VANCOUVER – One can make an argument that this week could go down as one of the most important in Vancouver Whitecaps history since the club entered Major League Soccer seven years ago.
The news is all-but-official that Alphonso Davies has been sold to European powerhouse Bayern Munich, with the deal expected to be announced on Wednesday. At the same time, the Whitecaps are attempting to keep its Canadian Championship hopes alive when they host the Montreal Impact in the second leg of the semifinals on Wednesday night. The club will then look to avoid slipping out of the MLS playoff picture when they entertain Minnesota United FC on Saturday.
If all these elements can prove positive for the Whitecaps, it would give their fan base plenty to be excited about heading into a difficult August. If they don’t have success on the field, it is sure to make for a nasty next few months, no matter how positive the news is surrounding a record-breaking transfer for Davies.
“Sometimes football brings difficult moments,” Vancouver captain Kendall Waston said following Tuesday’s training session. “This is the stage when everybody has to step up. This game [against Montreal] is going to be huge for us because getting in the final will be very important.”
Waston is one of a number of veteran players that coach Carl Robinson is expecting to have in the starting lineup at BC Place in this do-or-die match. Vancouver has just one win over the last six matches across all competitions. Robinson knows what a victory over the Impact could do for the mental strength of his club.
“I will put most of my main players out there,” Robinson said. “I don’t worry about Saturday’s game. This is the big focus for us.”
The likes of Russell Teibert, Marcel De Jong and Doniel Henry should fill Vancouver’s quota of three Canadian-born players to start Wednesday’s match. Waston and Christian Techera (both members of the Vancouver squad that won the Canadian Championship in 2015), are also expected to start. Same goes for striker Kei Kamara, who currently leads Vancouver with eight MLS goals this season.
“We’re home now and we have to turn it around,” Kamara said. “We’re one goal down. We know we can score goals at home, but at the same time we have to defend, too.”
Even in a game where they must score to have a chance to play either Toronto FC or Ottawa Fury in the final, Vancouver will have to be much better defensively than what they’ve been in recent weeks. In addition to a 1-0 loss in Montreal last Wednesday in the first leg, the Whitecaps have conceded a whopping 42 goals in 2018, the most of any team in the Western Conference.
Coming off a 2-2 road draw Saturday against the Portland Timbers in MLS, the Impact arrive in Vancouver having found their stride, taking points in seven of their last eight matches. Ignacio Piatti leads the Impact with 10 goals and nine assists in regular season action.
“They’re a good team in good form,” Robinson said of Montreal. “But we’re at home and we’re going out expecting to try and win this tie. It’s as pretty simple as that.”
Wednesday marks the 16th all-time head-to-head meeting between Vancouver and Montreal in Canadian Championship play. The Caps are 5-4-6 over that span, including 2-2-3 in Vancouver.
Last year, Montreal took won the semifinal series 5-4 aggregate. Davies, who is not expected to play on Wednesday, led Vancouver with two goals and an assist in the series. Piatti scored two penalty kicks in the clinching victory for the Impact.