Vancouver Whitecaps vs Real Salt Lake – Saturday, September 9, 7:00 Pacific/10:00 Eastern, BC Place – Vancouver.
The race for the playoffs in the Western Conference of Major League Soccer remains tight. Just six points separate first place Seattle Sounders from seventh placed San Jose Earthquakes. The Vancouver Whitecaps are currently just four points behind Seattle in fourth place and also have two games in hand. Real Salt Lake in the meantime are in eighth place and with 35 points and are just two points behind sixth place FC Dallas, who hold the final playoff spot.
The bizarre scheduling of Major League Soccer, however, means that not all teams have played the same amount of games. Vancouver for example, together with Minnesota United, are just one of two teams, who have played just 25 games. Real Salt Lake in the meantime have already completed 28 games, which means that despite the fact that they are just three points behind Vancouver in the standings have a severe disadvantage as the regular season enters its final stretch.
Scheduling in Major League Soccer has been a mark of concern for some time. It means that with the season entering its final stretch fans will have to bring out a calculator to figure out their playoff hopes. The long distances between MLS cities, of course, are the main reason for this discrepancy in scheduling, but at the same time, MLS should make a bigger effort in ensuring that there will not be a three game difference between two teams going into the final third of the season.
The current setup means that Real Salt Lake are now travelling with their backs towards the wall. With just six games left for the Royals, Salt Lake needs to win this game not to see their playoff aspirations evaporate as other clubs are completing their makeup games. Vancouver in the meantime have a big chance to push for one of the top two spots in the Conference, which would mean a bye in the first round of the playoffs. The second spot is currently held by the Portland Timbers, who are three points ahead of the Whitecaps, but like Real Salt Lake have played three more games.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs Real Salt Lake – Players to look out for:
Fredy Montero #12 – Vancouver Whitecaps
Before the season kicked off, there was a question in Vancouver on whether the Whitecaps were a strikers graveyard. The term was somewhat stolen from the city’s other sports franchise the Vancouver Canucks. For years the Canucks have gone through goalkeepers without having found a suitable player between the sticks labelling the city a goalkeepers graveyard. With several forwards failing at the Whitecaps the term has now been expanded to include forwards playing soccer as well. But Vancouver may have finally found their man in Fredy Montero. The Colombian has scored eleven goals in 25 games this season giving the Whitecaps consistency up front.
Yura Movsisyan #14 – Real Salt Lake
Yura Movsisyan was left out of the starting eleven against Colorado Rapids on matchday 27 of Major League Soccer. The 30-year-old Armenian striker is, however, one of the biggest stars of the side. Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, Movsisyan came to the United States to flee from the persecution of ethnic Armenians inside Azerbaijan. Despite being eligible to play for the United States Movsisyan chose to represent the country of his parents instead. Playing college for the Pasadena Lancers and then for Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting Kansas City) and then Real Salt Lake Movsisyan chose to move to Europe to play for Krasnodar and Spartak Moscow. He returned to Major League Soccer in 2016 when he was first loaned out from Spartak to Real. Real Salt Lake made a move full-time this January.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs Real Salt Lake – Match Stats
- Vancouver Whitecap’s top scorer Fredy Montero has scored eleven goals in 25 games.
- Yura Movsisyan and Joao Plata have each scored seven goals for Real Salt Lake City this season. Plata has also contributed four assists.
- This is the 18 match between the two sides and Vancouver’s record against Real Salt Lake is W7 D4 L6.
- Vancouver’s home record in eight games against Real Salt Lake is W6 D1 L1.
Prediction: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Real Salt Lake 2-0
Vancouver Whitecaps vs Real Salt Lake – Possible Lineups
Marinovic – de Jong, Maund, Waston, Nerwinski – Teibert, Mezquida, Tchani, Davis, Montero, Ibini-Isei
Coach: Carl Robinson
Real Salt Lake
Rimando – Wingert, Glad, Horst, Beltran – Sunny, Rusnak, Mulholland – Plata, Movsisyan – Savarino
Coach: Mike Petke
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.