These two teams faced off at Rio Tinto Stadium just two weeks ago in what was an exciting 2-1 win for Real Salt Lake as they were able to hold on for the win despite the efforts of the Vancouver Whitecaps. RSL as usual dominated possession and had more passes but it was the ability of Alvaro Saborio to capitalize on his chances that allowed RSL to pick up the win despite being the Whitecaps have a 13-10 edge in shots taken and a 3-2 edge in shots on goal. It was also a match that saw RSL play well in the midfield and the 83% accuracy in passing was a huge part of what lead to the 55.7% edge in possession. The Whitecaps proved how dangerous of a team they can be as despite being down a man for the final 24 minutes of the match as the result of a red card shown to Joe Cannon for using his hands outside of the goal area, a play that likely saved a goal as Fabian Espindola was heading for an open goal. The last 15 minutes of the match saw Vancouver attack with all they had as they looked to even the match.
Now these two teams will face off again and just like last time a lot is at stake for both teams, while RSL now hold an 8 point edge over the Whitecaps in the Western Conference, RSL still sits two points behind the San Jose Earthquakes for first place, and the Whitecaps have slipped to 4th place and are 3 points behind Seattle who took over third place and are just 1 point in front of the LA Galaxy who are in 5th place. For Real Salt Lake there is also the fact that they would like to put their back to back losses of last week behind them and get back on the right foot as they start their final 10 matches of the MLS regular season.
RSL is also dealing with a number of injuries: OUT: DF Chris Schuler (L foot bone stress response); GK Lalo Fernandez (R wrist stress fracture); DF Jamison Olave (L hamstring strain); PROBABLE: MF Will Johnson (R ankle sprain); GK Kyle Reynish (rib contusion). The Whitecaps are in much better injury shape with just Omar Salgado out with a foot fracture, but they will also have to deal with Joe Cannon missing the match for the red card he picked up against RSL a couple weeks ago.
Something else that could play a role in the match is that 3 Vancouver players are in yellow card peril (miss the next match if they get a yellow), so Gershon Koffie, Martin Bonjour, and Darren Mattocks will likely have to play knowing they need to watch any tackles they might make for fear of getting suspended for their next match. RSL's Alvaro Saborio is in the same boat as those 3 and would miss RSL's next match if he picks up a yellow card.
After the jump you will find my Key Match Up, Wildcards, and more:
Key Match Up:
I actually have two match ups this match:
Darren Mattocks vs. Kwame Watson-Siriboe - The battle between rookie Darren Mattocks, one of the bright stars in MLS at forward and Kwame Watson-Siriboe, a player cast off by the Chicago Fire who has reinvented his career since coming to RSL. Mattocks is on a pace that has him building a solid case for MLS Rookie of the Year, he leads the Whitecaps with 7 goals, including two game winners. He has a great combination of size (6' 0"), speed and skill that makes him a very dangerous player who is capable of breaking plays wide open at any time from anywhere on the pitch. RSL would normally count on the equally big and fast Jamison Olave to deal with him, but Olave is out with an injury and most RSL fans should remember that it was actually Kwame who got the start in the last match against Vancouver as well. Kwame can't claim to be as fast as Mattocks, but he holds in edge in size at 6' 3" and experience, in the last match Kwame did well with his positioning and I expect more of the same as he has had a couple more matches under his belt to adjust to his new team and teammates. This should be a great part of the match to keep your eyes on, but perhaps the best one on one battle will come if RSL make another change to their back line.
Dane Richards vs. Kenny Mansally - If you watched the last match you saw one of the best one v one battles of the season for RSL as these two went at each other for the majority of the match. Both of these guys are fast and both have a nose for the opposing teams final third of the pitch. Dane Richards came to the Whitecaps as part of the trade with New York that sent Sebastien Le Toux packing, and while he only has one goals since joining Vancouver, Richards is a guy that has often given RSL fits with his speed and desire to make some crazy runs. When RSL signed Kenny Mansally as a defender it raised some eyebrows around the league, as he was used most often as a forward in his days in New England, but the 23 year old Gambian plays on the back line for his national team and that is what RSL picked him up for. Kenny has adjusted to RSL needs quickly and with just 3 matches under his belt with the team, he has sparked the imaginations of many RSL fans with his speed and his ability to get forward and make good runs and crosses. I think that we will likely see Kenny get the start in Vancouver in large part based on his efforts in the last match against Vancouver, and if he does you are in for a treat as this match up was one of the most exciting parts of the 2-1 RSL win a couple weeks ago.
