VANCOUVER, BC – After two weeks on the road, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2W-4L-1D) return to BC Place on Saturday to host rival FC Dallas (5W-1L-2D) for the first and only time this season.
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Here’s everything you need to know about the match:
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC
Coming into the weekend, the ‘Caps sit ninth in the Western Conference with a 2W-4L-1D record.
They’re winless in three matches, but are coming off an encouraging performance in a 1-0 loss to unbeaten Real Salt Lake last weekend in Utah.
“We’ve just got to keep going,” head coach Carl Robinson told reporters this week. “We can’t worry about it. If we play like we did [last] Saturday, we’ll be fine.”
Robinson was without the services of striker Blas Pérez due to some tightness in his hamstring last weekend, but the Panamanian was back in training this week and declared himself fit for Saturday’s match. Of course he did. This will be the first match against his former team, which he discussed in an open letter on whitecapsfc.com this week.
The ‘Caps acquired Pérez – the former villain – in a deal for Mauro Rosales in February, which only adds another layer of intrigue to a matchup that always seems to have some spice to it.
“This is Dallas,” said Whitecaps FC goalkeeper David Ousted. “I don’t think anything needed to be added. But it has been with Blas against his old team. We want to help Blas as much as possible, we want to help ourselves, and we want to treat the fans to a great game. This game has everything for us.”
Saturday’s match kicks off a busy spell for the ‘Caps in which they’ll play three games in an eight-day span and four of the next five at BC Place.
Many pundits predicted FC Dallas to be one of the teams to beat this season.
And so far, they’ve lived up to the hype. Dallas sit atop the MLS table with a 5W-1L-2D record. Their only loss came back on March 12. A win on Saturday would tie their best-ever point total after nine matches.
Dallas has been without playmaker Mauro Diaz (hamstring) for the last four matches, but it was reported on Thursday that the Argentine is making the trip to Vancouver this weekend. Surely, it will be a boost if he returns, but Oscar Pareja’s side has managed just fine without him.
The likes of strikers Maximiliano Urruti and Tesho Akindele, as well as wingers Fabian Castillo and Michael Barrios, have proved a constant threat for opposing defenders. Barrios actually leads the team with four goals, while Urruti and Akindele each have three goals and two assists.
On the defensive end, Dallas will be without centre back and captain Matt Hedges this weekend due to a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Fraser Aird (RB) and Jordan Harvey (LB) vs. Fabian Castillo (LW) and Michael Barrios (RW): Whether or not Diaz is in the lineup, a big focus for Vancouver will be to shut down Dallas’ wide players. The Colombian duo of Castillo and Barrios have combined for six goals and two assists so far this season, making them one of the most dangerous winger pairings in the league.
“There are a lot of one-two punches around the league, but that’s arguably one of the best,” Harvey told reporters this week. “Castillo through the years has gotten better and better, and same with Barrios. Speed. That’s what they’re greatest strength is. We have to get numbers around the ball and contain them and I think we’ll have success.”
Dallas has the edge over Vancouver in MLS regular season play with an 8W-3L-3D record. But most of their success has come in Texas, where they are a perfect 6W-0L-0D.
The ‘Caps haven’t lost to Dallas at home since August 2012.
Over the last few years, Dallas has become one of Vancouver’s biggest rivals. A heated playoff match will usually have that effect. The ‘Caps suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat to Dallas in the 2014 Western Conference Knockout Match after Kendall Waston was called for a controversial handball in the box.
Saturday’s match will be the first of only two meetings between Vancouver and Dallas this season.
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