The Vancouver Whitecaps FC will have the pleasure of hosting first place FC Dallas on Saturday at BC Place.
Where they stand
Dallas has played eight games thus far this season and have only lost once. The Toros lone defeat came against the Houston Dynamo on March 12th at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Since that humbling 5-0 lost the Hoops have gone on to win six matches in a row. Their impressive run of form has placed Dallas in first place of the Western Conference and of the Supporters’ Shield race with 17 points.
Vancouver on the other hand has started the season on the wrong foot. In seven matches, the Whitecaps have only earned seven points. The Canadian club currently occupies ninth place with a negative five goal differential.
This season has been rough for Vancouver
The Caps have not won game since March 26th, when they hosted the Dynamo. Since that 1-0 victory they have only picked up one point in the next three matches. Not to mention Vancouver has not scored a goal since that 1-0 victory.
The Caps cannot afford to leave this match without three points. If they fail to win at home then the gap between them and top six will start to look like and endless mountain. Plus to add insult to injury if the Dynamo manages to beat the Columbus Crew SC on Saturday at MAPFIRE Stadium, then the Caps will be in last place in the West.
Vancouver is keeping their fingers crossed for Morales’ return
Whitecaps’ head coach Carl Robinson will be hoping that his Chilean playmaker Pedro Morales is back in the starting lineup for this match. Morales last game for Vancouver was the scoreless draw at home against the Los Angeles Galaxy on April second.
He was forced to leave that match due to a left hip strain he suffered in the game.
His absence has affected the offense greatly. The South American playmaker has been involved in five of the six goals for the Canadian club. The Chilean has scored four goals and assisted on another. It is no surprise that the Whitecaps have not registered goal in his absences.
The good news for Robinson is that he has been listed as questionable for this match.
How the Caps pick the crucial three points
However, just in case he is not able to start or even play as a substitute on Saturday then other players have to step up. Costa Rican World Cup veteran Christian Bolaños, Matías Laba, Kekuta Manneh, Cristian Techera, Octavio Rivero and Russell Teibert need to pick up the slack for the Caps.
The frustrating part for Whitecaps fans is that this group of players is more than capable of picking up the pace and winning games without Morales. However, for some reason the minute Morales is not able to play the offensive machine of Vancouver disappears.
A gamble Robinson might want to take is to let the 35-year-old Panamanian international striker Blas Perez start on Saturday. The pesky forward has yet to score in the five matches he has played for the Caps.
However, since Dallas is his former club he might have extra initiative to score on them. At this point one might ask why not? Since the Caps have not scored in their last three matches.
How Dallas continue their momentum
The midfield is the key for the Hoops picking up three points on the road. Michael Barrios, Fabián Castillo and Kellyn Acosta have been controlling and pushing the tempo in almost every match.
Now that the Toros enforcer Carlos Gruezo is back from his suspension the midfield has become that much tougher to break down. Add in the possible return of Mauro Díaz for the Hoops, this midfield becomes the reason why Dallas leaves Canada with a four or five goal victory.
The 25-year-old Argentinean playmaker has been suffering from a nagging hamstring strain that has kept him out of action for the last four games. However, Díaz has traveled with the team to Vancouver and will most likely seem time on the field this weekend.
With the midfield once again full stacked up the jobs of strikers Tesho Akindele and Maximiliano Urruti is simple, stay active. This midfield will move the ball around the pitch looking for gaps to expose with a run or a lethal pass. Akindele and Urruti just have to put themselves in good spots and multiple goal scoring opportunities will come for them.
No Hedges, no problem
Even without starting defender Matt Hedges (Torn meniscus) Dallas is still primed to leave with the full three points. The main reason for that is because of depth that head coach Oscar Pareja brought to the Hoops.
Veterans like Maynor Figueroa, Zach Lloyd, Walker Zimmerman and Moises Hernandez are more than capable of taking his place. Even if Pareja decides to go with a home grown talent, Aaron Guillen is there. In the end Dallas is covered and the crafty coach knows it.
“We have people who can do it and have done it. So, we’re good,” Pareja told Scott Sidway, a contributor for MLSSoccer.com.
Prediction: Vancouver 0-3 Dallas