VANCOUVER, B.C. – A quick look at the standings wouldn’t fill most Whitecaps fans with confidence against the third-placed team in the Western Conference. Vancouver will look for their first win at BC Place on Thursday, as they take on Real Salt Lake (9:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) in what, on paper, is a mismatch.
But there are reasons for optimism.
Although the Whitecaps are struggling as of late with a three-game losing streak, RSL have an identical record over their last three matches.
“[RSL have] been in a tough stretch a bit,” interim head coach Tom Soehn told MLSsoccer.com after training on Wednesday, "so I imagine they’re going to come out looking to impact the game right away and establish their rhythm.
“One thing they’re very good at is their possession game and we’re going to try to find a way to disrupt that.”
Add in the fact RSL will be missing seven players due to suspension, international call-ups and paperwork issues, and things begin to look a bit brighter.
“They’ve got a lot of guys that have been in the league for a long time, so they know how to play together,” captain Jay DeMerit said. “When you have a group that’s been together for many years, normally their cohesiveness is there, but they’re missing a few guys for international duty, so we’re hoping to use that as an advantage.”
Vancouver will also be missing a key cog, as the team’s leading scorer, Eric Hassli, is out of Thursday’s match due to yellow-card accumulation after picking up his eighth caution of the season against the Portland Timbers on Sunday.
“I’m excited to see who they’re going to play,” Shea Salinas said. “I know we’ve got a lot of good forwards who want to come in and work hard and show that they should start, so I think it’ll be good for guys fighting for spots and fighting for their jobs.”
Among the options for Soehn up front are Mustapha Jarju, who’s still looking for his debut goal, rookie Omar Salgado and youngster Long Tan, who has done little wrong with his limited game time to date.
There’s also the possibility Camilo could start in a more advanced role rather than out on the wing.
“What you want to do is get some guys out there who are hungry, because that becomes contagious,” Soehn said. “So we’ll try to get the right blend of talent and work, and have a mentality that we’ll establish ourselves by outworking them.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.