The Portland Timbers open their 2015 Cascadia Cup campaign on Saturday evening in their visit to the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Whitecaps are coming off a perfect two-game road trip in which they earned wins at Chicago and Orlando, but will be missing several key pieces to injury, suspension, and international duty against the Timbers.
Stumptown Footy reached out to Jon Szekeres of our Vancouver sister site, Eighty-Six Forever, to provide a glimpse at the Whitecaps heading into Saturday’s game. In addition, Stumptown Footy returned the favor by answering a few questions over at Eighty-Six Forever.
SF: With Kekuta Manneh suspended against the Timbers, will the Whitecaps look to exploit the wings against the Timbers in the same way they have in their previous three games?
JS: The loss of Kekuta Manneh hurts for sure, but at the same time, Manneh had his worst outing of the season against Orlando FC, and was probably due for a benching anyways. In terms of the 'Caps playing style, it might not change that much considering they've brought in the veteran Robert Earnshaw for the rest of the season. Earnshaw can play the wing and is much better at set pieces than Kekuta Manneh, so he may just slide in the kids' spot. The lineup will surely look different as a whole, with the 'Caps dealing with a few suspensions, injuries and call-ups. Besides Manneh, Diego Rodriguez has been banned for two matches for a nut grab on Auerelin Collin, while defender Sam Adekugbe and midfielder Mauro Rosales are both sitting with injury. Finally, defensive midfielder Russell Teibert has been called up to the Canadian Men's National Squad.
SF: Although Vancouver has created plenty of chances thus far in 2015, they've struggled at times to finish them. Is this a serious concern or do you think it's more likely a simple case of early-season finishing yips?
JS: I don't think we can call it a 'serious' concern quite yet, just because it's so early in the season. That being said, the Vancouver Whitecaps currently have one consistent scoring option; Octavio Rivero. That's it, and that's a problem. The Whitecaps scoring woes were well documented last season, and the cast of characters for 2015 hasn't really changed much. Rivero has been a revelation, but Kekuta Manneh, Darren Mattocks, and Erik Hurtado have all been stymied to start the season, the opposite of what you would hope to see from young players battling for playing time. Earnshaw may help that problem, but as of right now, the Whitecaps basically have no legitimate secondary scoring option. Even Pedro Morales, the reigning MLS newcomer of the Year has looked off to start the season. In short, thank God for Octavio Rivero.
SF: Although he's picked up a knock that looks likely to keep him out against the Timbers, Sam Adekugbe appears to at least be getting a real look at left back. Has he won the job over Jordan Harvey?
JS: He’s only had one start in 2015 to show his stuff, but it would not surprise me to see Adekugbe take the job and run with it once he returns from injury. He's younger (20 yrs old), can move the ball up the pitch and showed his defensive responsibility in that start, leading Head Coach Carl Robinson to rave about him. He has the trust of the coach, but he'll have to continue that stellar play for the rest of the season. As for Harvey, he now checks in as a great depth option, or perhaps even some trade bait if Adekugbe continues to shine.