The Whitecaps are in tough spot right now as they sit one spot outside of the playoffs. With 40 points so far, they are in seventh place, four points behind sixth place Seattle. However, they are also only two points ahead of the LA Galaxy, who have 38 points. They are 3-1-1 in their past five games though and will be looking to make up some ground after losing their last game to hated nemesis Seattle.
FC Dallas, after only picking up one point last week, now have 50 points on the season and sit in second place in the West behind Sporting Kansas City and their 51 points. They are only three points ahead of a chasing pack as both LAFC and Portland who each have 47 points. Real Salt Lake and Seattle round out the playoff pack with 45 and 44 points respectively. The top seven teams in the West are within striking distance of each other and a playoff spot and it will make for an interesting final six games of the regular season.
The problem with Vancouver coming into this game is that they have one of the hardest remaining schedules in the league. They will be desperate to pick up points and continue to chase the teams ahead of them. That makes them a dangerous opponent for Dallas who could slide down to fourth if they lose and the two teams below them win. Vancouver’s last 6 games include the top four teams in the Western conference. Besides Dallas, they have Portland, Sporting KC and LAFC. Oh yeah, and their other two games include the team directly below them, LA Galaxy, and the ever dangerous (and still fighting for the playoffs) Toronto FC. No one is going to be taking it easy, cruising out the final few weeks. All those teams have something to play for - either their playoff positioning or their playoff lives.
We can expect Vancouver to come out looking to attack a vulnerable Hoops team. Dallas hasn’t looked elite to most outsiders all season. Forget beating Atlanta, LAFC, and SKC, it’s a what have you done for me lately league, and lately, Dallas looks pedestrian. But how will Vancouver attack, you ask? Well, as is most often with Vancouver, getting a few crosses into Kamara is a good place to start. Although the lineup sheet says 4-4-2, Vancouver are really operating a 4-5-1, with the second “forward” usually dropping off the front line to play as an attacking mid. This is usually Yory Reyna, operating as a no. 10 in that space between Kamara and the next line of midfielders. From there, Alphonso Davies and Cristian Techera play the wings, with the formidable Davies looking to burst inside and create for himself and others, while Techera looms as an attacking threat as well. Davies could end up with a double-double this season, having already racked up 10 assists to go along with 6 goals. Techera himself is second on the team in the goals scored category with 8 while being paced by Kamara’s 12 on the season.
The four attackers are backed up by a combination of midfielders who, lately, have formed a rotation of sorts. Felipe, Russell Teibert, Aly Ghazal and Nicolas Mezquida. Felipe, Teibert, and Ghazal all function much the same way as Gruezo and Ulloa, shuttling back and forth, box to box, cleaning up the midfield and pushing the ball up to the more attack minded players. In the back of course is Kendal Watson who partners with Aaron Maund at center back. Jake Nerwinski has made the right back spot his own while Brett Levis should start on the left. Finally, keeper Stefan Marinovic is the last line of defense.
As for Dallas, we can expect another iteration of a 4-4-2 – unless Coach wants to spice things up in an attempt to wrangle a few more attackers into the mix. I keep hoping to see Prince™ Aranguiz in the lineup, but it looks as though he will be more of a sub for the remainder of the season. The question for me revolves around how wise it is to continue using Maxi as a sort of false 9 in linking up the attack. I don’t think it is his best role for the team when we have several attacking midfielders available. Either way, Maxi and Badji up top is not the worst combination in the world. The real question is whether we will see the return of Lamah to the starting XI or if Mosquera will continue in that wide role. The way Mosquera has been playing, you start to wonder if the super sub role is actually his best spot on the team, where his energy will last a full 30-45 minutes instead of losing effectiveness after an hour or so. Finally, a word about the defense. Everyone seems to agree that Pedroso is a solid, if unspectacular, addition to the back line. Much as I loathe to give too much credit to them, every single defensive signing this off-season and year from the Front Office has worked out very well. We could not ask for much more on the return from Ziegler (maybe less cards), especially as a replacement for Walker Zimmerman. Nedyalkov was great while in town and what else can be written about Cannon - dude is a stud and should be donning a national team jersey within the next few years, if not sooner. It’s time for the defense to rediscover their early season form and run off a few clean sheets to end the year.
Key Matchup: Reggie Cannon vs Alphonso Davies
As of the time of this writing, FC Dallas had just posted a video highlighting this very matchup. I don’t like to ride on their coat tails, but that have this one well spotted. Davies is a tricky customer out on the wing and his ability to breakdown his main defender and get into dangerous positions makes him a constant threat. Of course, Reggie is no slouch either and has basically become one of the best full backs in the league before his rookie season has ended. If you remember, Reggie got his first career goal last game against Vancouver. This youth vs youth matchup could very well decide this game - and maybe even a playoff spot.
1. Clean Sheet - If FC Dallas wants to stay in the playoff race and possibly make some noise in the playoffs, they will need to continue working hard to keep opponents off the scoreboard. Last week was the first time Dallas shut out a team not named Minnesota since early June. After a strong start to the season, Dallas needs to put the clamps on opposing teams and start dominating at the back again.
2. Nothing for Granted - With Dallas no longer controlling the 1st seed in the conference, they no longer have the luxury of taking single points or no points from teams they should be beating. Keeping up with SKC will be tough as they have been in much better form lately, but there is also a real chance we slide down the standings too. Dallas must come out guns blazing to not just keep up, but to keep UP from going down.
3. Scoring Again - After scoring seven goals across two games, it was disappointing to see Dallas lay an egg against Columbus. I’m not saying Columbus is a bad team, but they shouldn’t have been able to withstand the attacking power this current team has. Dallas has been playing down to their competition lately *cough* San Jose *cough* and sometimes that mean fewer goal or no goals. They must play above Vancouver and put some shots into the back of the net this week.
Dallas should come away victorious this week for a number of reasons. They have been a better team over the course of the season, having scored more goals (well, just one 47-46) and given up much fewer. They have added quality pieces this season and become a deeper team. Vancouver is coming off a tough loss against Seattle and are right on the edge of losing the season. This is when mentality come in. If Dallas can get ahead, it could well spell the collapse of Vancouver - for the game and season. The Hoops have shown a much stronger mentality this season to avoid collapse and I think that strength finally pays off with a win. For me, I think Dallas wins this game 2-0.