The Whitecaps make their first trip to the Rocky Mountains as they face the MLS defending champion Colorado Rapids for the first time in regular season play. The teams faced each other in a preseason tune up at Empire Field which was won on a late goal by Colorado. The Whitecaps will most likely be without DeMerit and Chiumiento while Hassli is again a gametime decision.
At this point it’s unclear whether Hassli is starting so the goalscoring duties will fall to Camilo who multiple opportunities to score against Columbus. He has been one the most dangerous players for the Whitecaps as his pace with the ball has caused defenders problems.
While the Rapids have one of the best striking duo in the league it’s the play of Jeff Larentowicz in the central midfield that a main factor that led them to the title last year. He distribution in the midfield helps build up the attack and he is known to unleash his shot from anywhere on the pitch.
Recently acquired from the Union Jordan Harvey will jump right in the starting eleven at the left back position. His arrival creates a pair of MLS experienced bookends on the backline and allows Rochat to remain in the middle without a major drop off of quality at full back.
Colorado’s right back Drew Moore was named the best defender on the Rapids last year played every minute of last year for the team. His tackling is very highly rated and is not known for moving forward on the attack.
WHO’S ON FORM
The Tanzanian midfielder, Nizar Khalfan, had his first start in a while and impressed with his pace and ability to cross the ball into the box. With Salinas unavailable for selection, due to suspension, Khalfan will slide into the right midfielder spot and attempt to breakdown the defense.
Half of the Colorado’s striking pair Conner Casey has struggled this year with injury playing in twelve of the nineteen games so far. However when he is the lineup, especially recently, he is scoring regularly as he has five goals in his last six appearances.
9th in Western Conference
Last Game: 1-0 Loss vs Columbus Crew
5th in Western Conference
Last Game: 1-1 Draw at Sporting Kansas City
DOUBTFUL: MF John Thorrington (calf), Russell Teibert (hip)
QUESTIONABLE: FW Eric Hassli (foot)
PROBABLE: FW Davide Chiumiento (hamstring)
PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (groin), MF Joseph Nane (shoulder), FW Omar Cummings (ankle), MF Jaime Smith (calf), MF Brian Mullan (back), DF Anthony Wallace (quad)
Both teams had a mid-week game with Caps losing to the Crew at home and the Rapids drawing Sporting Kansas City on the road. However the Rapids will have the advantage of playing in the high altitude which will have an effect on how the Whitecaps will play. Do the visitors go all out and try to get an early lead or do they attempt to play tight and conserve energy.
If Hassli is unable to go then Omar Salgado may start for a second consective game partnering with the ever dangerous Camilo. Shea Salinas will be another player unavailable, this time due to a red card, and his spot will fall to Nizar Khalfan while the other first round pick, Michael Nanchoff, starts on the left side. The two spots in the central midfield will comprise of Koffie, Dunfield, Vagenas and Brovsky with the Notre Dame product looking to start in front the of his family.
If the Rapids start Cummings and Casey then the task of defending the duo falling to Rochat and Boxall who will pair up and start on the backline. New addition Jordan Harvey will jump right in at left back allowing Leathers to switch back to the right side as they defend the goal occupied by Joe Cannon, another former Rapid.
After getting out to a fast start winning their first three games, the Rapids have struggled since then winning two in sixteen. Despite this the defending champs are still in a playoff spot giving them a chance to repeat their title. The Rapids are dealing with a lot of nagging injuries which makes it difficult on knowing who will start but they will be without Pablo Mastroeni who was suspended due to an accumulation of yellow cards.
The Whitecaps have another opportunity to secure their first road victory and end their losing streak but with altitude issues it may be one of their more difficult venues to win. They need to frustrate the Rapids by playing tight and not allowing anything easy as their opponents have struggled to score this year barely averaging a goal per game. Their energy level needs to improve on the road as it was lacking in recent losses to TFC and Sporting Kansas City.
While a win seems unlikely the Caps need to put a solid effort because anything is possible in MLS and the Rapids have not flourished at home this year recording only two wins in nine matches. The players are lacking confidence so defending the first fifteen minutes will be vital as an early goal could make them more fragile. If the Caps score first, they must not fall back and allow the Rapids to dictate the game but push forward and try to find another goal. Of the nine games lost, only two games of them have been by more than one goal so their ability to keep the score close is present and it’s just a matter of learning of how to win.