Whitecaps on the Brink of Canadian History
by Steve Pandher
The Whitecaps are on the verge of making history as the first Canadian team to make the MLS playoffs since the league’s inception. However in order to accomplish that feat the Whitecaps will have to win their last home game of the season and defeat the Portland Timbers which will give them their first Cascadian win in MLS.
There will be very limited changes to the lineup that beat Chivas USA 4-0 with the keeping duties going to Brad Knighton. In front of him in the backline will have Andy O’Brien team up with Jay DeMerit while Lee Young-Pyo and Jordan Harvey will be on the wings.
The midfield will be a diamond with Alain Rochat playing the holding role and Barry Robson at the tip of the formation with Gershon Koffie and Matt Watson in the wide parts. There is a chance that Darren Mattocks could be ready from an injury but it is more likely that Camilo and Kenny Miller will form the partnership at the top.
Despite having multiple ways to clinch the final playoff spot, the Caps must not take any chances on relying on others to help them. During these two weeks the mantra has been “Win and We’re In” and that belief would be perfect in this situation.
A similar game plan that they enforced against Chivas would be ideal especially if it garners them the first goal early. The first score will allow the match to open up more which could lead to more space for the Whitecaps attackers to widen the lead.
Portland has struggled to find any kind of success on the road as they are the only team to have yet to secure a victory away from home this season. In fact their goal differential tells the story as they are +3 at home and -26 on the road while only scoring nine times in 16 road games. In addition to picking up three points on the road for the first time this season, the Timbers will be trying to secure the Cascadia Cup with a win.
The two week layoff has allowed the majority of their injured players to move off the disabled list but it could have also made the team a little rusty. The longer the game goes without a goal for Vancouver the more of a chance there is for failure for the Whitecaps to get the best result.
This is a game the Whitecaps have had two weeks to prep for so at this point the club will need to leave excuses at home. They will need to go all in and take the game to their Cascadian rivals allowing the supporters to leave the game happy knowing the playoffs are on the way.
Barry Robson vs. Jack Jewsbury
The Whitecaps will need their designated player Barry Robson to step up in this game if they look to advance to the playoffs with a win. Control in the midfield will be the key and the Scot is the one who looks to push the ball forward in attack. He will need to find both of the strikers in scoring positions around the box especially since he will play the tip in the diamond formation. In that spot Robson will most likely have to deal with Jack Jewsbury who will look to neutralize the veteran Scot. If Jewsbury can frustrate Robson early in the game then the Timbers will limit the chances of Vancouver’s strikers get in scoring chances.
Alain Rochat vs. Darlington Nagbe
The pulse and success of the defensive part of the game seems to revolve around Alain Rochat with the team succeeding when he is on the pitch and playing well. It seems the normal left back will be asked to play the defensive midfield spot in the 4-4-2 diamond formation the Whitecaps will employ again. He wll go up against a player who has been getting mixed results this season as Darlington Nagbe this season in Portland has scored six goals but only picked up his first assist in the last game in August. The Timbers hoped Nagbe would be the facilitator for the attack this season but the sophomore has not met those expectations.
Both teams have enough motivation to go for the win in this matchup despite the long standing Cascadian rivalry. Not only do the Whitecaps have a chance to clinch the playoff spot but they can also secure the top ranking for the 2013 Voyageur’s Cup which will help them in playing a weaker opponent in the first round.
On the other side of the line the Portland Timbers are trying to secure their first win on the road this season. In addition to that a full three points is their only way to overtake the Sounders and win this year’s Cascadia Cup.