1. As mentioned last week, the earliest Whitecaps FC could clinch a playoff spot is this Wednesday. In order for that to happen, the ‘Caps need to beat Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field (7:30 p.m. PT on TSN1). I thought earlier they would also need another result to go their way, but I've confirmed with MLS that that's not the case. Win and we're in, baby.
2. Both Seattle and Toronto FC suffered losses this past week, which means Whitecaps FC (5W-0L-2D) and Columbus Crew SC (4W-0L-3D) now have the longest active unbeaten streaks in MLS at seven matches. Vancouver’s longest unbeaten streak since joining MLS was eight back in 2014 (3W-0L-5D).
3. One of the key storylines to watch on Wednesday will be Fredy Montero’s return to Seattle, the place where he began his MLS career in 2009. Montero, in fact, scored the first-ever goal for the Sounders in MLS and remains their all-time leading goalscorer. But now, the Colombian wears the Blue and White – and he has been on an absolute tear. Montero has 13 goals on the season after finding the back of the net again on Saturday, which matches his career high in MLS and is the second most by a Whitecaps FC player in a single MLS season. On the one hand, Montero can be a true poacher, and his goal on Saturday was a fine example of that. Watch him find the space between the two defenders and tell Yordy Reyna where he wants the ball.
But he’s so much more. I mean, look at this ball to Reyna.
That was Montero’s sixth assist of the season. He has also created 34 chances, which is tied for second among all out-and-out strikers in MLS. David Villa is first by a country mile with 62 chances created, followed by a four-way tie between Montero, Jozy Altidore, Mauro Manotas, and Erick Torres. OK, back to Wednesday for a second. Montero has already played against the Sounders twice this season at BC Place, scoring three goals, but this will be his first match at CenturyLink Field since leaving Seattle in 2012. He spoke a bit about that post-match on Saturday, but keep an eye out for a piece in the Players Tribune over the next few days, in which Montero discusses his time in Seattle, the move to Vancouver, and much, much more. Trust me: it’s worth a read.
4. Time to give myself a pat on the back. This is what I wrote in my preview for Saturday’s match vs. Colorado: “The combination of Montero’s finishing ability, creativity, and movement coupled with Reyna’s pace and desire to take on opposing defenders has made for quite the partnership so far. And the best part? They seem to be getting better each game.” These two are truly becoming a dynamic duo – and boy, it’s fun to watch. So why do they work so well together? Here’s some insight from Montero: “Sometimes, when I ask for the ball at my feet, he’s running to the space, and that’s what we need.” Let’s delve a bit deeper into that. ESPN’s Michael Cox wrote an interesting article last week on the different types of players being used as No. 10s in the English Premier League. He categorized them as the driving midfielder, the outright assister, the midfielder-forward-hybrid, the second striker, and the defensive forward. Reyna has qualities that fall into a few of those categories (there’s a strong case to be made for him as a second striker, and he certainly has the pressing ability of a defensive forward), but based on Cox’s descriptions I see him mostly as the midfielder-forward-hybrid. Cox used Tottenham Hotspur’s Dele Alli as an example: “The more Alli plays, the less he seems to be a midfielder. He boasts a superb relationship with Harry Kane, and often isn't merely just playing off Kane but is making runs past him – even when Spurs are knocking the ball around in defence.” Sound familiar?
5. Speaking of Reyna, he now has five goals – and five game-winners – on the season. I mean, what are the chances? His five game-winners are one short of Diego Valeri for the league-lead. And Reyna has played 15 fewer games.
6. The more I see (and hear) Aly Ghazal, the more I like him. Here are two plays that stood out to me from Saturday night. Both resulted in opportunities for Vancouver on the counter, which as discussed last week, is such a massive part of their game.
I also liked these comments from him post-match when asked about the ‘Caps not getting much attention despite sitting atop the Western Conference: “For me, that's fine. It's very good. We don't need attention. We've just come from behind from nowhere. Don't give us attention, give other teams, but at the end, let's see who's going to laugh.”
7. Saw some questions on social media about why Alphonso Davies isn’t in FIFA 18, which is being released later this week. My understanding is that he will be patched in when he turns 17 in November. Curious to see what his ratings look like. Here are the top five ‘Caps in the new game.
8. After last week’s piece, in which I mentioned Jake Nerwinski should be in the running for MLS Rookie of the Year, I was asked who the other finalists might be. The three players he’s probably competing with are Minnesota United FC striker Abu Danladi, Philadelphia Union centre back Jack Elliott, and Atlanta United FC midfielder Julian Gressel.
9. For your random stat of the day: Whitecaps FC have hit the woodwork (post or crossbar) 12 times this season, which is the third most in MLS. Cristian Techera is the biggest victim, having done so five times. Now you know.
10. Anyone else get the sense that Saturday’s match vs. Sporting Kansas City could determine who wins the West? As it stands, they trail Whitecaps FC by just one point and have played the same number of games. They’re also now unbeaten in 24 league matches at home (!!!) after Sunday’s 2-1 victory over LA Galaxy. What a huge week this is coming up.
Have a question you'd like addressed? Feel free to drop a comment below or send me a tweet and I'll discuss in my next "10 things" article.