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Wileman: Whitecaps face Quakes in 40th anniversary celebration

Luke Wileman
5/2/2014 11:39:51 AM
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Almost 40 years to the day since playing their first ever match against San Jose Earthquakes, the Vancouver Whitecaps will face the Quakes once again on Saturday, as the club celebrates its 40th anniversary.

But amidst the celebrations, it's important the Whitecaps return to winning ways in Major League Soccer against an Earthquakes team that is below them in the Western Conference standings.

The Form:

It's now four matches without a victory for the Whitecaps who are yet to win against a Western Conference opponent this season, but they have tied their last two games against two of the top teams in Major League Soccer.

In Utah last Saturday, the Whitecaps started terribly, going two goals down inside the first nine minutes against Real Salt Lake, but the second half was much improved, and a late comeback ensured the Whitecaps left Rio Tinto Stadium with a point.

The Big Question:

Will either of the Uruguayan's be given the chance to start? Nicolas Mezquida and Sebastian Fernandez made an impact coming off the bench at Real Salt Lake a week ago, both scoring a goal, including a fantastic strike from Fernandez in the final minute of stoppage time to tie the match.

Prior to the game, Carl Robinson said last week that the Uruguayan duo had been performing very well in training and wear very close to getting a start in the team. Mezquida has appeared in four matches this season, all as a substitute, while Fernandez started the season but then was left on the bench after a couple of less effective performances. With a Canadian Championship semifinal against Toronto FC coming up on Wednesday, it's likely Mezquida and Fernandez will start at least one of the two games.

"Everyone will get their chance," said Robinson after training on Thursday. "As a player, all you want is the chance to play and show what you can do, and most of the players will get that chance."

The Lineup:

Chilean midfielder Pedro Morales missed the trip to Real Salt. Lake to try and heal a back problem that has plagued him in the opening weeks of the season, but if he has fully recovered, he is likely to return to the Whitecaps lineup.

Once again, there is a big decision for Carl Robinson in the centre of defence. Last week, Jay DeMerit stayed at home as Honduran international Johnny Leveron partnered Andy O'Brien at the back. Robinson must decide whether to stick with that pairing and bring some consistency to the back line, or bring DeMerit back into the eleven.

Nigel Reo-Coker played the first three matches of the season but hasn't played since due to injury, coach's decision and most recently illness. It's doubtful that Reo-Coker will be considered for the starting lineup but he could return on the bench.

The Opposition:

San Jose Earthquakes started the season with a five match winless run, but that came to an end last weekend when they won 1-0 at home to Chivas USA. The Quakes are yet to win away from home this season, losing 1-0 at Kansas City and tying 0-0 at Colorado.

Yannick Djalo scored the only goal of the game against Chivas. The 27-year-old from Portugal is still adapting in his first few weeks in Major League Soccer as he gets fully fit, but he is a quality addition for the Quakes this season, joining on loan from Benfica.

2012 MLS MVP Chris Wondolowski has scored three goals in six matches so far this season as he looks to win a place in Jurgen Klinsmann's United States squad for this summer's World Cup in Brazil. The 31-year-old has an excellent goal scoring record against the Whitecaps.

On a day where there will be plenty of focus on the soccer history of Vancouver, it is fitting that there is a heavy Vancouver presence amongst the Earthquakes coaching staff. Head Coach Mark Watson played for Whitecaps in 1994 and 2005 while assistant coach Nick Dasovic previously played for the 86ers and was a player coach with 'Caps from 2002 to 2005. Both men are from Vancouver.

The Odds:

The Earthquakes are yet to win in Vancouver against the Whitecaps in Major League Soccer and the 'Caps must be favourites heading in. Carl Robinson's team are four points ahead of the 'Quakes in the standings but have played two games more. The Whitecaps continue to develop under Robinson, but they must start to put together 90 minute performances if they are to get back to winning ways.

Where To Watch:

Whitecaps against San Jose is live on TSN2 on Saturday. We're on air with a special Whitecaps 40th anniversary pre-match show at 6:30pm et/3:30pm pt.

Luke Wileman

Luke Wileman


Luke Wileman is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca.

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