Chivas USA are on a bit of a roll lately, and they'll put that form to the test when they take on the Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday at the HDC. Although Vancouver is coming off a loss, they have many solid players and look a good bet to be a playoff contender again this season.
In order to get a sense of what's happening in B.C. (the one way up north) I got the lay of the land from Jon Szekeres of SB Nation Vancouver Whitecaps blog Eighty Six Forever. Big thanks to Jon for taking the time to answer my questions!
The Goat Parade asks Eighty Six Forever:
1. It appears in the offseason that Vancouver didn't make substantial changes to their roster. Who are some of the key players returning, as well as some of the key additions this season?
I would argue that some substantial changes were made, but perhaps the biggest change was a subtraction. With Barry Robson flying back to Europe, the 'Caps rid themselves of a locker room headache, a big salary, and opened up room in the midfield for fresh blood. That came in the form of both Daigo Kobayashi and Nigel Reo-Coker, both who have proven to be great additions in this young season. Less was expected of Kobayashi, but his smooth play and creativity in mid has fans asking- Barry who? Also, Brad Rusin has proven to be a solid addition to the backline, stepping in for the injured Jay Demerit. He's not fantastic, but he appears to be getting the job done.
In terms of holdovers, all the buzz in Vancouver is around the veteran, Kenny Miller. Left for dead in his first season as a 'Cap, Miller's hustle and stats (1 goal in 2 games; not bad) have won the affection of the fans. Finally, you always have to mention Young-Pyo Lee when referencing the 'Caps; in what is almost certainly his last season, Lee has proven he hasn't lost a step. In fact, he might have gained one from last year.
2. The Whitecaps have started out well this season, with two wins in three games, and a tough loss late last week against Houston. How is the defense coping with the absence of Jay DeMerit to major injury, and do you see any major deficiencies on the defensive end Chivas USA can exploit Saturday?
The defense bonded together well when Demerit went down with his achilles injury, with Brad Rusin stepping into the center back role admirably. However, a Houston squad missing three key players caused fits for the backline, resulting in one of the poorer efforts of the season. It's too early to tell if this will continue to be a solid foursome, but the three headed monster of Alain Rochat, YP Lee and the tragically underrated Andy O'Brien should keep most matches close. That being said, the 'Caps have historically had problems with set pieces. Perhaps that's the soft underbelly Chivas might be able to pounce on.
3. Vancouver coach Martin Rennie seems to have a wealth of attacking options available to him, and there has been some rotation early on in the season. Is Rennie playing the best attacking players together, and is there any player who hasn't gotten the time that you think deserves to be playing more?
Funnily enough, I just posted an article Wednesday about Camilo Sanvezzo's lack of playing time. A 12 goal scorer in 2011, Camilo battled injuries in a disappointing 2012 campaign. Now, he's found himself playing behind Miller, super sophomore Darren Mattocks, and that crowded mid of Kobayashi, rising star Gershon Koffie, Reo-Coker, and Jun Marques Davidson. With Miller likely out again versus Chivas, look for Camilo to get some well deserved playing time. He's had some success against the Goats (3 point match late last season), so he figures to be the easy choice for Rennie.
4. (Bonus) Prediction for the match?
The 'Caps will be disappointed they didn't get the win in Houston, and I predict Camilo will have a big match, trying to prove he still deserves his minutes. However, Chivas should keep this one close. 2-1 Whitecaps.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!