After scraping out a draw against the LA Galaxy last Saturday at BC Place, the Vancouver Whitecaps made the transcontinental trip to Washington where they will look for their second win on the road against D.C. United.
— Kendall Waston (@kwaston88) April 8, 2016
Venue: RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.
Time: 2:30 p.m.
The Missing Ones
"The door will be open for someone else."
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) April 6, 2016
A combination of injuries and suspensions (yes, again) will force Carl Robinson to juggle his lineup for the upcoming match as two of his three designated players will not be at his disposal.
Defensive midfielder Matías Laba, his Argentinian linchpin in the middle of the park, will be serving a one-game suspension after his ejection in the game against the Galaxy.
Also missing from this game will be playmaker and Laba’s central midfield partner Pedro Morales, who had to be substituted in the 18th minute of last Saturday’s game. According to Robinson, the Chilean maestro will be missing “for weeks.”
Speedy winger Kekuta Manneh, who also limped off the pitch in the game against LA, resumed training throughout the week and made the trip to the American capital so we can assume that he will at least be in the game day roster.
Welcome back, Nico!
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) April 7, 2016
So with two key pieces missing from his midfield, Robinson has decisions to make.
Newcomer Andrew Jacobson seems to be the natural replacement for Laba.
At first, it seemed that Jacobson was brought in to provide more depth in an already stacked group of midfielders. However, injuries, international duty and suspension have allowed the former NYCFC man to see minutes as a central back, defensive midfielder and a central midfielder. The Palo Alto native has performed admirably in each and every role he has played so far.
The logical choice to replace Morales is Nicolas Mezquida. The young Uruguayan brings energy and a different, creative chemistry with countrymen Octavio Rivero and Cristian Techera. The Whitecaps played some of their best football last season when Mezquida was on the pitch.
With the possible replacements figured out, the next question that remains unanswered relates to the formation that Robinson will deploy. Will he return to his reliable and trusted 4-2-3-1 or will he stick to the 4-4-2 that has seen good performances and results so far in 2016?
Robinson lined up a 4-4-2 with Mezquida next to Rivero up top on Saturday. However, with Mezquida possibly moving down the field to cover for Morales, there is a chance that we will see either Masato Kudo or Blas Pérez get the nod.
Where are the goals?
There have now been seven complete games since the Blue and White scored from open play. That includes the two playoff games against Portland in 2015 and the entirety of this year’s campaign.
Things were looking promising last Saturday but the early injury to Morales and the red card shown to Matías Laba derailed what had, at first, seemed to be the game destined to break their scoreless streak.
It may seem repetitive to talk about this issue week in and week out but as long as this team continues to fail at converting their chances, this topic will remain to be a relevant storyline.
The good news is that the Vancouver Whitecaps are visiting D.C. United. The winless hosts currently sit second last in the Eastern Conference with three points – the product of two losses and three draws.
More notoriously, D.C. United currently shares the worst offence in the East having scored only three goals (yes, even the Whitecaps have scored twice as many goals without having netted anything from open play). They also share the record for the worst defence having conceded nine goals.
If there is a time to start scoring goals and getting full road points, this is it.