It’s the end of the week which means it’s once again time for me to bring you the lowdown on Orlando City SC’s next opponent. After a tough loss to Real Salt Lake last week, the Lions will be returning home and looking to get things back on track with a second home win in a row.
With match day eight’s opponents being the Vancouver Whitecaps I found myself blending in with the crowd on a whale-watching tour up in the Great White North in order to speak with Caleb Wilkins from SB Nation’s Eighty Six Forever. He was kind enough to bring me up to speed on this year’s Whitecaps team. I also answered some of his questions, which you can find over on their site.
A point of interest for many Orlando fans this week will be the return of Scott Sutter and PC to Orlando City Stadium for the first time since their exits from the Lions. How have the two settled in Vancouver so far?
Caleb Wilkins: Scott Sutter has been a good squad player. He’s challenged incumbent right back Jake Nerwinski and even started a few games. How you interpret PC’s season so far is a matter of perspective. He was described to me by several Orlando fans as the worst player in MLS. So from an over-performing expectations standpoint he’s been spectacular. From a relative perspective he’s been a useful player who can do a workmanlike job at a few positions. PC has also been involved on two of our six goals so that’s pretty good.
Two big Vancouver signings this off-season were Fredy Montero, returning for a second stint with the Whitecaps, and the acquisition of Inbeom Hwang. While Montero is a more familiar face to most MLS fans, I’d like to know a little about Hwang — one of a very small number of Asian players plying their trade in MLS. What do you make of him so far?
CW: Hwang, to put it simply, is a very good player. He’s a very technically gifted player and a pretty good playmaker. He leads the team in key passes and has generally been the Caps’ best attacking player so far. Marc Dos Santos has experimented with him as a sort of false winger position where he cuts inside and operates as more of a No. 10 but for the most part he’s been best as a No. 8 who shuttles the ball from defense to attack. Also the Whitecaps were only able to sign him because he won a gold medal at the Asian games and thus won exemption from Korean national service, which is a pretty cool story.
What would you say is the strength of this year’s Whitecaps team? Is there a certain tactic or area of the field where Vancouver has had a lot of success so far?
CW: A good question. The team has struggled for cohesion so it’s hard to pinpoint a strength, per se. They’ve been pretty good at limiting the opposition to shots from bad angles and from distance (so long as they aren’t giving away comical penalties after lengthy VAR sessions, which PRO is then forced to apologize for the following day). The struggle has been doing something in the attacking third once they get the ball (seriously, have a look at some Whitecaps heat maps. they die at the other team’s defensive third).
Are there any suspensions or injuries that will keep players unavailable for selection on Saturday and what is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
CW: Not particularly. Jasser Khmiri a rising star of Tunisian football, is out with a meniscus injury but he hasn’t played yet so we don’t really know how much of a blow that is. Nobody who would be expected to start should be unavailable. (No projected lineup or score prediction provided).
Thanks again to Caleb for answering those questions about the Whitecaps.