One of the two 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round match-ups in the Western Conference will pit the Vancouver Whitecaps against the San Jose Earthquakes. This has been a tight match in both meetings during the regular season, something that is sure to continue in the playoffs.
2017 MLS Cup Playoffs Knockout Round Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps vs San Jose Earthquakes
Meetings in the 2017 Regular Season
The ‘Caps and ‘Quakes met two times during the regular season. The first meeting came all the way back in March in San Jose. While the Whitecaps started out hot, a red card to goalkeeper David Ousted proved crucial in the 3-2 defeat.
While this was a difficult result to accept, this was a much different looking squad for Vancouver than what they showed in the second meeting of the season.
The second, and final, meeting of the regular season for the two saw the two sides play out to a 1-1 draw. This was the first step in the wrong direction for the ‘Caps that saw them lose out on first place in the Western Conference.
Yordy Reyna scored the first goal of the game in the 29th minute, and San Jose’s Valeri Qazaishvili scored late in the match to draw the Earthquakes even. Probably a fair result for both clubs on the day.
Two Clubs in Different Form
The Whitecaps are in much different form than the Earthquakes. They will come into the playoffs having lost three of their last five, and drawing one of the other two. While this is worrying for some, the squad being fully healthy should quell any worries quickly.
San Jose won two of their last three matches of the season, seemingly hitting their stride at the perfect time of the season. They started with a 2-1 win over first seed Portland Timbers, drew in Vancouver, and then finished it off with a 3-2 win against Minnesota United.
While these two forms might favor San Jose, anything can happen in the playoffs. This will surely be a tightly-contested match.
Players to Watch
For Vancouver, the obvious names to watch are up front. Reyna and Fredy Montero look to be building a chemistry and trust in one another that provides optimism in attack. Aside from up front, keep an eye on whoever is in net as they’ll be looking to win and secure their spot in between the posts for even longer.
As for the Earthquakes, the same could be said about their attack. As always, Chris Wondolowski broke the double-digit mark for goals on the season, bagging 13 to go along with his eight assists. He had 79 shots on the season, giving him a respectable 16.5% conversion rate.
On the back end for Vancouver they will be relying on the defensive duo of Kendall Waston and Tim Parker to keep the aforementioned Wondolowski & company. from getting shots off. In front of them will very likely be tenacious central midfielder Aly Ghazal, who has proven to be a smart signing by Carl Robinson.
The Earthquakes players to watch outside of Wondolowski would be Homegrown player Nick Lima. David Bingham will be hoping to finish the season strong in goal. And the last would be Anibal Godoy, who the ‘Quakes will be hoping won’t end up in the referees book, as he so often has this season with his ten yellow cards and one red card.
It’s hard to make a definitive argument for either side heading into this match. San Jose is a good team in solid form right now. But the Whitecaps, if performing to their peak, are a team to be feared.
While it will certainly be a tight game for the entirety, the quality in the Vancouver squad will be difficult to deal with. With two goalies worthy of being starters, a solid back line, midfielders like Ghazal, Tony Tchani, Nosa Igiebor and more, and Reyna, Montero, and Cristian Techera leading the attack, Vancouver should edge this one out.
Prediction: 2-1 win to the Vancouver Whitecaps