Vancouver Whitecaps arrive this evening at Stade Saputo with five defeats in their last 7 MLS road-trips and on the back of an absolute pummelling by San Jose Earthquakes at the weekend, when only Max Crepeau’s record-breaking performance in goal averted embarassment.
They have managed to win on the road recently however, at Cincinnati, the only club with a worse playing record in MLS this season, and secured a creditable scoreless draw with play-off chasing Minnesota United.
But they will have the words of coach Marc Dos Santos ringing in their ears all the way from California, as they try to erase memories from a game in which the coach declared, “There were not many positives today. Previous four games there were a lot of positives, but to say we take positives for our next game is wrong. We have to be harder on ourselves as a team if we are to do better in the game in Montreal.”
Caps took an early lead in San Jose, but were outshot 43 to 5, that’s five more shots than the MetroStars when they set the previous MLS record in 1998, and through the first 45 mins Vancouver enjoyed - if that’s the right word - only 19% possession.
Dos Santos also remarked on how his team lost all their one-on-one duels, so tonight we should expect to see a significant increase in intensity from the Caps who have won two of their three previous MLS games at the Montreal venue.
Montreal of course have troubles of their own. Only Houston Dynamo have a lower points haul in the last six rounds of MLS matches, so for once this season, Whitecaps go into a game on slightly better form than their opponent.
Wilmer Cabrera has hinted that Samuel Piette could be fit to face Vancouver, however the player’s condition is day to day, and only a late decision is expected. Piette’s presence would certainly help steady a group lacking in belief and confidence.
Battling qualities came to the fore in the recent predictable defeat at Toronto FC, particularly across an over-worked back-four, behind a less than robust midfield. Vancouver will not provide the same level of test as the Ontarians however, although Cabrera is concerned about his team’s tendency to drop deep, as they did after taking the lead in Toronto.
“We cannot stop what we were doing well. We were aggressive and confident against Toronto in midfield, but as soon as we scored, we stopped doing what we were doing well and gave the ball and space to Toronto, and that’s a bad formula against any good team in MLS. You give them the ball and you give them the space and they are going to take it and feel motivated.”
Other selection options give the new Impact coach plenty to think about. Is Rod Fanni, a player Cabrera does not know well, fit enough to start? The smart money would suggest not after almost a year away from the game, so if Camacho remains sidelined by injury, it’s likely Bacary Sagna will again partner Jukka Raitala in central defence.
The other ponderable surrounds the fitness of Orji Okwonkwo, not introduced from the bench, Saturday evening, due to some muscle pain, and also with this evening’s encounter in mind. If fit, Okwonkwo will probably slot into the wide right position in place of Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla, who looks off the pace.
The Impact has only one road game left in the regular-season run-in, away to LA Galaxy, a venue where they have never scored, although one point was gleaned in a 0-0 tie in 2015.
If the advice is to expect nothing from the Galaxy, as the Californians will need the points to secure a home tie in the play-offs, then Impact’s remaining five home games, beginning this evening, are all ‘cup finals’.
The easiest of those look like the meetings with this evening’s opponents and Cincinnati, but as we know soccer rarely works out the way everyone expects. On paper the tasks against Atlanta United and New York Red Bulls look to be the sturdier tests, but the key game is likely to be this Saturday evening when Wayne Rooney comes to town with a DC United side in free-fall.
The team from the capital, 4 points and five defeats in their last seven games and resigned to losing Rooney, sit only 5 points ahead of the Impact with a game more played.
Two wins on the trot, beginning tonight, and things will look a whole lot more rosy for the Impact, struggling or not!
They simply have to prove to their fans that they’re up to the task!
Line-ups (projected) -
IMFC - Bush - Brault-Guillard, Sagna, Raitala, Lovitz - Okwonkwo, Piette, Taider, Lappalainen - Bojan, Urruti.
VWFC - Crepeau - Nerwinski, Henry, Cornelius, Adnan - Teibert, Hwang, Rose - Montero, Bair - Reyna
Match Officials -
Referee: Ismail Elfath
Assistant Referees: Kyle Atkins, Claudiu Badea
4th Official: Pierre-Luc Lauziere
VAR: Geoff Gamble