Match Preview: 'Caps vs Dynamo
By Jon Szekeres
It will be a battle of two teams with something to prove, when the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Houston Dynamo play on Saturday. The 'Caps are off to a very good start for 2013, winning their first two matches, and doing so with style. Daigo Kobayashi's marker in the 'Caps last match against the Columbus Crew was phenomenal; a strike from 30 yards out that seemed to have eyes for the top left corner of the net. It was a curling shot that instantly made him a household name in Vancouver, and made 'Caps fans forget about the beloved former 'Cap, Davide Chiumiento.
However, the 'Caps went 2-0 to start last season as well, and we all know what happened there; a scoring drought, dysfunction in player personnel, and an early round exit after just squeaking into the post-season. That's the chip the Vancouver Whitecaps will have on their shoulder the entire season. What do they have to prove? That they are an elite squad that can seriously contend for playoff victories, not just rest on becoming an 'also-ran.'
One thing that might've already been proven for the 'Caps is the dysfunction seems to be gone the way of the dodo. Perhaps it caught the same flight as Barry Robson, when he left the 'Caps before the season started. Daigo Kobayashi has been absolutely unreal, Nigel Reo-Coker has shown his immense talent without letting his ego get in the way (yet), and best of all Kenny Miller has revitalized his MLS career with a strong start.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned veteran will miss the Dynamo match because of international duty, a blow to the 'Caps attacking unit. In his stead will be the young Brazilian Camilo, who hasn't seen much action so far this season. Camilo is a game changer, a crafty, creative star that can score goals and do damage, but he's seen his playing time diminish with a stacked midfield and an equally impressive forward unit. As I wrote about earlier, look for Camilo to have a statement match if he hopes to stay in the 'Caps lineup.
It might be unfair to call it a statement match just three games in, but the business of Soccer is very much, what have you done for me lately.
Also looking to make an impact is Darren Mattocks, the super sophomore that has yet to score a goal this season. Media scribes were concerned with his poor effort against the Crew, but Mattocks has had relative success against the Dynamo, scoring two goals against them in one home match last season. Mattocks will get more slack than Camilo, but he does need to start producing like he can.
On defense, the 'Caps will get their first real test of the season without workhorse and Captain Jay Demerit. Brad Rusin filled in at Center Back, and looked pretty good, playing a very simple, safe match. Fortunately, that's all the Whitecaps need from him now, as Alain Rochat and YP Lee can take care of the glitz. The 'Caps backline won't have to worry about Brad Davis, one of the premier playmakers in MLS. He too has been called up for international duty, a slight break for the 'Caps. However, if they take Houston lightly, it could get ugly.
No word on who will get the start against Houston, although Brad Knighton has yet to get a start, and Joe Cannon looked so-so against the Crew. Can Knighton reclaim his starting spot? Or will the veteran once again man the pipes?
PREDICTION: The 'Caps have won two straight, have had a bye week, and have a relatively full roster. Houston has lost two straight (non regular season matches), did not have as much rest as the 'Caps, and are missing arguably their best player. When you look at it that way, it makes the prediction a little easier. 2-0 Whitecaps.
MATCH TIME: 5:30 PM in Houston. Saturday, March 23rd. (But you already knew that)