Preview: Whitecaps FC host New York in 'most important match of the season'

VANCOUVER, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps FC continue their playoff push with a “vital match” vs. New York Red Bulls on Saturday afternoon at BC Place (limited tickets still available).

KICKOFF: 4 p.m. PT  |  TV: TSN1  |  RADIO: TSN 1040

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

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC

The ‘Caps enter the weekend four points out of a playoff spot with seven games remaining.

A win on Saturday puts them right back into the thick of things. For that reason, Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson called it a “vital match” and the “most important match of the season.”

“This is the fun time,” Robinson told reporters. “I say this to the players. This is the time where you really find out your mettle and what you’re made of. It’s great when things are rosy and you’re turning up and playing well and getting a bit of luck. And when you’re not getting a bit of luck, you’ve got to roll your sleeves up and fight.”

That’s what the ‘Caps did last weekend when they battled to a scoreless draw with LA Galaxy.

And that’s what they did four days prior in a 3-0 CONCACAF Champions League win over Sporting Kansas City, so there are certainly some signs of life.

Expect a few lineup changes on Saturday, though, with six players away on international duty, including centre backs Kendall Waston and David Edgar and left back Marcel de Jong. That could signal the return of Jordan Harvey, who is back to full training after missing five matches with an MCL sprain, or the MLS debut of recently signed Canadian left back Brett Levis.

NEW YORK RED BULLS

The Red Bulls, who sit third in the Eastern Conference with an 11W-9L-7D record, come to BC Place this weekend unbeaten in nine straight MLS matches.

They’ll be missing a key cog on Saturday, though.

Midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who leads MLS with 15 assists, is away on international duty with the U.S. national team. It’s a big loss, but they still have former English Premier League striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, who’s tied for the top spot in the MLS Golden Boot race with 16 goals.

They could also be getting some reinforcements in the form of captain Dax McCarty and centre back Damien Perrinelle, who have missed a combined seven matches this month due to injury.

“They’ll both be ready to go from the start,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said this week. “It’s just a matter of balancing out our team to figure out what’s going to be best on the day. As of today, they’re ready to go.”

KEY MATCHUPS

Tim Parker (CB) vs. Bradley Wright-Phillips (FWD): With Waston and Edgar away on international duty, expect Parker to marshal the ‘Caps back line. His job? Trying to contain one of the hottest strikers in MLS. Wright-Phillips has scored in five of his last six matches.

David Ousted (GK) vs. Luis Robles (GK): Robles was last year’s MLS Goalkeeper of the Year – and Ousted was his runner-up. These are two of the most highly-regarded keepers in the league. They also have the two longest ironman streaks. Robles is currently sitting at 133 straight MLS regular season appearances and Ousted is at 108. There’s a chance Ousted could become the new active ironman on Saturday, as Robles is listed as “questionable” after picking up a knock in his last outing.

Matias Laba (M) vs. Felipe (M): With Kljestan away on international duty, Felipe will have a key part to play in New York’s midfield – potentially as a #10. One player who always has a key part to play in Vancouver’s midfield is Laba, who is coming off two strong games in his defensive midfield position. These two South Americans will likely be seeing a lot of each other.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Whitecaps FC vs. New York Red Bulls: 3W-0L-3D
Whitecaps FC vs. New York Red Bulls at BC Place: 1W-0L-2D

The ‘Caps have never lost to New York Red Bulls – and they’re hoping to keep it that way.

Last year, Ousted stopped not one, but two Wright-Phillips penalties to help the ‘Caps claim a 2-1 win at Red Bull Arena. The year before, Whitecaps FC cruised to a 4-1 win at BC Place in Robinson’s memorable debut as ‘Caps head coach. Interestingly, Wright-Phillips found the back of the net on that night.

Now, it’s time for Round 3.  

Be a part of the best sporting atmosphere in Vancouver! 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.