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Match Preview: Philadelphia Union vs Vancouver Whitecaps

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The Union open up their season in Cascadia country against a side not looking to be left behind by their rivals in 2017.

Philadelphia Union's 2017 Away kits
Philadelphia Union's 2017 Away kits
Philadelphia Union Communications

Game: Philadelphia Union vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Time: 9:30 PM Eastern, 8:30 PM Central, 6:30 PM Pacific, 2:30 AM UTC

Venue: BC Place (Vancouver, B.C.)

Television: United States - The Comcast Network (Philadelphia); Canada - TSN1, TSN4, TSN5

Streaming: TSN GO, MLS Live (Subscription only)

Referees: REF: ALAN KELLY AR1: Adam Wienckowski AR2: Jason White 4TH: Dave Gantar

All-Time Record: 2-3-2, -3 GD

What Vancouver will look like:

The Vancouver Whitecaps have a slightly new look to them and are already in somewhat further approaching match form having played in two CONCACAF Champions League matches in 2017. A preseason in Wales may also give the Whitecaps a bit of a different look, having played some lower tiered FA sides already in mid-season form. Major acquisitions for Vancouver include MLS favorite Fredy Montero and Brek Shea, but the most interesting player on the field for me is 16 year old Alphonso Davies. The kid just scored another goal against New York Red Bulls in the CCL on Thursday night and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Union saw him again late Sunday.

This Whitecaps team is deep and dangerous. A team already in form heading into their season opener looks to be a mismatch for the Union, who are traveling to the west coast having yet to play a competitive fixture. The only thing against Vancouver? They will have played just 72 hours prior to this match. Tired legs may haunt the Whitecaps late if they can’t beat the Union back early like D.C. United did in the final preseason match of this year.

What the Union will look like:

The Union are such a question mark to begin 2017 that its difficult for me to say if this team will be overwhelmed or be a stunning surprise. There are a ton of questions that pop into my head that all lead to an overarching theme: Are there too many IFS for Philadelphia to overcome? Lets look at all these concerns:

  1. Will the Union defense return to its spring 2016 form?
  2. Can Jay Simpson carry the goalscoring load?
  3. Will Haris Mendujanin replicate Vincent Nogueira?
  4. Is Alejandro Bedoya right at the 10?
  5. Can Chris Pontius recreate his 2016 magic?
  6. How many saves will Andre Blake have to make before he throws a shoe at a defender in frustration?
  7. Can Ilsinho elastico everyone on the pitch? Please?

OK, so I digress there a bit, but there are a lot of questions. I’m not sure what the answers are, but I can wager game one might not be the best place to yield any answers. With Vancouver two matches ahead in shaking off the rust, the Union may just get bowled over. I can’t stress enough how much Vancouver’s appearance in two competitive matches prior to this one is helpful. The Union need to summon that stout defense it had relied so heavily on in the early months of 2016. Surely Andre Blake, Richie Marquez, and whoever may sit in front of the back line will be the ultimate keys to this game, and more importantly the entire season.

What to expect:

In this humble writers opinion, I see first half of D.C. United preseason all over again. Cohesion is massive at the beginning of the season and what the Union currently lack most is cohesion. Lots of new faces coming in and not a lot of time to test out whether the pieces fit. Vancouver has had more play time with their puzzle and I’d bet they have a few more pieces and place than the Union. Even if its just a half step ahead in the organization of their style, the Whitecaps have an advantage. The travel, playing away, and being 2 weeks behind in cohesion spell doom for the Union in week one. Does this concern me? Not really. Its just a tough matchup at a tough time for Philadelphia. This match will be a strong test of character for this team.

Projected lineup: 4-2-3-1: GK Andre Blake; LB Fabinho, LCB Oguchi Onyewu, RCB Richie Marquez, RB Keegan Rosenberry; CDM Derrick Jones, CDM Haris Medunjanin; LM Chris Pontius, CAM Alejandro Bedoya, RW Ilsinho, ST Jay Simpson

Result: Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 Philadelphia Union