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Vancouver vs. RSL preview: Salt Lake travels to BC Place in key conference match-up

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

A slew of midweek MLS games includes a Western Conference battle between the Vancouver Whitecaps and Real Salt Lake. Both teams are above the red line, but only four points separate the sides just over halfway through the 2016 season.

Where they stand

Real Salt Lake (8-5-5, 29 points) is still sitting in third place in the Western Conference while Vancouver (7-8-4, 25 points) sits in the last playoff spot at sixth place. Both teams are just coming off of draws at home—Vancouver tied with the Colorado Rapids last weekend 2-2 and RSL ended their game last week in a disappointing deadlock with Montreal at 1-1.

Vancouver is in a bit of a slump lately, winning only one of their last five matches while going 1-2-2. They’ve been outscored 9-7 in that last handful of outings, their losses coming at the hand of the LA Galaxy (2-0) and New England (2-1).

RSL has also only won one of their last five with a record of 1-1-3, their lone win coming at home against the New York Red Bulls on June 22. They’ve had back-to-back 1-1 draws at home against DC United and Montreal.

A win on Wednesday would bring the Whitecaps within just one point of RSL in the Western Conference table.

Match history

Since the ‘Caps entered the league in 2011, they’ve played RSL a total of 15 times, and have a slight edge in the all-time series with a record of 6-5-4, outscoring Salt Lake 19-15 overall.

The last time these clubs met was on April 16th when the home side took all three points, thanks to a lone goal from Burrito Martinez to seal the victory with a score of 1-0.

Vancouver won all three meetings in 2015—two at BC Place and one at Rio Tinto Stadium. The win in Utah last year was the club’s first-ever victory at the Riot, with RSL having three wins and three draws at home against the Cascadia side before that match.

Salt Lake only has one win on the road in Vancouver which came in the form of a 1-0 win in 2013 thanks to a goal from Devon Sandoval in the 9th minute.

Key players and lineups

With arguably their best attacking player—Kekuta Manneh—out with an ankle injury, the Whitecaps will likely look to forward Blas Perez to take the reins in his place. Perez has two goals and one assist on the season in his regular role coming off the bench, but we won’t be surprised to see him get the start for the second game in a row. Vancouver also has attacking options in Erik Hurtado and Nicolas Mezquida, who both got the start against LA a couple weeks back. It’ll be interesting to see who Coach Robinson puts out in the starting eleven.

We can’t talk about Vancouver’s key players without mentioning midfielder Pedro Morales—or “Porales” as he’s called by many MLS fans so as not to get confused with our own Javier Morales. Pedro has six goals and five assists on the season, nabbing his fifth assist last week at home against the Colorado Rapids.

Vancouver just made a couple signings in Canadian international players David Edgar and Marcel de Jong. De Jong spent a year with Sporting Kansas City last season, and after making six appearances for NASL side Ottawa Fury this season, he’s expected to be an integral part of the Whitecaps squad and may end up seeing some minutes right off the bat tonight.

RSL will be without captain Kyle Beckerman as he is suspended for this match due to yellow card accumulation after receiving a yellow in the 76th minute of the game against Montreal last Saturday. With Sunny still out, that leaves Jeff Cassar with a tough decision—will we see rookie Omar Holness with his second start in a row, or will Jordan Allen fill in at midfield along with Luke Mulholland? John Stertzer is another solid candidate that has seen plenty of minutes when Beckerman has been absent, so we’ll just have to see who Coach C turns to.

Yura Movsisyan has five goals in his last seven games and has over four shots on goal in three of his last four outings. He’s proving that he can get into dangerous positions, and now that he’s finding the back of the net more often, he’s looking for that service coming in from the wings so he can put the ball home. He should be giving ‘Caps defenders Kendall Waston and Tim Parker a tough time in front of their own goal all night.

Whether we see a full first-choice lineup from Cassar tonight remains to be seen—with three games in eight days and tonight’s match being played on turf, don’t be surprised if he chooses to rest some of his main starters. It’s been reported that Joao Plata also missed practice on Monday and remains questionable, so Cassar may be forced to dig a little deeper in any case.

RSL expected lineup: Rimando; Wingert, Maund, Glad, Beltran; Stertzer, Morales, Mulholland; Allen, Movsisyan, Martinez

Vancouver expected lineup: Ousted; Harvey, Parker, Waston, Smith; Morales, Laba, Jacobson, Bolanos; Perez, Hurtado