In this week's intelligence report, it's time to get to know a little more about our foes from the great white north, the Vancouver Whitecaps. Here to help us get ready for Saturday night is Mark Dailey, manager of Eighty Six Forever.
Who are three Vancouver Whitecaps players that Orlando City fans should know about?
Mark Dailey: Center attacking midfielder Pedro Morales, who plays the "No. 10" role for the Caps, is the key to Vancouver's attack. Morales' excellent vision and pinpoint passing abilities are his best tools to get the ball to his teammates almost anywhere on the pitch.
Striker Octavio Rivero, who was the Whitecaps' big off-season signing, is proving, at least through two matches anyway, that perhaps Head Coach Carl Robinson has found the answer to Vancouver's well-documented scoring problems. Rivero has two goals in two matches, but his tally could easily be double that number. He is proving to be a threat in front of goal, and Caps fans are hoping that his scoring touch will become more lethal as he adjusts to his new surroundings in MLS.
Center back Kendall Waston, who at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, is the heart of the Caps' back line. He is (obviously) a big physical presence, but sometimes his strength and size work against him, and as a result he has collected quite a few cards in his short time with the club. If the big Costa Rican can use his size and athleticism to his advantage then that will be a problem for OCSC.
What is the team's preferred style of play and formation?
MD: Robinson's preferred formation is a 4-2-3-1, but he will switch to a 4-4-2 diamond if the match isn't working in Vancouver's favor. The Caps have some very, very quick players in Russell Teibert, Erik Hurtado, Kekuta Manneh and Darren Mattocks to name but a few, so the Caps have the speed to cause opponents problems on the counter attack.
Vancouver has a pretty solid midfield and will either work the ball up the middle of the pitch, or out on the flanks where Manneh and Mauro Rosales will fire in the crosses. The Whitecaps have some pretty athletic fullbacks as well, so look for the likes of Steven Beitashour or Sam Adekugbe to play the overlap when the opportunity presents itself.
What have you learned about the Whitecaps through the first two games?
MD: In the first match of the year we saw that even though the Caps came out flying, they just couldn't make the most of their opportunities. Had things gone a little differently the Whitecaps could have easily put the game beyond Toronto's reach in the first half, but in the end they paid dearly for their missed chances and eventually lost the match by a score of 3-1.
The other thing we've learned is that the back line will be a work in progress this year. Jordan Harvey, who has been a lock at left back the past few seasons, was replaced in the starting XI by the young Sam Adekugbe this past weekend. CB Kendall Waston, who quickly established himself after arriving last summer, is Vancouver's number one defender, but the big question is who will play next to him in the middle of the back line. Robinson brought in Pa Modou Kah from Portland this past winter, but the biggest concern amongst the fans is that both Kah and Waston are too similar in terms of their physical style of play. The Caps have other options at the CB position, but those players have little, or no, MLS experience.
How has the team played on the road in years past?
MD: The Whitecaps have struggled on the road since they joined MLS, but they made a big step forward last year, when they started playing better soccer on the road and the results improved. Although they didn't play their absolute best at Chicago this past weekend they still came up on top and won the match.
What are the fans' expectations for the club, both realistic and unrealistic?
MD: The fans' main expectation is for the team to host a home play game this year. This is both a realistic and unrealistic expectation for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is realistic to expect them to make, and host, a playoff game if they perform to the level we know they are capable of. It is also an unrealistic expectation at the same time because with Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo moving to the Western Conference for this season, a tough conference to play in just got a lot tougher.
What do you expect the starting XI to look like on Saturday?
MD: David Ousted (GK), Sam Adekugbe, Pa Modou Kah, Kendall Waston, Steven Beitashour, Russell Teibert, Matias Laba, Kekuta Manneh, Pedro Morales, Erik Hurtado, Octavio Rivero.
Big thanks to Mark for helping us get to know more about our new foes.