Scouting report: What's Vancouver bringing to the table in Saturday's scrap at PPL Park?

Breaking down Vancouver, next up for the Union (Sat., 7 p.m.)

 

So it’s one more for the Union before a break for FIFA World Cup action next week, but not before the Vancouver Whitecaps head to PPL Park looking for its first ever win in Chester.

Both teams are coming off a win which mean both will be riding highs when they showdown Saturday night (7 p.m., purchase tickets).

Vancouver has been on a tear as of late in MLS play going undefeated in its last three of its last four and looking for to nab its third straight road win with a victory against the Union. This Vancouver team is solid across the board, but they do have holes in their game that the Union will need to recognize and exploit.

But before we get into all that, let’s meet the Whitecaps major players…

Vancouver offense

It’s a really modified 4-4-2 that really shapes up more of a 4-2-3-1. The orchestrator of the attack is center midfielder Pedro Morales and the danger man is definitely shifty forward Erik Hurtado up top. Hurtado has those slick quick feet that make defenders feel like they have the jump until it’s too late. One of two things happen: he’s gone by or defender commit the foul.  Don’t think so? Check out his game in the Whitecaps' 4-3 win over Portland  last week. You’ll see what we mean. The beauty of head coach Carl Robinson’s lineup is that the nucleus of it remains essentially the same every week, which means don’t expect much of a change from Vancouver's last match. Which means players like outside wingers Kekuta Manneh (left) and Sebastian Fernandez (right) should feature. Gershon Koffie will nestle just behind Fernandez near the center of the park while designated player Matias Laba should earn his 12th starting appearance of the season. However as aforementioned, the Union will have to keep close wraps on Morales and Hurtado both who can create chances pretty much at will. Specifically Hurtado leads the team with five goals, five assists this season. Also, don’t sleep on speedy Jamaican phenom Darren Mattocks coming off the bench.

Graphic: A look at Vancouver's projected lineup and formation in Saturday's match at PPL Park (7 p.m.).

Vancouver defense

It’s a puzzle, but if the Union can figure out how to get around top talent like former U.S. men’s national team player Jay DeMerit, former English Premier League standout Nigel Reo Coker and former Union left fullback Jordan Harvey then this will be an exciting match. The last two, Coker and Harvey, love pushing up from the back on plays. Harvey picked up his second goal of the season doing just that.  Andy O’Brien sits alongside DeMerit in central defense given the loss of Iranian national team defender Steven Beitashour due to upcoming World Cup responsibilities and goalkeeper David Ousted enters this match with a 1.42 goals against average this season. Ousted boasts 32 saves and a pair of shutouts over 12 matches played.

Overall thoughts

So earlier we told you that there were aspects of Vancouver’s game that are open for exploitation. One of them is the back four appears to get confused as to who picks up runners coming across the middle on quick counters. Also they can get caught flat as evidence in this second half goal from Portland's Gaston Fernandez. Fernandez recognized that he needed to target his run to the back post and no Whitecaps player ran to disrupt. With that said two things the Union will need to do to pull points:

  • Crash and confuse Vancouver’s 18-yard-box with numbers all game long
  • Attack down the middle at the slower DeMerit and O’Brien

Finally, pull the trigger from distance, from inside the box...basically from all over. Although Vancouver has allowed just 17 goals in 12 MLS matches, they’ve allowed two goals or more over in five of its last seven.

What do you think of this Vancouver squad? Leave your comment below.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com