VANCOUVER, B.C. — It’s going to be a battle of top vs. bottom. Sure, there’ll be no David Beckham, but the Galaxy aren’t in first place because of one man.
The Vancouver Whitecaps know that, and it seems their fans do, too. Club president Bob Lendarduzzi told the TEAM 1040 radio station in Vancouver earlier this week that more than 1,000 tickets were purchased following Beckham’s suspension for yellow-card accumulation.
That sets up Saturday’s encounter at Empire Field for a rocking estimated crowd in excess of 26,000.
The ‘Caps are hoping to build on an impressive 2-2 away performance against the Earthquakes down in San Jose, and the return of playmaker Davide Chiumiento to full fitness is sure to give a boost to an already impressive attacking group that features the likes of Eric Hassli, Camilo Sanvezzo and new Designated Player Mustapha Jarju.
“We played [the Galaxy] twice in preseason, but preseason are always different games,” Chiumiento told MLSsoccer.com after training earlier this week. “This season, they’re one of the best teams. We know they have a lot of good players but it’s nice playing at home against a big team and trying to get a big result for everybody.”
Jarju will be making his home competitive debut against the Galaxy. Although his match sharpness and fitness isn’t quite fully there yet, his off-the-ball runs and knowledge of the game are evident.
“He’s an intelligent soccer player and he’s got some pace,” Soehn said. “His soccer IQ is pretty good as far as linking up with guys. What we need to improve on is his fitness and I think every day that we have him we see that raise and his familiarity with his teammates is getting better. It will be exciting to see how far we can take the offensive line and see what we get out of it.”
An interesting side note for this match will be the man in the center circle.
Baldomero Toledo will be making his return as a head match official for this game for the first time in Major League Soccer following the infamous game against New England at Empire Field on April 6. Toledo sent three players off, including Hassli, who was given a second yellow card for removing his shirt after scoring the game-tying penalty while carrying a caution.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon