In the past two matches, Whitecaps FC have closed down Empire Field and opened up a new home on Bell Pitch downtown at BC Place.
In both matches, we played against our Cascadia rivals, Seattle Sounders FC and Portland Timbers. On both occasions, the stadiums were packed mostly with ‘Caps fans, but also with visiting fans, which made for a great atmosphere featuring supporters of both teams singing and chanting. The only people who haven’t been able to fully enjoy this party atmosphere are our own players. They’ve desperately wanted to bring their loyal supporters a big victory, so that they can celebrate with them, but the results just haven’t come.
Things don’t get any easier for the ‘Caps in their next home match on Thursday, as they will have their hands full against a very good Real Salt Lake side (6:30 p.m. PT kickoff, watch live on Sportsnet ONE and Bell mobile devices, listen live on TEAM 1410 radio or teamradio.ca). Salt Lake have already clinched a postseason berth for the fourth consecutive season, and they have the second best defensive record in Major League Soccer (32 goals against). Head coach Jason Kreis’ RSL team sit third in points (51) and is one of the best teams to watch in MLS, as they try to control the flow by keeping the ball and dictating the pace of the game.
RSL likes to use a 4-4-2 formation with the four in midfield playing a diamond shape. The two RSL strikers interchange at dropping off into midfield, which makes it hard for the two central defenders to keep track of them and gives plenty of challenges for the opposing midfielders, who then become outnumbered. However, their normal style of play will be harder to maintain, with six players missing through international call-ups and suspensions. Among the players missing are team captain Kyle Beckerman, who usually quarterbacks their midfield, and joint leading goalscorers Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola.
Argentine midfielder Javier Morales will help offset the loss of these players. He will be making his third appearance for the team after overcoming a horrific ankle injury that had him out of action since May. He was having an MVP-calibre season when he got injured and Salt Lake will be hoping he can regain the same form he showed before the injury. He is a player with great vision on the field and will have to be contained by the ‘Caps players.
Whitecaps FC will need complete focus and passion to beat RSL. This is a dangerous team and their fringe players have got some good results in the past when needed.
After a disappointing couple of results for the ‘Caps last time out, the coaching staff will be looking hard at training to see which players look focused and hungry to get the first goal and the first win on Bell Pitch downtown. Giving our fantastic Whitecaps FC fans something to cheer about is front and centre on the mind of the players, and they would like nothing better than to join in on the party after the match by celebrating a big win with their loyal fans.