BRIDGEVIEW, ILLINOIS – Vancouver Whitecaps FC (6W-6L-3D) face the red-hot Chicago Fire (10W-3L-4D) on Saturday afternoon in a Canada Day clash at Toyota Park.
KICKOFF: 4 p.m. PT | TV: TSN 1 | RADIO: TSN 1410 radio
Here’s everything you need to know about the match.
Snapping the streak: Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson called this weekend’s match a “huge challenge.” And he’s not kidding. The Fire are riding a nine-match unbeaten run in MLS play, having outscored their opponents 20-5 in the process. Most recently, Chicago cruised to a dominant 4-0 victory over Orlando City SC – their seventh straight MLS victory at Toyota Park. However, the Fire went 120 minutes on Wednesday in a U.S. Open Cup defeat at FC Cincinnati and played what was essentially a first-choice lineup. How much will they have left in the tank?
Test of depth: Saturday’s match will be a test of depth for both teams. The ‘Caps are once again expected to be without up to eight or nine players due to injury, including captain Kendall Waston. And Chicago are missing midfielder Dax McCarty and winger David Accam, who scored a hat-trick last weekend vs. Orlando, due to international duty. These are extremely important players we’re talking about. How will each side cope without them?
Ready for Reyna? One player who could step in for Vancouver, at least as a substitute, is Peruvian attacking midfielder Yordy Reyna. The 23-year-old, who broke his foot in the preseason, is looking to make his MLS debut and Robinson said it might be an option to give him a 15-20 minute run-out. If his performances in the preseason were any indication, Reyna looks to be an exciting, attacking talent with plenty of upside. Surely, it will take him some time to get back to full fitness and adjust to a new league, but he’s certainly one to watch.
Matias Laba (CM) and Tony Tchani (CM) vs. Juninho (CM) and Bastian Schweinsteiger (CM): The midfield battle is going to be absolutely key on Saturday. The Fire are one of the best passing teams in MLS – thanks largely to Schweinsteiger, who is averaging 91.07 touches and 62.43 successful passes per game. Laba and Tchani will have a big role to play in disrupting Chicago’s midfield rhythm and preventing Schweinsteiger from getting the ball to Chicago’s attacking threats, mainly MLS Golden Boot leader Nemanja Nikolic. Safe to say it will be one of their biggest tests of the season.