This one should be fun.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC (15W-11L-3D) will look to extend their lead atop the MLS standings on Saturday when they host New York City FC (9W-14L-7D) at BC Place.
Match Day: Saturday, September 26
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Venue: BC Place (Sold out!)
Radio: TSN 1410
This will be the first-ever meeting between Vancouver and expansion side NYCFC, whose star-studded roster features David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard.
It’s a big game for both clubs.
The ‘Caps, who have just five matches remaining, are very much in contention to win the MLS Supporters’ Shield, awarded to the top team in the regular season. They could also clinch a playoff spot this weekend if results go their way.
“I think we have a great opportunity to finish in the top two and potentially win the Supporters’ Shield,” said Whitecaps FC defender Jordan Harvey. “The last couple games were disappointing but we need to refocus and understand that we have a lot, a lot to play for.”
So does New York, who are fighting to stay alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race
Whitecaps FC are in the midst of their most successful MLS season to date.
They are currently tied for the top spot in MLS and with a win on Saturday they’d set a new club record in MLS with 51 points.
And they should receive a boost with the return of midfielder Matias Laba, who missed Vancouver’s last two MLS matches due to suspension. Laba could be busy too, considering he’ll be lined up directly opposite of Lampard and/or Pirlo.
On the other hand, the ‘Caps have been a bit “banged up” as of late, as head coach Carl Robinson said after Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League loss to Seattle. Right back Steven Beitashour (left knee sprain), midfielder Pedro Morales (right hamstring strain), and Darren Mattocks (hip contusion) all missed Vancouver’s last two matches. But Robinson said the three players trained on Thursday and looked “sharp” doing so.
It appears NYCFC are rounding into form at the right time.
After dropping three straight matches, Jason Kreis’ side picked up back-to-back wins last week at the hands of Toronto FC and San Jose Earthquakes. All of a sudden, they are now just five points out of a playoff spot with four games to go – not an insurmountable hurdle, but certainly not an easy one either.
Naturally, the three players to watch are Villa, Pirlo, and Lampard, who are among the league’s most recognizable stars. And all three players, who travelled to Vancouver with the team, are expected to play on Saturday.
Villa has made the biggest impact this year, recording a team-leading 16 goals and eight assists. Lampard also scored his first goal in last weekend’s win over San Jose.
“They’re obviously major players, but once you step on that field our guys are here to win,” Harvey said. “We know we need three points and the full focus is going to be on that. Pirlo, Lampard, Villa, those are guys that you’ve watched growing up. It will be exciting but at the end of the day man, I want to win bad.”
On the defensive side of things, NYCFC will be without left back Chris Wingert this weekend due to caution accumulation.
No team has conceded fewer goals than Whitecaps FC (31) this season. On the other hand, NYCFC has the second worst defensive record with 50 goals conceded.
Whitecaps FC captain Pedro Morales and NYCFC star David Villa both scored in Barcelona’s 4-1 win over Malaga on June 1, 2013.