This weekend the Whitecaps (7-5-12) will host their expansion cousins the Portland Timbers (7-8-10). To say this match is important would be the understatement of the year. Taking all things into consideration it looks like a three horse race for the 5th playoff spot in the west. The Rapids are the third horse but the injury bug has bit them hard and as a result they could soon fall out of contention. A win for Vancouver against Portland would mean they would increase their lead to 5 points on currently 6th place Portland and have a game in hand. A win for Portland would not be the end of the world for Vancouver but it would certainly boost morale in the Timber’s camp.
Both teams suffered defeats last week. Vancouver fell on the road 2-0 to the Galaxy in a game that exposed the shortcomings of a very young Whitecaps side. Vancouver was without defensive mids Matias Laba and Gershon Koffie. And their absence showed. The high powered Galaxy offence ruled the midfield and easily picked Vancouver’s defence apart all night long. Central defender Johnny Leveron received a red card in the 90th minute. Vancouver has appeled the card but were successful.
Last week, Portland played host to their archrivals the Seattle Sounders and were beaten into submission. Portland striker Fanendo Adi scored 2 late goals to gain some pride back for the home side. The game showed that Portland’s biggest problem is their defence.
This weekend we will surely see the return of Matias Laba for the Whitecaps, but Gershon Koffie has a bruised ankle and will not be match ready. I predict that Russell Teibert will start in his place. While Teibert has showed glimpses of his skill he often gets caught out of position so Laba will have his hands full covering for him.
Earlier in the week Carl Robinson confirmed on the radio that newly acquired winger Mauro Rosales will start against Portland. Rosales came on at half time against the Galaxy and made an immediate impact. Before the game he only had one short training session with his new team and we already saw the beginnings of some magic between him and Pedro Morales. Rosales impressed fans when he stayed after practise on Wednesday to help Kekuta Manneh with making runs and creating space for himself. Manneh had a breakout season towards the end of last year but this season he has struggled. If Rosales and Manneh can get an understanding then this could be exactly what the doctor ordered for a playoff push.
While Vancouver will be without Johnny Leveron, Portland will be without defender Norbetto Paparatto who received a suspension for elbowing Seattle’s Chad Marshall.
This weekend’s game is the first in the stretch of three home games for the Whitecaps. If they can regain some of their attacking prowess they stand a very good chance of collecting all 9 points. If they do, this will go a long way in aiding their playoff hunt.
(image courtesy of Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian)