Preview: Whitecaps FC off to Sporting KC for first road match of 2016

KANSAS CITY, KS – As far as regular season losses go, they don’t hurt much more than Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s heartbreaking 4-3 defeat to Sporting KC in August of last year – a match that saw the visiting ‘Caps squander a 3-1 lead in the final 10 minutes.

Certainly, that will be in the back of their mind on Saturday, when Whitecaps FC return to the scene of the crime, now known as Children’s Mercy Park, for their first road fixture of 2016.

KICKOFF: 5:30 p.m. PT  |  TV: TSN2  |  RADIO: TSN 1410

Here’s everything you need to know about the match.

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC

The ‘Caps are coming off a season-opening 3-2 defeat to Montreal Impact.

They generated a ton of chances, outshooting Montreal 21-11, but fell victim to what head coach Carl Robinson described as “three bad goals.” Certainly, tightening things up defensively will be one of the focuses on Saturday, but Robinson also cautioned his players about playing too safe.

“Just go and play,” he said of his message to the group. “Go and compete. Go and express yourselves. We lost on Sunday. We all take responsibility for it, but we’re back to work now. It’s gone and we move onto the next game. “

Robinson will be forced to make at least one change on Saturday, as midfielder Christian Bolaños has been suspended for a tackle on Laurent Ciman in Vancouver’s season opener.  

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

Sporting KC opened the season with a 1-0 road win at Seattle Sounders FC.

First-year Portuguese centre back Nuno Andre Coelho scored the game’s only goal, a 30-yard strike in the 73rd minute, to lead SKC to victory against the 10-men Sounders.

Sounders FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei probably would have liked that one back, but it was still an encouraging result for an SKC side that was missing a number of players due to injury, including last year’s team MVP Benny Feilhaber.  

Saturday’s match is Sporting KC’s home opener. Last year, they were 10W-2L-5D at home.

KEY MATCHUPS

Kendall Waston (CB) vs. Dom Dwyer (FWD): There’s a little bit of history here, if you recall. In last year’s meeting at BC Place, the ‘Caps centre back and SKC striker had an ongoing battle that resulted in a little bit of a shoving match and a yellow card for Dwyer. Both players downplayed it after the game, saying “it’s just football.” At the same time, these guys are both competitors who won’t back down. Bring on Round 2.

Pedro Morales (M) vs. Soni Mustivar (M): Mustivar must love playing against Vancouver. Last year, he recorded a whopping 20 interceptions against Whitecaps FC in their first meeting, setting a new MLS record during the Opta era (2011 to present). Then, he picked up two assists in the second meeting – his only two assists of the season. As central midfielders, Mustivar and Whitecaps FC captain Pedro Morales will likely see a lot of each other.

Kekuta Manneh (LW) vs. Chance Myers (RB): Last year in KC, Manneh terrorized the Sporting back line with two goals in the first half. Myers didn’t start that the game, but you can bet he’ll be in there trying to shut down Manneh on Saturday. This is assuming Manneh is match fit, of course. The 21-year-old only played 29 minutes last weekend as he works his way back to full fitness.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The ‘Caps dropped both their meetings with SKC last year, including the aforementioned 4-3 loss at Children’s Mercy Park that saw them concede three goals in the final 10 minutes.

“I remember that more than anyone really,” Robinson told reporters this week. “We played an excellent away game for almost 90 minutes … then we concede two goals in the last few minutes. Pa, my centre back, had broken his cheekbone but was still on the pitch because he wanted to play. Two goals come from on top of his head. You can’t criticize anyone there. It was us as a team. We’ll go there and try to win this time.”

It certainly won’t be easy.  

The ‘Caps have never won at Children’s Marcy Park (formerly Sporting Park) in three previous meetings. SKC also has the all-time edge over Whitecaps FC with a 4W-1L-2D record. 

DID YOU KNOW?

Whitecaps FC had the best road record (7W-7L-3D) in all of MLS last season. 

Be a part of the best sporting atmosphere in Vancouver! 2016 Whitecaps FC Season Tickets are on sale from $39/month all in. In addition to Season Tickets, Whitecaps FC offer a flexible range of ticket products, including Half-Season Packs, 5-Packs, a Youth Soccer Half-Season Ticket, and single match tickets. For more information, visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.