VANCOUVER, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps FC are officially into the second half of their Major League Soccer campaign after Wednesday’s 1-0 victory at LA Galaxy, which moved the 'Caps into fourth place in the Western Conference with games in hand.
And that means things are about to heat up – starting with a Cascadia derby vs. longtime rival Portland Timbers on Sunday at BC Place (3:30 p.m. PT on TSN, limited tickets still available). There are no shortage of storylines to follow as the ‘Caps gear up for the summer months.
Here are five I’ll be watching closely.
MAKE IT REYNA
Eventually, the phrase “Make it Reyna” will become old. We are not there yet.
We haven’t seen much of Yordy Reyna – the 23-year-old Peruvian attacking midfielder suffered a broken foot in the preseason just a few weeks after joining the team – but from what we have seen, he’s a dynamic offensive player who will bring fans off their seats.
He certainly did that in his home debut earlier this month.
Not only did Reyna score the game-winning goal, he wowed fans with some fancy footwork in midfield and completely changed the dynamic of Vancouver’s attack in a brief, 25-minute cameo. Now the question is: can he do it on a consistent basis?
That, to me, is the biggest storyline to watch in the second half of the season.
SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER?
When you look at Vancouver’s remaining matches, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where the opportunity lies for Carl Robinson’s men.
From August 19 to September 23, the ‘Caps have six of seven matches at BC Place. And that includes four straight home matches in September against Real Salt Lake, Minnesota United FC, Columbus Crew SC, and Colorado Rapids. None of these teams are currently in a playoff position.
Now, we know there are no easy games in MLS. That has been proven time and time again.
But if Vancouver can take advantage of this home stretch, it would set themselves up nicely for a playoff push heading into the final month of the season.
FREDY’S RETURN TO SEATTLE
That’s when Fredy Montero will return to Seattle for the first time wearing Whitecaps FC colours. Montero, of course, is the all-time leading goalscorer in Sounders FC history, which is why his move to Vancouver sent shockwaves across the league (you can thank Mauro Rosales for that).
Back in April, Montero scored two goals against Seattle, leading Whitecaps FC to a 2-1 win at BC Place. You couldn’t have written a better script.
Will his return to CenturyLink Field produce a similar storyline?
Montero scored a team-high six goals in the first half of the season, which has him right on pace to match his previous goalscoring totals in MLS (between 10 and 13).
The secret is out: Alphonso Davies can ball. Wait, was it even a secret?
Either way, the 16-year-old has turned heads at the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, leading Canada to the tournament quarterfinals for the first time since 2009 with three goals in four matches.
Davies is simply a treat to watch – and we here in Vancouver have a front-row seat.
PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER
Robinson hasn’t really had a full complement of players to choose from at any point this season due to injuries and international call-ups. And he still has Kendall Waston away on Gold Cup duty, but once the Costa Rican returns next week, he might just finally have a full squad to play with.
Knock on wood.
And that’s something to look forward to. For example, we have yet to see Davies and Reyna on the pitch together in MLS action. That in itself is an exciting prospect indeed.
It will be interesting to see how all the pieces come together.
If Reyna, for example, can develop some chemistry with the likes of Montero, who leads the team with six goals, Cristian Techera, who has been one of Vancouver’s most dangerous offensive players with five goals and four assists, Christian Bolaños, who leads the team with six assists, and Davies, then – ladies and gentlemen – we might just have something here.