After picking up a valuable road point in Portland, which left most fans feeling disappointed, the Vancouver Whitecaps (5-3-2) return home to host the Philadelphia Union (1-6-3). It is very surprising that fans of Vancouver would be let down after their team goes on the road and earns a point. Last year and previous seasons, this result would be considered a major positive. This year, after amassing a road record of 3-1-1, expectations have been greatly enhanced.
The Whitecaps are fortunate that they have significantly improved their road performances because their home record has been far from impressive. A frustrating 2-2 draw against the Crew followed by a 2-1 defeat to DC United have cost the Whitecaps and opened the door for several teams to catchup in the standings. Considering the poor form of the Union this season, the Whitecaps will look at their home match against the Union as a must win.
After conceding 18 goals, the Union defense can be likened to Swiss Cheese. The blame must be shared with the Union goalkeepers, a position which has been ravaged by injuries and poor performances. Despite being available for selection Rais Mbolhi did not make the trip to Vancouver. As a result, ex-Whitecaps gk Brian Sylvestre was added to the Union roster on Friday morning. The backup goalie is expected to be Trey Mitchell. Desperate times for a team already underperforming.
The Whitecaps will receive a significant boost this weekend when defensive midfielder, Matias Laba, returns from suspension. Laba has been stellar for the Whitecaps so his presence will give Vancouver a significant advantage. Full back, Steven Beitashour, suffered a strained leg muscle last week and was forced to sit the Portland match. Head coach Carl Robinson described his status for the Union match as “questionable.” This means that Ethen Sampson could earn his second MLS start in as many weeks.
Ovatvio Rivero is officially in a slump. After scoring 5 goals in his first 6 matches he is now on a 4 game scoreless run. An inexperienced goalkeeper protected by a porous defense is exactly what the doctor ordered for Rivero. While proving effective at holding up play, Rivero could benefit greatly if he was given a strike partner. This would mean switching from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2. Robinson has the depth to make this change. Robert Earnshaw or Darren Mattocks are more than capable of leading the attack with Rivero. This extra forward would draw attention away from Rivero allowing him to get free in the box or make runs off the backs of distracted defenders.
The Whitecaps were scheduled to face second division FC Edmonton on Wednesday night for the first leg of the Canadian Championship. Unfortunately, a snow storm enveloped Edmonton on Tuesday evening forcing officials to postpone the match to the 20th of May. This means that Robinson will not have to worry about players suffering from fatigue when they face the Union.