I’m not going to say the #BieberCurse is a thing but...it might be a thing. Orlando City hasn’t won a game or scored a goal since Kaká met the Biebs, plus the team has lost Adrian Winter, and sustained injuries to the aforementioned Lions captain, Tommy Redding, and Harrison Heath.
With that as the backdrop, and with Carlos Rivas having visa issues in his sophomore season that are keeping him out of Canada, and Brek Shea’s possible yellow card suspension (come on, fess up, MLS), the stars certainly don’t seem aligned properly for an Orlando City victory tonight. However, they still have to play the game and literally anything can happen. For example, a bear could run onto the field and eat all 11 of Vancouver’s players. That’s a thing that could totally happen and if it does, the Whitecaps will have to forfeit. So, that’s out there in the universe now and we’ll have to watch for it.
Of course, with the #BieberCurse out there, the more likely players to be eaten will be the ones with purple on their uniforms, but...I digress.
Here to help us learn more about tonight’s opponents from a very nice part of Canada (I’m told — I literally have zero travel budget) is Jon Szekeres from SB Nation’s Vancouver blog Eighty Six Forever. Jon was nice enough to answer our queries about the Whitecaps and we reciprocated by answering his questions as well, which you can check out over there.
Who are the Whitecaps’ key additions and subtractions since we last met that we should know about and how have they affected the team and approach so far in 2016?
Jon Szekeres: Perhaps the most notable is Octavio Rivero. He was the striker that scored in stoppage time to give the Whitecaps the 1-0 lead the last time Orlando and Vancouver met. Despite that goal, Rivero never established himself as a consistent scorer, and the team sold him to Colo Colo in Chile recently. The Whitecaps also welcome two new players in the past week, adding Canadian national defenders Marcel De Jong and David Edgar. De Jong has already made a substitute appearance for Vancouver. Other than that, Christian Bolanos in the midfield and Masato Kudo up top were both major additions in the off-season.
The Caps are tied for the most goals scored in the West but also has shipped the most goals in the conference. With no problem at keeper that would suggest issues with the back line. Why has Vancouver leaked so many goals this season and should that be reason for hope in Orlando, with the Lions coming off three straight shutouts?
JS: It's been an issue of discipline, and some new players adjusting, I believe. The Whitecaps let Steven Beitashour go in the off-season and replaced him with the young Fraiser Aird. Aird started off slowly, but was really starting to establish himself before a recent injury. Kendall Waston has been mediocre this season and is a card machine, as is Pa Modou Kah when he gets into the lineup. Jordan Harvey and Tim Parker have been solid, but given the struggles of the other members of the back line, any mistake they make is going to be amplified. With the aforementioned reinforcements on the way, I think Vancouver should be better moving forward.
What kind of formation and tactics can we expect from Vancouver and what do you view as the game's key match-up?
JS: The Whitecaps are playing their third match in the span of a week, so I'm not sure if Head Coach Carl Robinson might give his boys some rest, or power forward with the playoffs not very far away. If he stays with his regular 11, you'll likely see a 4-3-2-1, with Kudo or Erik Hurtado as the striker. As for a key match-up, it will be whomever is assigned to Pedro Morales, as he is the engine of the Whitecaps attack when he's in the lineup.
Can you please give us your key injuries/suspensions, projected starting XI and score prediction?
JS: Injuries/Suspensions: Frasier Aird, Christian Dean and I believe Kekuta manneh will not play.
Prediction: 1-0 for the home side.
Lineup: David Ousted: Jordan Harvey, Tim Parker, Kendall Waston, Jordan Smith; Matias Laba, Christian Bolanos; Cristian Techera, Nicolas Mezquida, Pedro Morales; Erik Hurtado.
* * *
Big thanks to Jon from Eighty Six Forever for giving us some insight on tonight's opponents from the Great White North.