Brad Knighton - Oh how the Whitecaps staff must be holding their breath about the red card to Joe Cannon, as Brad Knighton simply isn't able to fill Joe's shoes or gloves. Knighton has a total of 16 matches played in his 5 year MLS career, Joe has 313 more than that. Brad has given up 22 goals in his 16 matches for a 1.37 GAA but against RSL his past will really worry the Whitecaps, as Brad has a 5.24 GAA in his 103 minutes in net against RSL. Yeah when he was with New England RSL simply terrorized him when he was in goal. Now he is a bit older and a bit more experienced than then, but you have to believe that a lot of the RSL players will be looking to test him in a big way on Saturday.
Fabian Espindola - Perhaps no player on the RSL roster has worked harder this year than has Fabi, and while he is in the middle of a bit of a goal scoring drought he has adjusted and in the last 10 RSL matches he has 3 assists. Still RSL is a much more dangerous team when Fabi is scoring goals and I think he had a solid match against the Whitecaps a couple weeks ago, his runs caused them a lot of issues and created space for Sabo. I also think he will cause some aggressive play by the back line of the Whitecaps and could get under their skin enough to cause them to make mistakes. I look for Fabi to play a major role in the match for RSL, and I am hoping he will find the back of the net.
Paul Ward - The trend of listing the official as a wildcard continues as the performances of all the officials leaves much to be desired in consistency and accuracy, and while the awful calls in RSL matches in MLS play haven't played a big factor in recent matches, we all saw in Costa Rica how a bad call can change a match. Paul Ward is one of the better officials used by MLS, he has been in charge of 37 matches, he calls an average of 23.1 fouls per match, issues a rather high 3.5 yellows per match, has shown 11 red card (almost 1 in every 3 matches) and has pointed to the PK spot 7 times (a little over 1 in every 5 matches). With several of the Whitecap players in yellow card peril, and the reality that this match will have some physical challenges on both sides of the ball, it will be interesting to see how Ward and his crew do.
My RSL Starting XI:
Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Nat Borchers, Kenny Mansally, Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Fabian Espindola, and Alvaro Saborio
I can't lie this is going to be very tough match for RSL, the Whitecaps have lost just once at home this season and have a +6 goal differential at home. RSL is 4-5-2 on the road, which is one of the top 5 records for road results in the league, but they do have a -4 goal differential on the road. Like most matches in MLS this often will come down to who can score first, RSL is 11-1-0 when they score first and Vancouver is 8-3-3 when they get the first goal. Neither side has gotten a win if they have been behind at halftime, and RSL has 2 wins after giving up the first goal, Vancouver has just 1.
The Whitecaps lineup looks very different heading into this match than it did to start the season, still this is a team that has only scored multiple goals in 6 of their 23 matches, while RSL has done so in 12 of their 24 matches. Both sides have held their opponents to one goal or less in a majority of their matches, 15 times for Vancouver and 16 times for RSL. Both sides also have a bad habit of giving up late goals, both have allowed 7 goals to be scored against them after the 75th minute, but RSL has a slight edge in goals scored after the 75th minute with 10 to Vancouver's 7.
RSL will need to play within themselves in this match, Vancouver has a lot of speed so solid passing will be a key for RSL as it was in their last meeting. I do think both sides will give up goals in this match as both know how badly they need a win. I see this one ending up a 2-2 draw, but either side could get a late game winner for sure. We know that the Whitecaps have had last weekend off, they should be very ready for this match, just as RSL coming off their 1-0 loss at Colorado should be very focused on turning things around.
So what are you looking forward to most from this match? Can RSL pick up a big road win?
OFF MY SOAPBOX