On the road again
The Vancouver Whitecaps FC start the first of a huge home and home stretch against second place Real Salt Lake, tonight in Utah.
Real Salt Lake then comes to Vancouver for a meeting on August 11. The five point gap that currently separates the two clubs, could grow to as much as fourteen if RSL takes both matches against the ‘Caps, as well as a match in Colorado in between.
It could also evaporate, with the Whitecaps sitting very close to them, with a game in hand, by the time post game in Vancouver rolls around on the evening of August 11.
Tensions will be high this evening, and a few keys players will be either not starting or very fatigued as Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit played all 90 minutes vs. Chelsea, and Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman saw the pitch for 34 minutes in the second half.
Whether you’re at home pretending your man cave is the Southside of BC Place, or you’re at the game, here are 5 things to watch for this evening.
1. More of the same from a quick Whitecaps counter:
On Sunday vs. San Jose, newcomer Dane Richards gave the San Jose defense headaches with his speed down the wing. Combine that with Darren Mattocks ability to get between the center backs with his quickness, and that should challenge the RSL defense and midfield during a strong counter attack.
This factor of the Vancouver offense could be in jeopardy if Captain Jay DeMerit doesn’t start or log big minutes.
2. Jay DeMerit to miss second start:
When Kansas City defender Aurelien Collin went down with an injury towards half time, DeMerit stepped up and played a full 90 minutes, double the amount Whitecaps Coach Martin Rennie had agreed upon with All-Star/DC United Coach Ben Olsen.
The only other time this season DeMerit didn’t start was May 12 in New England, where the Whitecaps suffered an ugly 4-1 defeat.
Rennie had left him in Vancouver to rest up for the Canadian Championship. On that day, DeMerit’s partner at center back, Martin Bonjour was with the team, but stayed on the bench.
If DeMerit doesn’t go this evening, look for Alain Rochat to slide inside next to Bonjour, with Jordan Harvey stepping into the left back role.
3. Kenny Miller to get first start:
Since signing with the Whitecaps on July 16, Kenny Miller came on late against San Jose, actually getting a few touches towards the end, one of which grabbed some excitement from an anxious crowd right before the final whistle.
He then played for Whitecaps reserves the next day, in a 3-1 defeat to Chivas USA. The Scottish international should be prepared for his first start, taking Camilo‘s spot in the starting XI.
Miller needs to be in fine form for what I believe will be a high scoring affair.
4. Barry Robson to have best game yet:
In his first few matches, Barry Robson looked to be finding his form slowly, but not his voice. This was most evident in the 1-0 loss to the Chicago Fire earlier this month, where he was pointing and giving directions to every Whitecap on the field.
With his touch coming back, now with two goals in two straight games, look for Robson to come up big this evening, hopefully adding to his scoring streak.
Robson should be wearing the captain’s armband if DeMerit doesn’t play.
5. High scoring affair:
The Vancouver Whitecaps have scored six times in the past four matches, and Real Salt Lake has allowed five goals in their past four matches (all in the same match in fact).
With newcomers Dane Richards, Miller and Robson finding their feet, and backline anchor DeMerit out, there is no reason this game won’t thrill a casual soccer fan!
Come Friday night, the Whitecaps should be up six huge points on the Sounders, as well as just a bit closer to Real Salt Lake.
Here’s some pre-game video.