VANCOUVER, B.C. – When the Vancouver Whitecaps line up against Chivas USA this weekend, they’ll be facing Major League Soccer’s top scoring club – and also its most foul-prone.
While much of the focus has surrounded the free flowing nature of the Goats attack under new coach José Luis “El Chelís” Sánchez Solá, the team has also been responsible for slowing games to a crawl with excessive fouling.
Chivas USA have 76 fouls to their name in four games – 11 clear of second-place New York Red Bulls – but Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie has confidence the officials won’t let things get out of hand on Saturday at the Home Depot Center (10:30 pm ET; MLS Live)
“I trust the referee will protect us,” Rennie said after a training session on Thursday at the University of British Columbia. “MLS are really big on avoiding violent tackling and violent play and I think the referees all know that, so any bad tackles tend to get punished and tend to get red cards. If there’s bad tackles I’m sure that’ll be the case.”
Erik Hurtado, who made his first competitive start last weekend against the Houston Dynamo, seemed unconcerned when asked about the physical style Chivas USA have adopted.
“We have a pretty tough team,” the 22-year-old rookie said. “We’ve got [Gershon Koffie], we’ve got Darren [Mattocks], we’ve got me. Pretty strong players. It’s hard to foul someone who’s not going to fall down.
“If that happens – they start hitting us – and the ref sees we don’t fall down, and then we do fall down, then that’s cards for them right away. We just got to play the system.”
The head referee assigned to the match is Ismail Elfath, who has officiated nine MLS games in his career and averaged 23.9 fouls called per game.
Miller set for substitute role
Designated Player Kenny Miller will likely come off the bench on Saturday after representing Scotland in World Cup qualifiers against Wales and Serbia. The wide attacking player struggled when asked to play from the start in 2012 following international duty and Rennie suggested this week that the transatlantic flight will factor into his decision.
“Last season when he came back from international games, we did start him sometimes and I think it was difficult to start him,” Rennie said. “But … he should be able to come off the bench.”
The 33-year-old Miller will join up with the squad for training in Los Angeles on Friday.