VANCOUVER, B.C. — Alain Rochat and Jay DeMerit, both fit and playing together in the center of the Vancouver defense?
The fact they haven’t done that yet — 25 games into a 34-game schedule — is a big reason why the Whitecaps have conceded 42 goals this season, only six less than Major League Soccer’s most porous defense in Toronto.
The pair has seemingly taken turns getting injured throughout the year, but now it looks as if they’ll team up in the center for the first time this season as the Whitecaps host Houston on Saturday (7 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
“It’s our most experienced pairing, and something we haven’t had the chance to put together at all,” head coach Tom Soehn said after training this week. “So, I think for us it’ll be a good learning experience for the guys around them. The chance that they might play together is obviously going to be beneficial for us as a group.”
The team will have to do without attacker Camilo Sanvezzo, however, as the Brazilian is suspended for this match due to yellow-card accumulation. He scored Vancouver’s lone goal against the Dynamo in a 3-1 loss on April 10 in Houston.
“It’s an adjustment, but someone else will get an opportunity in there,” Soehn said. “Guys are hungry to get that opportunity.”
While the Dynamo haven’t managed to get maximum points from any of their MLS opponents on the road this year, they have picked up eight draws. Most impressively, Houston scrounged a point from clashes with New York, Real Salt Lake and Seattle — all teams that have dominated at home.
The visitors also come into this match with a five-game unbeaten run as they aim to top the Eastern Conference regular-season standings. Houston currently sit five points behind East leaders Columbus, who have 40 points on the season.
The name “Brad Davis” was clearly audible at Whitecaps practice on more than one occasion on Friday, as the left winger has been a big reason for Houston’s recent climb. The 29-year-old has been in flying form this season, with a league-leading 13 assists to his name, and it’s no wonder the ‘Caps have made shutting him down a priority.
“I think it’s two counts with [Davis],” Soehn said. “You need to limit service, and you have to make sure you don’t give away unnecessary balls around the box for him to serve in.”
Making sure Davis doesn’t get those good looks is one place where the veteran savvy of Rochat and DeMerit will be especially valuable.
“Brad’s got fantastic delivery from set pieces and they have big bodies up front,” DeMerit said. “It’s going to be another physical battle like it was [last Saturday at Portland]. So, we need to be more prepared for that and be willing to battle and compete.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon