The Whitecaps have a chance to prove to how mentally strong they are as they face the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on Saturday. They must prove they can bounce back after their most heartbreaking loss in the MLS this season losing at the death to TFC. A victory against the Fire would also split their five game road trip even with two wins, two losses and a draw.
There are some expected changes to the lineup especially after the late trade of Sebastien Le Toux to the Red Bulls for Dane Richards. However, Joe Cannon is still expected to start in goal for the Whitecaps while DeMerit, Bonjour and Lee will be part of the backline in front of him. After playing three games in the central midfield Alain Rochat will most likely return to the left side of the backline.
His spot will be taken by Jun Marques Davidson who returns after three games away and will partner with Gershon Koffie while Barry Robson is third midfielder of this set. Up top Darren Mattocks will try to duplicate his performance from the last match and will be flanked by newly acquired Dane Richards and Michael Nanchoff who could take over the ineffective Camilo.
With the addition of Dane Richards, the Whitecaps now have two of the fastest attacking players in MLS and the Jamaican is more of a pure winger than Le Toux. Look for him to break down the opposing left back and either attack the net or cross the ball into Mattock for a finish. The Whitecaps need Barry Robson to step up his play to another level and become the engine that runs the attack. The connection between him and Gershon Koffie will be vital in order for the Caps to control the tempo and make the most of their opportunities.
The Fire, who are going through some controversy in the last few weeks, will be without their leading playmaker in Sebastian Grazzini who is on a family leave and co-leading goalscorer in Marco Pappa who could miss the match due to injury but also is rumoured to have requested a transfer. The club still has dangerous attackers in Oduro, Patrick Nyarko and veteran Chris Wolfe who are capable of giving the Whitecaps trouble.
After playing the match against Chicago the Caps will no longer host or visit an Eastern Conference team and will play against Western Conference teams for the remainder of the season. The Whitecaps will try to end their last extended road trip of the season with three points but will need to play mistake free football in order to make this happen. They will not be able to revert back to the TFC game where missed assignments and communication issues cost the club points. If they do fall back into bad patterns then it could be a long hot evening for Chicago for the Whitecaps before they return home.
WHO’S ON FORM
It didn’t take long for Darren Mattocks to become a known name in the mainstream sports media as his header against TFC made the rounds in the highlight reels. The striker has already taken over the lead in goals for the Caps and is second only to Alan Gordon, who normally scores as a sub, in goals per ninety minutes.
While he allowed only one goal in the 2012 qualifying tourney for the States, it was the one that knocked them out and Sean Johnson took the majority of the blame. It seemed to affect his confidence when he came back but he has bounced back including a recent performance against SKC where he made eight stop with some of them being of the spectacular variety.
(image courtesy of whitecapsfc.com)