VANCOUVER, B.C. — The Vancouver Whitecaps take on the slumping San Jose Earthquakes Wednesday night (10:30 pm ET; watch LIVE online) as they continue their quest for their first road victory in MLS.
This time though, there are a few things for an optimist to point toward that give the ‘Caps a real shot.
Mustapha Jarju, the club’s second Designated Player, looked sharp against Manchester City on Monday in his debut in front of the Empire Field faithful. It was the first time many of his teammates had seen him on a full-sized pitch and his off-the-ball running and intelligence was evident.
The Gambian’s long strides covered a lot of ground and his attributes weren’t fully appreciated in the shortened-pitch practice scenarios head coach Tom Soehn put his team through last week ahead of the anticipated three-games-in-five-days schedule.
The short road trip will also be an advantage. Compared to some of this club’s farthest forays east, the brief flight down to San Jose is hardly worth consideration as a major factor. The Earthquakes are having a tough time scoring goals as well, having been shut out in five of their last six MLS encounters.
As for Monday’s World Football Challenge match with Manchester City, it was a pleasant distraction for a team in the doldrums of the MLS standings. The game shifted the focus away from the team's struggles in league play and the Whitecaps starting lineup showed very well against the Citizens in the first half, securing a 1-0 lead before the second-string took the field for the final 45 and conceded twice en route to a 2-1 defeat.
As it happened, with the Real Salt Lake game being postponed due to heavy rainfall, that very tough schedule turned out to be a whole lot lighter.
“We were planning on that Real Salt Lake game happening, too, so three games in a row would have been pretty tough,” midfielder Jeb Brovsky told MLSsoccer.com at training on Tuesday. “I think the guys’ legs are pretty fresh. [The temporary grass at Empire Field] felt like you were running in quicksand a bit, but I think we’ll be flying 100 percent in San Jose.”
San Jose’s recent goal-scoring woes are cause for optimism, but their ability to maintain possession and dictate play is cause for concern.
“Last time we played them, they played with three guys in the midfield. [Simon] Dawkins, Brad Ring, and [Sam] Cronin — they can really keep the ball,” Brovsky explained. “What we really need to focus on is getting the ball past ['keeper Jon] Busch. But with Jarju here, [Eric] Hassli [and the rest of our attackers], we have a good shot to put in some goals.”