A first ever Major League Soccer away win?
You won’t hear anyone in the Vancouver Whitecaps camp promising anything just yet, but there’s a pretty good chance the club could accomplish just that against Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center on Saturday (airing live on Sportsnet Pactific and West at 7:30 pm PT/8:30 pm MT).
There’s nothing but positivity right now in Vancouver, as the team is confident following a solid — if nervy at times — opening day win against the Montreal Impact.
In contrast, Chivas USA come off an uninspiring opening day 1-0 defeat to the Houston Dynamo. Yes, the Dynamo were finalists in the 2011 MLS Cup, and have players of significant quality such as Brad Davis and Brian Ching, but Chivas really looked poor throughout.
The Goats allowed an incredible nine shots on target against, and it was only the heroics of goalkeeper Dan Kennedy that kept them in the game until Canadian defender Andre Hainault’s stoppage-time game winner.
Vancouver’s goalkeeper Joe Cannon meanwhile, had hardly anything to do against Montreal.
But perhaps the most telling sign of how vulnerable Chivas are at the moment was the club’s inability to hold the ball in midfield on Saturday. They were out-possessed by the visitors, only controlling the ball 46.7 per cent of the time.
That Chivas midfield, by the way, also had Peter Vagenas — a player Vancouver will be familiar with from last campaign. While Vagenas is one of the league’s best-ever captains, having led the LA Galaxy to a double in 2005, at age 34 his best days are probably behind him, at least on the evidence of his play with the Whitecaps last season.
While “Pasadena Pete,” as he’s affectionately known, proved to be a good mentor for the likes of Gershon Koffie, there were times in 2011 when he looked a bit overrun by fitter, faster, and yes, younger, opponents.
Up front is the one area, strangely enough, where Chivas might have the advantage — not in terms of quantity, as Vancouver has far more attacking options. But in terms of quality.
Juan Pablo Angel has returned to form, scoring an incredible seven goals in 10 matches following a move to Chivas USA last season after the LA Galaxy dumped him to make room for Robbie Keane.
Keeping Angel quiet won’t be easy, but if Vancouver achieve that, it’s hard to imagine Chivas shutting down the dynamic attacking group of Sebastien Le Toux, Camilo, Eric Hassli and Davide Chiumiento.
Can the 2012 Whitecaps do at the first time of asking what the 2011 edition failed to do over a full season?
We’ll find out this Saturday, but I wouldn’t bet against it.
Martin MacMahon is a Vancouver-based writer who covers the Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com. Follow Martin on Twitter