A busy weekend lies ahead for Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency (5W-4L-2D), as they fight for a United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) playoff spot with away match-ups versus Tacoma Tide (1W-9L-3D) on Friday night (7:30 p.m. PT kickoff) and Portland Timbers U-23's (5W-4L-2D) on Sunday afternoon (3 p.m. PT kickoff).
As the PDL season enters the home stretch and the playoff race in the Western Conference, Northwest Division heats up, Whitecaps FC look for a big weekend away from home, as they face off against both Tacoma and Portland for the second time this season.
Residency head coach Richard Grootscholten and his squad are coming off a stinging 1-0 loss to Abbotsford Mariners on Monday night, and will be looking to return to the form they displayed in a 3-1 victory over Victoria Highlanders FC on Canada Day. Currently, Whitecaps FC are tied for third in the Northwest Division standings with Portland, sitting three points back of second-place Victoria, with one game in hand. The top two teams in the division qualify for the PDL's Western Conference playoffs, making this weekend’s games crucial for the Blue and White.
After being shut out this past week in the Fraser Valley, Whitecaps FC will look to regain the form that saw them manufacture a convincing result against Highlanders FC on Canada Day. Grootscholten's line-up has settled after several weeks of players being in and out of the squad due to a variety of commitments.
MLS roster players Philippe Davies, Alexandre Morfaw, Bryan Sylvestre, and Long Tan have been loaned to the squad for the weekend, and should bolster a young 'Caps squad that has struggled to find consistency this season. Look for striker Caleb Clarke to display his offensive prowess this weekend, as he hopes to build on his three goals this season, while defender Derrick Bassi, who has played every minute of PDL action for the Residency team this season, will once again anchor the 'Caps backline in front of Sylvestre.
Tacoma Tide limp into Friday’s contest after a 6-0 defeat at the hands of Northwest Division-leading Kitsap Pumas last Saturday. The Tide currently sit at the bottom of the Northwest Division standings and will certainly be looking to play the role of spoiler, as the regular season winds down and their opponents fight for a playoff spot.
A bright spot on the season has been the attacking ability of forwards Daniel Gray and Christopher Sanders, who have notched five goals apiece, accounting for more than half of the Tide’s goals on the year. Their nose for the net has not been enough, however, as the Tide are guilty of surrendering a league-worst 44 goals against in 13 matches. The Tide's lone victory came this season at the expense of Abbotsford.
Portland Timbers U-23's face a weekend of British Columbia competition, with a fixture against Abbotsford on Friday evening followed by Sunday’s pivotal showdown with Whitecaps FC Residency.
With both teams tied in the standings, the outcome of Sunday's match is pivotal in catching second-place Victoria for the final playoff position available in the Northwest Division. Portland will rely on an attack paced by forwards Myles Byass and Erik Hurtado. In goal, Jason Dodson and Garrett Staples have split the duties, with Dodson getting the start this past week in a 3-3 draw with Washington Crossfire, a match which saw Hurtado score twice, including the equalizer on 87 minutes.
TRIP TO DIVISION LEADERS
Following this weekend's action, Whitecaps FC Residency travel south to Bremerton, Washington, for a date with the PDL Northwest Division leaders Kitsap Pumas on Saturday, July 16. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. PT at Bremerton Memorial Stadium.