Match Preview: Whitecaps vs Impact
By Jonathan Szekeres
The Vancouver Whitecaps chance to finally, finally put a hand on the Voyageurs Cup is almost upon us, as they take on the Montreal Impact tomorrow in the final leg of the Canadian Championship. They've come close so many times, but every year the Vancouver Whitecaps manage to break our hearts in impressive fashion. Last year, they managed to lose on aggregate to the worst team in MLS at the time, Toronto FC. It looked like it was going to be such a gimmie series, but the superior club ended up plodding off the pitch with their heads looking at their boots. It was an embarrassment, and a dagger to the hearts of 'Caps fan everywhere.
Now, it's time for redemption.
They're not be taking on Toronto FC this time, and arguably, they are the weaker team going into this match. The Montreal Impact sit above the playoff bar and have played solid football for the majority of the season. In just over a third of the season, the Whitecaps started well, then played miserably, and are now starting to climb their way out of a self-induced hell with three straight strong matches against good opponents. However, can they keep the mojo going against the Impact?
THANK GOD FOR THE BYE WEEK
With the Canadian Championship matches around, the Whitecaps have played a whole lot of matches in a miniscule amount of time. Luckily, they were given a week to rest their feet and get ready for a week of tough, gruelling football. First it's the Impact, but on the weekend they travel to New York to take on the Red Bulls, arguably the best team in the MLS. The 'Caps, on the road, against Therri Henri? Things aren't looking good. If the 'Caps didn't get their week reprieve, I'd be much less optimistic about their chance to compete. However, Camilo, Daigo Kobayashi and Kenny Miller have all had time to rest some nagging injuries, and it looks like Kobayashi will be the only one still sitting. That's great news for the 'Caps, and bad news for the Impact. If Martin Rennie starts a strong lineup, and all indications are that he will, then he has the task of making sure everybody is ready to play. A week off is good for the soul and body, provided the players haven't gathered too much rust. Rennie should have his players like snarling pitbulls, ready to attack at any moment, because they're going after a trophy the city of Vancouver needs. For the love of God, we've been runners up 4 times in a row!!
IT'S FINALLY MILLER TIME!
We all loved the Kenny Miller story earlier this season. Miller, despite uninspired play last season and a hefty contract hanging like an albatross from his neck, Miller was easily the Whitecaps best player through two matches. Then he got injured, his wife had a baby and his season was slightly derailed. Rennie said today Miller should be ready to go against the Impact, which would deepen the Whitecaps already formibable forward unit. This comes at a time where Darren Mattocks has struggled and Camilo has really been the only offensive force on the Whitecaps. Considering Camilo has had issues with consistency this season, that isn't a good thing. Erik Hurtado and Kekuta Manneh have shown flashes and the midfield has helped push play forward, but there isn't that one guy everybody can count on to deliver when the club needs it most. Is Kenny Miller that guy? The first two matches of this season say yes, but last season's misadventures certainly cast a strong shadow of doubt as well. I called this unit formidable last paragraph and I stand by that; when the club is firing on all cylinders. Problem is, they haven't done that a lot.
IT HAS TO BE LEVERON
The backline has to be the backbone of the Whitecaps if the club has any hopes of winning this Cup. They've been pretty solid this season, but do lapse into moments of hair-pulling-out frustration. In my humble opinion, Brad Rusin is a great depth option and a solid backup, but Johnny Leveron has shown he can handle the center back position better. Leveron is just better positionally and doesn't make as many mistakes as Rusin does. Hey, Rusin has done a fantastic job considering he's filling in for superstar Jay Demerit, but he's better as a substitution, or an insurance policy if someone gets injured.
PREDICTION: The 'Caps play a simple but agressive match and frustrate the Impact en route to a 1-0 victory.