On May 5th, 1974 the Vancouver Whitecaps stepped onto the field for the very first time. Their opponent was the San Jose Earthquakes. The Whitecaps lost 2-1, but the home crowd witnessed Neil Ellett score the first ever Whitecaps goal. This weekend, almost exactly four decades later, the Whitecaps and San Jose Earthquakes will battle again in an anniversary rematch.
The Whitecaps (2-2-4) are coming home after a wet and wild road trip to Utah which saw them go down 2-0 to Real Salt Lake after only 10 minutes; but stage a superb comeback made complete by a stunning goal scored by Sebastian Fernandez with seconds remaining in injury time. The Earthquakes (1-2-3) have had a tough start to 2014 going five matches without a win. Last weekend they defeated Chivas USA 1-0 to earn their first win of the season. Former Whitecap Shea Salinas is off to a great start this season. He has 4 assists (tied for league lead) and leads MLS with 3.86 chances created every 90 minutes. Vancouver will have to keep a close eye on him if they want to keep a clean sheet.
Whitecap coach Carl Robinson should have nearly a full roster to choose from, with Sam Adekugbe out and DP Pedro Morales as the only question marks. Morales missed last week’s road game due to a persistent back problem. If Morales isn’t fit for 90 minutes, Nicolas Mezquida could start the game behind Vancouver’s forwards. Mezquida came on as a substitute in Utah and scored his first goal for the club. Another point of interest will be the ‘Caps central defender pairing. DeMerit was rested for last week’s game and was replaced by Leveron who overall looked solid. A bigger issue for Robinson is the recent form of his LB Jordan Harvey. I did my rant about how poor Harvey was last week so I won’t reiterate everything. To say Harvey was poor is an understatement really. And this weekend he will likely face his old teammate Atiba Harris who is speedy and tricky. I would like to see Harvey replaced by Sam Adekugbe who I believe deserves a start and is much faster at closing down enemy wingers. Unfortunately, Adekugbe was injured during practise this week and almost tore his MCL. A timeline for his recovery has not yet been released. Backup goalie Paolo Tornaghi received a 1 game suspension for entering the field of play after the Fernandez goal against Real Salt Lake last week. This means that 17yr old Canadian Marco Carducci will backup David Ousted.
A big talking point will be whether or not Nigel Reo-Coker returns to the starting lineup. With Russell Teibert’s poor showing against Real Salt Lake this could be Nigel’s best, and maybe last, chance to show he is worth his rather large salary. After a strong start to 2014, Nigel has missed most of the season due to a concussion, poor form, and the flu. Vancouver has a lot of depth in the midfield and all are cheaper options. In a salary cap league this means Reo-Coker’s days as a Whitecap could be limited.
A large crowd is sure to turn out for this anniversary match and hopefully the Whitecaps can send them home happy.