Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Philadelphia Union | 2017 MLS Match Preview
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Philadelphia Union
2017 MLS Regular Season
BC Place – Vancouver, Canada
Sunday, March 5 – 9:30 pm ET
WATCH: TSN 1/4/5 in Canada | MLS LIVE in the US
The final match of Week 1 of the 2017 season features a pair of teams looking to improve upon their 2016 seasons, with the Philadelphia Union aiming to boost their stock following their sixth-place finish in the East while the Whitecaps will hope to rebound from a disappointing campaign that saw them finish eighth out West.
Vancouver made significant changes to their attack this winter, signing Fredy Montero and Yordy Reyna to Designated Player contracts while giving added responsibility to youngsters Kekuta Manneh and Alphonso Davies. Philadelphia’s offseason transactions weren’t quite as noteworthy, though they did add a pair of potentially important pieces in Haris Medunjanin and Jay Simpson.
The Whitecaps lead the all-time series between the two clubs, posting a 3-2-2 regular season record against the Union. Vancouver won their lone meeting last year, getting goals from Manneh, Andrew Jacobson and Christian Bolaños to defeat Philadelphia 3-2 at Talent Energy Stadium on June 25.
VAN-PHI All-Time MLS Meetings (7 meetings since March 26, 2011)
- At Vancouver (3 meetings): Vancouver lead 2-1-0 (4-1 in goals)
- At Philadelphia (4 meetings): Tied 1-1-2 (6-6 in goals)
Referee: Alan Kelly
Assistant Referees: Adam Wienckowski (bench side), Jason White (far side)
Fourth Official: Dave Gantar
The ‘Caps did some serious re-tooling following their disappointing 2016 campaign, cutting ties with Designated Player Pedro Morales and forwards Giles Barnes, Masato Kudo and Blas Perez and bringing in Fredy Montero and Yordy Reyna (who will be out until summer after recently undergoing foot surgery) up top. Head coach Carl Robinson is back for his fourth year in charge, and he’ll have some difficult choices to make, particularly on the wing, where the 16-year-old Davies and new acquisition Brek Shea will push for serious minutes.
Regardless of whom he uses, Robinson's outfit will have a couple of competitive matches under their belt on Sunday, with the club entering the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against New York on Thursday tied at 1-1.
- Suspended: none
- Int’l duty: none
- Injury report: Christian Bolanos (knee injury), Nicolas Mezquida (hip injury), Yordy Reyna (foot surgery), David Edgar (right knee injury)
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1): David Ousted; Jordan Harvey, Tim Parker, Christian Dean, Jakob Nerwinski; Russell Teibert, Matias Laba; Cristian Techera, Kekuta Manneh, Alphonso Davies; Fredy Montero
Notes: The Whitecaps only won six home games last year, tied with their inaugural MLS season in 2011 for a franchise-low. … In 1,186 minutes with Kekuta Manneh on the field last year, Vancouver averaged 1.7 goals scored per 90. In the 2,072 minutes when he was missing, that number fell down to 1.0 goals scored per 90.
The Union didn’t make too much noise this winter, mostly standing pat with the group that qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s sixth-seed. Influential midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta did depart, but the club will have US international Alejandro Bedoya for the entire season, somewhat mitigating Barnetta’s exit.
Their biggest offseason addition was probably Medunjanin, who should slot in nicely behind Bedoya and Roland Alberg in the central midfield. They’re dealing with some injuries at the back to start the season, with Joshua Yaro out for the first part of the year and veteran US international Oguchi Onyewu a candidate to begin the year as a starter after signing in the offseason.
- Suspended: none
- Int’l duty: Auston Trusty (US Under-20s), Derrick Jones (US Under-20s)
- Injury report: Joshua Yaro (shoulder surgery)
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1): Andre Blake; Gregorio Wijnaldum, Oguchi Onyewu, Richie Marquez, Keegan Rosenberry; Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya; Chris Pontius, Roland Alberg, Fabian Herbers; Jay Simpson
Notes: The Union only won three road games in 2016, the fourth time in their seven MLS seasons they have won less than four away games. The Union conceded 32 goals from inside the box in their MLS away matches last year, the most of any MLS team. … Chris Pontius scored 12 goals last year, just the sixth time in franchise history a player has scored in double digit goals for the Union in a single season. After one season in Philadelphia, Pontius is already tied for the fifth leading scorer in franchise MLS history.