Things to watch in the Wildcard Round; Whitecaps FC vs. LA Galaxy

Can It Be Extended?

That’s always the thought and goal of fans during playoff matches; can this magical season be extended?  And that is certainly what I’ve been thinking of, since October 21st, the day the Whitecaps made Canadian MLS history by becoming the first Canadian franchise to make the MLS Cup Playoffs.

When it comes to talent, the star studded Galaxy definitely have the advantage. 

But as the ‘Caps showed the league in the July meeting, that doesn’t mean they’re better.  It can be done.

1. Same Tactic?

In the regular season finale, ‘Caps fans saw Martin Rennie go back to the strategy that kept opponents off the score sheet early on.  The plan was to defend and withstand the pressure (17 shots from Real Salt Lake on Saturday night) then beat the opponent on the counter.

Rennie did a superb job on picking the right team to execute this plan, with two of the quickest players in the MLS, Dane Richards and Darren Mattocks up front, ready to burn the RSL backline if given a chance.

2. Scottish Skill Not Needed?

In the dress rehearsal for the biggest game in franchise history, the two highest paid players, Kenny Miller and Barry Robson were kept on the bench (Robson came on for Mattocks in the 71st).

While Miller hasn’t ever really earned his spot in the starting Xl, rarely showing his worth as a Designated Player, particularly in the home finale, Robson has been invaluable since coming to Vancouver and has only recently slowed down.

I wouldn’t be shocked if both start on the bench again, but Robson could replace Matt Watson or John Thorrington in Rennie’s starting Xl.

Barry Robson

The Whitecaps have gladly accepted the underdog role. But they’re not in way over their heads.

3. Be Patient

If you are reading this, chances are you are a fan of the Whitecaps.  If you are, chances are you will be tuning into the historic Thursday night match.

If you are, be patient.  The Whitecaps will gladly sit back and defend, defend then defend some more, if it means advancing to the Western Conference Semi-Final’s.

They don’t care about TSN’s ratings.  They want to win this match.  And they’ll do it in the way they feel they have the best chance to do it in.

Don’t get bored of the style of play, because if the Galaxy falls asleep for a second, Dane Richards will run right past them all.

4. Starting Xl

I’ve said numerous times that I won’t be surprised if the ‘Caps and Rennie stick to the Xl that earned a clean sheet and a draw against Real Salt Lake, but I have changed my starting Xl:

Brad Knighton; YP Lee, Andy O’Brien, Jay DeMerit, Jordan Harvey; Alain Rochat, Gershon Koffie, Matt Watson, Barry Robson; Dane Richards, Darren Mattocks.

Robson takes my regular season finale Man of the Match, John Thorrington’s place in the starting Xl.  Robson was just too successful against David Beckham in previous meetings to leave him out.

Thorrington could draw in as the holding midfielder at the bottom of the diamond, though.

5. Breakthrough

Despite the headlines, the predictions and the underdog mentality that the Whitecaps have gladly accepted, they’re not in way over their heads.

Sure, the Galaxy boast some of the greatest players Northern Ireland, U.S.A. and England have ever produced, but they’re in the twilight of their careers. 

The Whitecaps truly earned their spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs and might surprise some people.

To conclude, see you Sunday at BC Place, ‘Caps fans.


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