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  • Whitecaps - Crew preview: Where are Vancouver's priorities?


    After a couple of weeks with a nice one-match-per-week schedule, the Whitecaps are back into the crunch of fixture congestion. They <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/soccer/whitecaps-fall-to-fc-dallas/article1996671/">lost to FC Dallas</a> last Saturday, but made a quick recovery <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/sports/soccer/story/2011/04/27/sp-whitecaps-impact.html">to beat the Montreal Impact</a> midweek in Voyageurs Cup play. Things aren't getting easier, though, as they've <a href="http://www.theprovince.com/sports/Whitecaps+facing+hectic+slate+games+without+Harris+Hassli/4701367/story.html">got a packed schedule in the coming week</a>, including <a href="http://www.whitecapsfc.com/news/2011/04/whitecaps-fc-back-mls-action-columbus-crew-weekend">today's road game against Columbus</a> (4:30 p.m. Pacific, Sportsnet One/Team 1410), Wednesday's return leg at home against Montreal, a road game against Chicago next Saturday <a href="http://www.whitecapsfc.com/2011-schedule">and then</a> Wednesday-Saturday games against San Jose and New England. Thus, it's going to be interesting to see how they approach the upcoming games; will head coach Teitur Thordarson throw his best-possible lineup out there for each one and hope they don't get too fatigued, or will there be priority placed on certain matches? If priority does come into play, will they focus on the league or the Canadian championship?[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]

    The Whitecaps also head into today's game with a significantly reduced roster, especially up front. They'll be without Atiba Harris for some time thanks to his knee surgery, and they're also missing Eric Hassli thanks to his accumulation of bookings. That <a href="http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/soccer/SuperDraft+pick+ready+strike+Whitecaps/4701010/story.html">could pave the way for Omar Salgado to start</a>, which certainly would be interesting. Starting Salgado probably isn't something Vancouver coach Teitur Thordarson would do at this point if Harris and Hassli were available, as Salgado's still young and developing and hasn't shown a ton at the MLS level yet. Still, this could be an excellent chance for the Whitecaps to find out what he can do. It's also possible that they could opt to not start Salgado; Marc Weber <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/ProvinceWeber/status/64095343012347907">thinks they might go with Nizar Khalfan up front</a> alongside Camilo, which would certainly be interesting. Khalfan didn't exactly show great striking potential in his stints there at the Division II level, though, so I would opt for Salgado or even Long Tan over him.

    In midfield, Vancouver has a few more options than usual. Gershon Koffie is back from international duty, and Ben Massey <a href="http://www.eightysixforever.com/2011/4/30/2144562/whitecaps-game-day-men-columbus-4-30-pm-pdt">thinks he's likely to start alongside Terry Dunfield</a>. That makes sense to me; Koffie hasn't played for Vancouver in weeks, but the Dunfield-Koffie pairing was highly effective in the early going this year, so why not reunite it? Other central midfield options include Shea Salinas, Alain Rochat or Mouloud Akloul; MLS veteran Peter Vagenas is <a href="http://www.theprovince.com/sports/Whitecaps+Gameday+Veteran+Vagenas+trains+with+Vancouver+squad+Ohio/4704249/story.html">training with the club</a>, but not anticipated to even make the 18 yet, and Michael Nanchoff and John Thorrington are still hurt. On the wings, Russell Teibert and Davide Chiumiento would seem to be the logical choices to keep starting; both have played well recently. Wes Knight and Khalfan are also options, as is Blake Wagner.

    The Vancouver defence is also a little healthier than it's been. Jonathan Leathers should continue his run of starts at right back, and although Jay DeMerit and Greg Janicki appear to both still be hurt, Michael Boxall has played well in the middle. He could be joined by Alain Rochat or Mouloud Akloul; if Akloul goes into the middle, Rochat would then move out to left back and send Wagner to the bench. In goal, Jay Nolly is probably going to start, but Joe Cannon is apparently getting healthier, so it's possible he might move in. With all that in mind, the most likely lineup from this perspective would appear to be Nolly, Leathers-Boxall-Rochat-Wagner, Chiumiento-Koffie-Dunfield-Teibert, Camilo-Salgado. That presumes that the Caps will play a first-choice squad, though, and that isn't necessarily the case.

    The Crew are an interesting squad. They're not the most talented team in MLS, but their roster is nothing to sneeze at, and their 2-1-3 record is <a href="http://www.mlssoccer.com/standings">good enough for fourth place in the East</a>. It's also notable that <a href="http://www.mlssoccer.com/matchcenter-preview/whitecaps-hit-road-face-streaking-columbus">their recent form is the opposite of Vancouver's</a>; the Whitecaps won their first match and haven't picked up three points in MLS play since, while the Crew dropped their first one and haven't lost a game since then. They're a scrappy team, as they showed with the 1-1 draw they picked up against Toronto last week, and they've got a notoriously rowdy fanbase that should help urge them on. It's not going to be an easy game for Vancouver, but it could be an intriguing one.

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