The Vancouver Whitecaps return to Empire Field, after two road games, to face the Houston Dynamo as they for their fourth on home turf. The two teams faced each other on April 10th where a patchwork Caps team lost in the heat to the Dynamo by the score of 3-1. On that day the Whitecaps were without a number of players due to suspension (Hassli and Koffie) and injury (Dunfield, Salinas and DeMerit at halftime).
With Camilo and his eight goals on suspension for this game the Whitecaps will need Mustapha Jarju to step up his game and contribute offensively. In the last reserve game against the Timbers, the DP showed his skill scoring on a free kick but has yet to make an impact with the senior side.
Signing with the Dynamo recently Carlo Costly has only started two games (4 total appearances) and has yet to find the back of the net. However, the big Honduran striker has helped make a difference on the pitch especially with his partnership with Brian Ching.
There is hope that with Alain Rochat returning to the line-up, the Whitecaps will have its strongest starting center back pairing this season. His relaxed and composed style on the backline should be a solid compliment to DeMerit’s aggressive and energetic style.
As a first year starting goalkeeper, taking over for Canadian Pat Onstad, Tally Hall has established himself as one of the best at his position in MLS. There have been more than a couple of games that Hall has, on his own, stolen points from the opposition.
WHO’S ON FORM
While he didn’t have his best game against Portland, Gerson Koffie has been one of the best Caps and is maturing into a very solid central midfielder. Just turning twenty this week the Ghanaian international has improved his distribution to go along with his tenacious tackling and has potential to play at a high level.
It’s hard to find a match where Brad Davis has played a match at a subpar level as the MLS veteran has directly been involved in 16 of the 34 goals scored by Houston. In fact the American midfielder is putting together a potential MVP season leading the league in assists with thirteen.
9th in Western Conference
Last Game: 2-1 Loss at Portland Timbers
3rd in Eastern Conference
Last Game: 3-2 Win vs Real Salt Lake
QUESTIONABLE: Jeb Brovsky (hamstring), MF Michael Nanchoff (rib), MF Alex Morfaw (hamstring),
DOUBTFUL: FW Will Bruin (knee), MF Danny Cruz (quad)
The Whitecaps are coming off two straight road matches where there was very little to get excited about as they were outscored by a margin of 6-1 to D.C. United and their expansion cousins Portland Timbers. They now return home to Empire Field where there were displayed some positives in their victory against the Chicago Fire. It is vital for the players selected to start put in a consistent ninety minute effort across all three parts of the pitch.
A return to the field by Alain Rochat should give a major boost to a backline that has been under fire allowing twelve goals in the last four games and securing a cleansheet in over two months. The partnership of Rochat with DeMerit will be tested in this match as they face the big striker in Costly and the craft veteran in Brian Ching. In addition to Rochat returning, Jonathan Leathers should be expected to start, after sitting out the match last week, and he will have the responsibility of dealing with the Dynamo’s best player in Brad Davis. Jordan Harvey will be the fourth starter, at left back, on the backline defending the goal in front of Joe Cannon.
With Camilo unavailable to due to suspension there will be some shifting in the midfield as the Caps look for the best combination to service Eric Hassli as the lone target man. After spending some training this week in the central midfield, look for Jarju to occupy a high position in the central midfield, a spot he plays for the Gambian national team. After starting on the bench look for Shea Salinas to start as one of the wingers while the other spot will fall to either the out of shape Chiumiento or the less skilful but pacier Nizar Khalfan. After starting a couple of matches on the wing, I would like to see John Thorrington team up with Gershon Koffie in the central midfield pushing Peter Vagenas to the bench.
As stated earlier, the Dynamo did not have to face several prominent players in their home win against the Whitecaps. Another factor working for the Caps is that Houston, along with the Caps and TFC, are one of the three teams unable to collect three points while playing on the road. The home side are hoping that this unfamiliarity with the players and wining on the road will assist them in doubling their Empire winning streak to two.
When it comes to scoring for the Dynamo it is considered a group effort as seven players have a minimum of three goals and Brian Ching leads the club with five. It is the left side of Houston that should cause the Caps concern as they have speed of Corey Ashe and the playmaking ability of Davis. The defense can be broken down as Hall has faced the fourth highest shot total in the league but the young goalkeeper sits in the top half in goals against average.
A quick goal as they accomplished against the Fire will instantly bring spirits back from the low levels that they have felt over the last two games. It is vital for the Caps to be more efficient in the build-up of their attack and take advantage of the opportunities that are created. If the lessons of the last two weeks have been processed then the Whitecaps have a chance at their fourth win and move over the twenty point mark.