Match Preview: Whitecaps FC face new-look Toronto FC at new-look BMO Field

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May14_VCB-MDB_VANvTO

After beating the Chicago Fire in dramatic fashion at BC Place on Wednesday, the Vancouver Whitecaps head to Toronto to play an impressive TFC side.

A decidedly un-Toronto-like team is doing un-Toronto-like things out in Ontario. Namely, a competent, well-built, functioning Toronto FC is winning games (on the road, no less) to start the season and is in a very strong position to take full advantage of their newly renovated home field.

This will not be a cakewalk for Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

Heck, we may even have to retire #TrawnaGonnaTrawna.

Mmm… nah. Not just yet.

Matchup

Venue: BMO Field, Toronto

Time: Saturday, May 14th @ 4:30 p.m.

TV: TSN4

Radio: TSN 1040

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 12.16.36 PM

SEE ALSO: FTBL Whitecaps FC Podcast: Injuries, Goals, and Non-Trades

Road warriors

Last season was something of a hex-breaker for the ‘Caps.

Perennially pathetic on the road, head coach Carl Robinson challenged his squad to make the most of their FIFA Women’s World Cup-induced road trip and they delivered. Some called it smash-and-grab football at its finest. Some called it dumb luck.

I called it DID YOU SEE THAT CORKSCREW HEADER FROM RIVERO?!?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_LO9qrZgZc

That’s still a [expletive] sick goal. I don’t care how much everyone hates Rivero. That goal was (and is) amaze-balls. But I digress.

Vancouver showed life on the road in 2015, compiling an MLS-era franchise-best 7W-3D-7L away record – no mean feat in MLS where long travel times mean road games are usually pretty rough on the visitors. No longer do supporters look at games removed from BC Place with a pessimistic sigh; on any given day, the ‘Caps are in with a shout.

One problem: Toronto FC. The Reds have matched — nay, surpassed — Vancouver’s gargantuan road trip with a highly successful campaign of their own while BMO Field received extensive renovations.

That kind of success breeds immense confidence, which TFC showed in buckets when they dispatched FC Dallas in Toronto’s home opener.

Having an improved road record is all fine and dandy until you walk into enemy territory and see a fearless opponent that looks ready for bear and boasts the reigning league MVP. Think Sebastian Giovinco gives a hoot about Vancouver’s counter-attacking road strategy? Nope. He’ll be too busy doing Giovinco things.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9f6LuBWw_-A

Yeah. Gulp.

How do you solve a problem like Giovinco?

So if #SebaGonnaSeba, especially with a supporting cast that includes Will Johnson, Michael Bradley et al, how do you get a result? Surprisingly, you go to the New York City FC playbook – yeah, that’s a phrase said by nobody ever – and foul the ever-loving [expletive] out of Sebastian Giovinco.

Guardian game recap from June 2015 recounts NYCFC’s strategy thusly:

New York City FC might have finally found the only way to stop the Italian Antman – kick him. Kick him lots.

Giovinco – who had scored three goals in his last three outings – still managed three shots, but only one of them was on target. He was only afforded one successful dribble, with NYCFC and their midfield destroyer Andrew Jacobson bringing the 28-year-old down before he could build up any sort of momentum. And that’s if the ball actually made it to Giovinco before being tagged.

Hey, there’s a familiar name. Hm, I wonder who’s going to slot in next to Matías Laba to patrol the midfield…?

Three rules of football: rotation, rotation, rotation

Head coach Carl Robinson will need to make a number of changes to his starting lineup for Saturday’s game.

With Kendall Waston suspended due to his yellow card on Wednesday, Pa Modou Kah is next in the depth chart in central defence. Andrew Jacobson will likely start in midfield. I’ll optimistically pencil in Tim Parker beside Kah and cross my fingers the exuberance of youth keeps him going.

That’s not to say Jacobson wouldn’t have started over captain Pedro Morales anyway.

If there’s one thing we can take away from the midweek tilt against Chicago, it’s that the starting XI from that match are running on fumes. The ‘Caps looked bereft of stamina and motivation as the match wound down, which means squad rotation is a-comin’ for the weekend.

Speaking of youth, Sam Adekugbe will no doubt be chomping at the bit for redemption after his last outing, though it’s tough to see Robbo benching Harvey against an opponent as daunting as Toronto (which is still an alien concept despite what the Eastern Conference standings are telling me).

Morales will likely start this one on the bench with Nicolás Mezquida taking the playmaker role with any number of options beside him in the wings. Up top, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Robbo opts to flip a coin to choose between Octavio Rivero and Blas Pérez.

About the only thing you can say with 100% certainty is that David Ousted will start and, considering the opposition in front of him, will be called upon to steal a point or, dare to dream, all three.

Hey, you never know.

Prediction

2-1 Toronto. Yuck. The taste of predicting a Toronto win is foul and vile and I do not care for it. Unfortunately, it’s a flavour we may have to get used to if the Reds continue to do things like, y’know, be a decent team for once.

Another double-game week and the accompanying fatigue makes a Vancouver victory a tough ask. The last time the Whitecaps’ depth was tested on the road against New York City FC, it did not end well.

Fingers crossed a blatantly obvious foul in the box doesn’t go missed this time around, unless bear-hugs of two defenders in the penalty are legal now. In that case, commence Operation Hugs-A-Lot.

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Rituro Podcast DP of "From The Backline". Soccer and hockey fan. Lifelong gamer. Irrepressible nerd. #YYJ
@ThatRituroGuy

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