Vancouver’s walking wounded head to Chicago

BRIDGEVIEW, IL - JULY 14: Young-Pyo Lee
BRIDGEVIEW, IL - JULY 14: Young-Pyo Lee /

After two draws in a row, Vancouver Whitecaps FC head to Chicago to face the in-form Fire on Canada Day.

Last weekend, Vancouver Whitecaps FC surrendered a 2-0 halftime lead to draw 2-2 with Minnesota United. Despite having only 27% of the possession, the Whitecaps will be disappointed to have dropped points against a Western Conference rival after leading for so long.

But now, coach Carl Robinson has to set his sights on high flying Chicago Fire. After an offseason squad revamp, the Fire have the second best record in MLS. Facing them is a terrifying proposition for Vancouver’s depleted team.

Here are some key points to consider, looking forward to the contest in Chicago.

Techera key for the offence

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Cristian Techera has been one of this year’s brightest spots for a struggling Whitecaps offence. Last Saturday, he scored the opening goal from the penalty spot and assisted Tony Tchani for the second goal. The week before against Dallas, Techera rescued a point for the Caps with a spectacular free kick goal.

Most of the Whitecaps’ chances in recent matches have come from set plays. As the only dead ball specialist in the team, in Christian Bolaños’ absence, Techera will have to be at his best for Vancouver to take anything from this weekend’s match.

Jacobson key in defence

With Kendall Waston and Christian Dean both injured, Andrew Jacobson has been pressed into service as Tim Parker’s partner in central defence. AJ, the most versatile player in the Whitecaps squad, has done well, and will almost certainly play against Chicago.

It’s clear where Cole Seiler sits in the depth charts after his Canadian Championship performances. If Jacobson, a midfielder, was picked at centre back against Minnesota and Dallas instead of Seiler, for whom its his actual position, there’s no way Robinson won’t make the same choice this weekend.

Help for Fredy

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Fredy Montero has had his ups and downs since joining the Whitecaps in the offseason. However, it’s been clear that the Colombian forward is not at his best when deployed as a lone striker.
Last weekend, Montero looked more comfortable as he was played in a two-man forward line with a tall partner in Brek Shea. Robinson will have to keep tinkering to find the best formation for the players he has available. But with Christian Bolaños and Nicolás Mezquida injured and both Alphonso Davies and Russell Teibert away with the Canadian national team, Shea will likely be back on the left-wing against Chicago.

That leaves an unclaimed spot in midfield beside Tony Tchani, and a team seriously lacking in midfield creativity. It may be time for Bernie Ibini to show what he can do, after a couple of cameo appearances.

One option may be to go back to the old standby of 4-2-3-1, with Ibini or Shea up front, Tchani partnering Laba, and Montero dropping back into the #10 role. Another option is a 4-4-2 with Ibini and Montero together up front.

Waiting in the wings, too, is Yordy Reyna. Injured in preseason, the Peruvian is set to be on the bench on Saturday and could make his first appearance for the Whitecaps.

How to Watch:

Where: Toyota Park, Chicago

When: Saturday, July 1st, 4 pm PT (7 pm ET)

Channel: MLS LIVE, TSN1 (Canada Only)

Next: MLS Multiplex Podcast: Episode 8

Robinson has some tough choices to make for what will be a very tough challenge for Vancouver. But there may be room for optimism. The Fire just had a draining midweek loss on penalties to FC Cincinnati in the US Open Cup. The worst of the injury crisis should be clearing up over the next few weeks. And even with injuries, the Whitecaps are still hanging on close to the playoff places.