rennie feels DeMerit is good to go after playing 90 minutes at the all-star game then it will be the captain starting, otherwise Jordan Harvey will come in to play on the left sliding Rochat into the middle.
There will be no changes in the midfield as Jun Marques Davidson will be the holding midfielder while Gershon Koffie and Barry Robson will be the others. Up top Darren Mattocks starts in the middle and will be flanked by Camilo on the left and Dane Richards on the right. Rennie will also have more options on the bench as it looks like John Thorrington and Atiba Harris will make the trip while Kenny Miller will have more minutes in him.
The Whitecaps will have to be patient against Real Salt Lake as they play a possession type game but are able to expose other teams with their quick passes. It essentially will come to the Whitecaps ability to close down on the opposition ball carrier effectively because if they aren’t able to complete the tackle then holes will be opened up behind them.
Once again the Whitecaps will look to use the pace of Mattocks and Richards to back up the defenders opening up space for Robson, Koffie and Camilo to create chances. The chemistry between Lee and Richards is improving since the winger’s arrival and the duo should be able to create a couple of chances on their own.
After a couple of road losses in a row the Vancouver Whitecaps are looking to get back on track but it won’t be easy at Rio Tinto which is a difficult place to play with the current heat wave and high altitudes. However lately it hasn’t been the fortress that it has been historically which could give the Caps an advantage this time out. If they can get a result against in Utah the Whitecaps will be able to enjoy their well-deserved two week break even more.
Dane Richards vs Chris Wingert
It was a breakout performance for Dane Richards as a Whitecap scoring a goal and being dangerous on a number of other occasions with his pace. He is starting to connect well with teammates especially with Lee and Mattocks. His pace is starting to open space for others in the midfield allowing more attacking options as the Caps go forward.
The question for RSL is whether they slot in the veteran Chris Wingert at left back or the younger and athletic Kenny Mansally. Wingert is a smart and disciplined defender who should have the stamina to deal with Richards for ninety minutes. However if things are not progressing don’t be surprised if changes are made to make things match up better on the defensive side.
Jun Marques Davidson vs Javier Morales
The biggest key for the RSL attack is their possession which is why Jun Marques Davidson will need to step up his game in Salt Lake. The holding midfielder has been one of the most underrated players for Vancouver doing much of his work under the radar of the mainstream.
He will need go up against the dynamic playmaker Javier Morales who after being named Best 11 in MLS for 2010 had a horrible 2011 suffering s fractured ankle which took him over four months to recover. The Argentine midfielder is the key playmaker for RSL but has yet to regain the form that he displayed in 2010. When he does regain form Morales is probably the biggest difference maker on the Real Salt Lake roster.
The All-Star Jay DeMerit
When the MLS all-star roster was announced there were a number of disappointed Whitecaps supporters that saw their captain Jay DeMerit. This was because of the matchup against Real Salt Lake two days later which actually started a campaign to get more RSL players on the roster.
Just prior to the game Martin Rennie was assured that DeMerit was only going to play the first half but due to an injury and a lack of depth at the CB position DeMerit was forced to play a full 90.
The big question will be whether the captain, who will meet the team in Salt Lake, will be rested enough to play or will force Rennie to juggle around the backline. Rennie seems like DeMerit will be able to play.
“He’s one of those freak athletes that can recover quickly, so that is one thing that helps us in this situation and we’ll evaluate him when we see him later today.
However he’s played a lot as eight games in twenty one days is not good so we’ll have to see.”