Preview: 'Caps conclude eventful week Saturday vs. Canadian rival Toronto FC

TORONTO, ONT – What a week it’s been for Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

A win over the defending MLS Cup champs, a stunning MLS Goal of the Year candidate, and now a Canadian clash with Toronto FC on Saturday at the newly renovated BMO Stadium.

KICKOFF: 4:30 p.m. PT  |  TV: TSN 1/3/4/5  |  RADIO: TSN 1040

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

PRE-MATCH
INTERVIEWS:
 

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC

The ‘Caps departed for Toronto on Thursday with “mixed emotions.”

On the one hand, spirits were high after Blas Pérez made waves around the soccer world with a bicycle kick-winner on Wednesday vs. Chicago. 

On the other, their thoughts and concerns were with Masato Kudo, who suffered a fractured jaw in a scary incident early in the same match. There is no timetable for Kudo’s return, but he certainly won’t be in the lineup on Saturday.

And neither will fellow striker Octavio Rivero (left ankle sprain), according to Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson, or the suspended Kendall Waston (caution accumulation).

Did we mention this was Vancouver’s third game in eight days?

“There are going to be tired legs, but now we have to show that we have depth and character,” said Whitecaps FC goalkeeper David Ousted. “We need to go to Toronto and put on a good defensive performance but also take to the game to them.”  

TORONTO FC

Toronto FC enter Saturday’s contest with 14 points and a 4W-3L-2D record, which is good enough for third in the Eastern Conference. It’s an impressive point haul, especially when you consider they played eight of their first nine matches on the road.

The Reds played their first match at the newly renovated BMO Stadium last weekend, defeating FC Dallas 1-0 on the strength of Japanese rookie Tsubasa Endoh’s first MLS goal.

Reigning MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco set up the goal. Remarkably, the diminutive Italian has either scored or assisted all 10 of TFC’s goals so far this season (six goals and four assists).

“He is in my mind the best player in the league,” Ousted said. “He poses a lot of threats. Obviously you see him on the ball. He can make assists but he can also take it one on one and score goals. It’s one of those situations where you need to be aware of him and focus on where he drifts off to, but also be aware of the runs they make off of him.”

STORYLINES GALORE

There are no shortage of storylines for this one.

Both Robinson and Whitecaps FC midfielder Matias Laba formerly played for Toronto FC, while Fraser Aird and Russell Teibert grew up in Ontario. In fact, Aird was a Toronto FC season ticket holder growing up. This will be his first professional match in his home province.

On the other side, Toronto FC’s roster features former ‘Caps right back Steven Beitashour.

KEY MATCHUPS

Fraser Aird/Jordan Smith (RB) vs. Sebastian Giovinco (F): Giovinco tends to drift left, especially when he plays up top with Jozy Altidore in a two-striker formation, setting up a massive test for whoever Robinson calls upon at right back.

Kekuta Manneh (LW) vs. Steven Beitashour (RB): The ‘Caps will likely play a little more on the counter than they have the last two outings, which sets up well for Manneh. He and Beitashour know each other well. Who will have the upper hand?

Tim Parker (CB) vs. Jozy Altidore (F): Waston’s suspension places more responsibility on the shoulders of Parker, who will likely see a lot of Altidore. Parker leads MLS with 65 clearances. 

HEAD-TO-HEAD

This will be the seventh all-time meeting between Vancouver and Toronto in MLS play.

TFC has the edge with a 3W-2L-1D record, including a 3-1 win at BC Place in their lone meeting last season. The ‘Caps remain winless at BMO Field – aside from a 1-0 win in the 2008 Amway Canadian Championship, that is. 

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